I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The Olive Garden Choir by Leah Fleming along with my tour buddies Margie, Michael & Mateo at Margie’s Must Reads. Thanks to Vicky at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my review copy.
About the Book
An evocative novel of secrets, love and redemption under the Greek sun.
On the beautiful island of Santaniki, close to Crete, it’s not all white sands and sunshine. When retired bookseller Ariadne Blunt suggests the English residents form a choir, there are groans of resistance. After a little persuasion, the group gather in Ariadne’s olive garden to rehearse for a seasonal concert, but each member of this choir has their own anxieties and secrets.
Ariadne’s partner, Hebe, is in failing health. Clive struggles to accept the loss of his wife while Natalie hides her shameful secret in baking for comfort. Della, the Pilates teacher drinks too much and Chloe, Queen Bee of the village society, faces a family dilemma. Then there is Mel, the real songbird amongst them, English wife of a taverna owner who hides her talent until the choir inspires her to raise her voice once more.
In this tiny community, the choir brings the residents together like never before in a bittersweet tale of love and loss – and how life can begin again when you let go of the past.
Format: Hardcover, ebook (400 pp.) Publisher: Head of Zeus
Published: 10th January 2019 Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Find The Olive Garden Choir on Goodreads
The Olive Garden Choir’s large cast of characters concentrates mainly on the expat community, with the local people playing more of a background role – the exception being Mel’s fearsome Greek mother-in-law, Irini, although even perhaps she can mellow in the right circumstances? However, there is plenty of local colour injected by the descriptions of authentic Greek food and island traditions. There is also the lovely addition of recipes for some of the traditional dishes mentioned.
The reaction to the arrival of a family of refugees, including pregnant Sammia, fleeing the conflict in Syria is mixed, ranging from downright hostile (at least initially) to neutral, to welcoming. Ironically, the expats don’t see themselves as migrants, although of course they are incomers to the island as well.
Ariadne’s belief in the healing power of music is proved correct as the formation of the choir and the coming together of its members provides opportunities for social interaction, breaking down barriers as well as reigniting old passions for music and revealing hidden talents.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a large cast of characters but aside from Ariadne and Hebe (who have to feature because of their love of books), my favourite character was definitely Clive. I loved his touching devotion to his deceased wife, Lucy, and his continued reliance on her imagined advice. I’m sure he’s right in believing that Lucy would have wanted him to move on and take advantage of a second chance of love and companionship.
In fact, second chances and the possibility of new beginnings feature prominently in the book which is one of the things that makes it such a heart-warming and uplifting read. But the cycle of life includes endings as well as beginnings so be prepared to have your emotions wrung at some points.
Whether you’re dreaming of your first trip to the Greek islands or, like me, dreaming of returning one day, The Olive Garden Choir is the ideal book to conjure up the unique atmosphere of that lovely part of the world*. It might just also restore your faith in human nature and in the power of communities to come together for the good of others.
I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Aria Fiction, and NetGalley.
*Don’t try booking a holiday to Santaniki – it exists only in the author’s and the reader’s imagination.
In three words: Heart-warming, uplifting, emotional
Try something similar…The Secrets of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll (read my review here)
About the Author
After careers in teaching, catering, running a market stall, stress management courses in the NHS as well as being a mother of four, Leah Fleming found her true calling as a storyteller.
She lives in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales but spends part of the year marinating her next tale from an olive grove on her favourite island of Crete.
Connect with Leah