#BookReview Island of Secrets by Patricia Wilson

IslandofSecretsAbout the Book

‘The story started at dawn on the fourteenth of September, 1943 . . .’

All her life, London-born Angelika has been intrigued by her mother’s secret past. Now planning her wedding, she feels she must visit the remote Crete village her mother grew up in.

Angie’s estranged elderly grandmother, Maria, is dying. She welcomes Angie with open arms – it’s time to unburden herself, and tell the story she’ll otherwise take to her grave.

It’s the story of the Nazi occupation of Crete during the Second World War, of horror, of courage and of the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her children. And it’s the story of bitter secrets that broke a family apart, and of three enchanting women who come together to heal wounds that have damaged two generations.

Format: Paperback (496 pages)    Publisher: Zaffre
Publication date: 18th May 2017 Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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My Review

Today is the 79th anniversary of the real life events that inspired the author to write Island of Secrets – an atrocity that took place during the German occupation of the island of Crete in WW2. For me, this was the most powerful part of the book. The story is revealed gradually by Maria to her granddaughter, Angelika. At one point Angelika is told to ‘be patient and everything will become clear’ and the reader needs that patience too which is a pity because the experiences Maria reveals are moving and compelling. They include some harrowing scenes which at times make difficult reading, even more so once you realise they are based on fact.

Prompted by her forthcoming wedding to her boyfriend Nick, Angelika has travelled to Crete to try to discover why her mother Poppy left the island so suddenly many years ago and why she has been estranged from her family ever since. It’s a period of her life Poppy has been reluctant to talk about, yet Angelika seems determined to delve into the past in a high-minded belief that she is doing her mother a favour and trying to ‘ease her pain’.  In fact, her efforts have just the opposite effect and it’s only later that Angelika concedes that perhaps her search for answers is a means of distracting herself from her own worries about her personal life.

The reasons for Poppy’s flight from Crete, when eventually revealed, are rather melodramatic in nature and only vaguely connected to the wartime storyline. I confess at this point in the book I got rather confused with all the different members of Angelika’s Cretan family and could have done with a family tree, although the way the storyline develops means I understand why the author would not have wanted to include this.

The modern day storyline involving Angelika’s concerns about her relationship with Nick held less interest for me; her wedding preparation woes seemed lightweight compared to the wartime story. I found Angelika rather immature for a woman of thirty-seven and there were details that I found unrealistic, such as the fact that Angelika has apparently never needed to see her birth certificate for any reason, for instance to obtain a passport. Her sudden interest in her family history and her expectation that people she’d never met or had any communication with would want to come to her wedding was not very credible.

There were lots of things about Island of Secrets that I enjoyed, especially the wartime story that was clearly the product of extensive research and felt really authentic. However, overall it did feel as if there were three different stories fighting for my attention.

Island of Secrets is one of the books on my list for the 20 Books of Summer 2022 reading challenge, and yes, I do know summer is officially over.

In three words: Powerful, authentic, dramatic

Try something similarAt the Breakfast Table by Defne Suman

Patricia WilsonAbout the Author

Patricia Wilson was born in Liverpool, has lived on Crete and is now settled on Rhodes. She was first inspired to write when she unearthed a rusted machine gun in her garden – one used in the events that unfolded during World War II on the island of Crete. The now elderly women involved in those events told Patricia their story, and her celebrated debut Island of Secrets was the result. (Photo: Twitter profile)

Connect with Patricia
Goodreads | Twitter


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