I’m delighted and honoured to be kicking off the blog tour for The Black Earth by Philip Kazan ahead of its publication on Thursday 19th April. You can read my review of this wonderful novel set in wartime Greece below.
Do check out the tour schedule at the bottom of this post to see the other great book bloggers taking part in the tour over the next ten days.
About the Book
1922: When the Turkish Army occupies Smyrna, Zoë Haggitiris escapes with her family, only to lose everything. Alone in a sea of desperate strangers, her life is touched, for a moment, by a young English boy, Tom Collyer, also lost, before the compassion of a stranger leads her into a new life.
Years later when war breaks out, Tom finds himself in Greece and in the chaos of the British retreat, fate will lead him back to Zoë. But he will discover that the war will not end so easily for either of them.
Format: ebook, hardcover (350 pp.) Publisher: Allison & Busby
Published: 19th April 2018 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find The Black Earth on Goodreads
The theme of chance encounters, connections and convergence has featured in quite a few books I’ve read recently. Whether that’s the working of fate, such as in From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan, or the concept of quantum entanglement – the idea that entangled particles remain connected and that actions performed on one affect the other even when separated by great distances – as in Oliver Loving by Stefan Merrill Block and Entanglement by Katy Mahood. (Three great books, by the way.)
Following their first brief, chance encounter as young children in the chaos of Piraeus harbour, the reader follows the lives of Zoë and Tom through childhood until fate or destiny throws them together again in another chance meeting. They will each in turn act as rescuer of the other but face separation, loss and traumatic experiences. The connection they feel will help them make sense of the chaos around them, finding in it something pure and true amongst the horrors of war.
The Black Earth convincingly portrays the chaos and breakdown of society in time of war. Particularly memorable is the depiction of the terrible suffering of the people of Athens, including near starvation, during the occupation by the Nazis during World War 2, and in the aftermath when the area descends into civil war. I know the author drew on his own family history as inspiration for many of the events and some of the characters in the book which no doubt accounts for its sense of authenticity.
Amongst all the horror, however, the book shows that there are still opportunities for random acts of kindness, even in time of war, including the one that will change the course of Zoë’s life. I was particularly moved by part three of the book in which the story is told partly through Tom’s letters describing his experiences and hopes for the future. Reflecting what must have been the experience of many in wartime, the letters are written and sent more in hope than expectation of being received by the intended recipient; the correspondent not knowing, even, if the recipient is still alive to read them.
I absolutely loved this book, even though it put me through the emotional wringer. The author kept me hoping and fearing, fearing and hoping right up until the last page. I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a little tear at the end. The Black Earth is highly recommended for fans of historical fiction who love a strong story based around real life events with engaging and believable characters. I’m so glad to have been introduced to the writing of Philip Kazan and I can safely say The Black Earth won’t be the last book of his I read.
In three words: Powerful, emotional, heart-breaking
Try something similar…The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford (click here to read my review)
About the Author
Philip Kazan was born in London and grew-up on Dartmoor in south west England. He is the author of two previous novels set in fifteenth-century Florence: Appetite, about the adventures of an early celebrity chef and The Painter of Souls, an imagining of the early career of the artist Fra Filippo Lippi. As Pip Vaughan-Hughes, he also wrote the Petroc series – Relics, Vault of Bones, Painted in Blood and The Fools’ Crusade – following a thirteenth-century adventurer.
After living in New York and Vermont, Philip is back on the edge of Dartmoor with his wife and three children.
Connect with Philip