#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

20 Books Of Summer 2022 Reading Challenge Wrap-Up #20booksofsummer22

20-books-of-summerThis annual challenge, run by my namesake Cathy at 746 Books, takes place between 1st June and 1st September.  The rules are simple: pick 10, 15 or 20 books you’d like to read and read them!

Although the rules are accommodating – allowing swaps, change of target, etc – I stubbornly decided to stick to my original list (see below) consisting of the 20 paperback books that have been in my TBR pile the longest according to Goodreads.

First the good news. Between 1st June and 31st August I read 39 books. The bad news is only five of them were on my list and one of those I still need to write a review for. Was I overly optimistic? Yes. Did I start reading books from my list too late? Yes. Did I fail to take account of other review commitments? Yes. Will I try again next year? Yes!

Thanks to Cathy for hosting the challenge once again.

The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers Read and reviewed
The Boy Who Saw by Simon Toyne Read and reviewed
The Women of the Castle by Jessica Shattuck Read and reviewed
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley Read and reviewed
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio Read – not yet reviewed
Island of Secrets by Patricia Wilson Currently reading
The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland  (waiting since May 2017)
The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy (waiting since July 2017)
The Honey Farm on the Hill by Jo Thomas (waiting since August 2017)
Rivals of the Republic by Annelise Freisenbruch (waiting since August 2017)
The Girl from Simon’s Bay by Barbara Mutch (waiting since September 2017)
My Mother’s Shadow by Nikola Scott (waiting since October 2017)
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (waiting since October 2017)
Treason by James Jackson (waiting since November 2017)
The Draughtsman by Robert Lautner (waiting since March 2018)
The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark (waiting since March 2018)
The Painter of Souls by Philip Kazan (waiting since April 2018)
Appetite by Philip Kazan (waiting since April 2018)
Ponti by Sharlene Teo (waiting since April 2018)
Where Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen (waiting since May 2018)

If you took part in the challenge, how did you get on? (Better than me, I hope.)

20 Books of Summer 2022