It’s always fun to try critically acclaimed authors that I have never read before and so being given the chance to review a Sunday Times bestselling novelist of one of my favourite genres was exciting indeed. I believe Mr Scarrow is most famed for his novels featuring Roman centurions but his most recent offering is set on a beautiful Greek island during the Second World War.
In the early 1930s, young German Peter Muller spent an idyllic part of his teenage years on the Greek island of Lefkas with his archaeologist father. Spending his days excavating relics of the past, Peter formed a close bond with island locals Andreas and the pretty Eleni.
On the cusp of war, the Mullers and their team are called back to Germany and Peter must say goodbye to his friends. Years later, during the conflict Peter returns to the island under much different circumstances and is considered enemy in the face of his former friends.
We see the past through the trio’s eyes and also through the discovery of Eleni’s descendant Anna, a history teacher who is looking a little more closely at the life of her Grandmother she previously new nothing about. I’ve read a lot of books set in during World War Two and the occupation of Greece by the Nazis is a little known aspect of the conflict to me, so it was a refreshing change of scenery for the story to be set in such a picturesque location in the midst of such turbulence.
I cared about the three main characters very much by the end; especially Peter who was so kind all the way through, even when faced with such heartbreaking choices of loyalty and duty. The story is very action packed and the horrors committed in the fight are brutally illustrated.
As well as a dramatic storyline set in the war, what I also took away from this book was the importance of history. I think that history is important so that you can learn from past mistakes and to remember people and events that have been before. The significance and use of history is something that is debated throughout the book and I found that to be an interesting inclusion into the storyline.
I had high expectations for this book and I was definitely not disappointed. Filled with drama, action and plenty to think about, Hearts of Stone is an engaging read for serious history buffs and historical fiction readers.