Publisher: Headline | Publication date: 4th June 2015 | Edition: Hardback (review copy)
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
The fierce courage of the men and women of the Greek Resistance is brought to vivid life in Sunday Times bestseller Simon Scarrow’s powerful new novel of World War II.
1938. A perfect summer on the Greek island of Lefkas for three young people untroubled by the simmering politics of Europe. Peter, visiting from Germany while his father leads an archaeological dig, has become close friends with locals Andreas and Eleni. As the world slides towards conflict and Peter is forced to leave, they swear to meet again.
1943: Andreas and Eleni have joined the partisan forces resisting the German invasion. Peter has returned – now a dangerously well-informed enemy intelligence officer. A friendship formed in peace will turn into a desperate battle between enemies sworn to sacrifice everything for the countries that they love…
Hearts of Stone is a vivid, brutal and often touching portrait revolving around the despicable nature of conflict and its everlasting affect.
Taking two time periods, it carefully interlaces events before the start of the German occupation of Lefkas and the surrounding Greek Islands during World War II. Reflecting on the friendships that were built during a time of peace that are tested by the horrors of war, exposed until only the bare bones remain. Then we have the present day and the life of Eleni, a resident of Lefkas during the war, a resistance fighter, and now a frail, elderly lady living in England, but it’s clear that her spirit remains unbroken.
I felt privileged to be able read this story with her fictional character at the heart of it. Moving back and forth in time as effortlessly as a breeze, the expertly written passages transport you to the Greek Island during a time of peace and in the midst of war. Piece by piece the events are revealed as Eleni retells her story to her granddaughter, Anna. Despite being a history teacher, she has never heard this side of her grandmother’s life before. It’s a harrowing eye-opener for all the family.
If Anna hadn’t been contacted via social media by Dieter Muller, the grandson of a German with an archaeological interest in the Island of Lefkas wanting to resume his own grandfather’s research, she may never have heard her Grandmother’s story at all. As the research was halted with the onset on the war, when Dieter’s grandfather was recalled to the ‘motherland’, Dieter now hopes to gain some insight into the original dig site, as Eleni knew both his grandfather and father when they were working on the Island.
The connections between Dieter’s relatives, Anna’s grandmother, and their mutual friends from the island of Lefkas closes a void spanning generations, and yet, the sense of unforgettable loss makes it difficult for Eleni to trust this young German under these seemingly innocent circumstances, although years have passed since the atrocities. After all, her old friendships had previously been tested beyond any imaginable limit, and her community was torn apart by the enemy.
Without any sensationalism, this is an unmistakably enthralling portrayal of a period in history where loyalty to one’s country and those you love is called into question; it seizes a raw emotion from the sacrifices that people were prepared to make for the greater good with both hands.
The writer has created some finely-tailored scenes of combat, and this account shows us that the aftershocks of such a time may never cease for the survivors.
Simon Scarrow’s passion for writing began at an early age. Born in Nigeria, after a childhood spent travelling the world, he pursued his great love of history as a teacher, before becoming a full-time writer in 2005.
His Roman soldier heroes Cato and Macro first stormed the bookshops in 2000 in Under the Eagle and have subsequently appeared in a number of other bestsellers including: Centurion and The Gladiator.
Simon Scarrow is also the author of a quartet of novels about the lives of the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte. In addition he writes a young adult Roman series and develops projects for television and film with his brother Alex.