Book Review: Shelter, by Sarah Franklin

Publisher:  Bonnier Zaffe

Publication date:  27th July 2017

From the rustic window of this rather exquisite cover lies a magnificent view of the purity of nature, its shifting seasons mirroring the struggles of life, as the shadow of a brutal foe falls upon our shores.

Shelter. A simple one word title captures the underlying theme perfectly: the canopy of trees where apprentice Lumberjills are schooled, the welcome the foresters extend to an outsider or the protection offered by the woodland itself, no matter where your own roots may lie.

Narrated throughout the final year of conflict, with fleeting periods of reflection, the ravages of World War II compel the characters to confront the consequences of their actions, stretching their resilience until they rediscover the true meaning of home.

The ancient forest has witnessed significant changes over time yet it perseveres, regenerates and passes no judgement, much like its dependants. The existing species proudly stand guard but they are rivalled by new specimens in the form of the dynamic and determined, Connie, a grounded but troubled POW and closet woodcarver, Seppe, not to mention the unexpected gifts the uncertainty of war can deliver.

It’s a beautifully composed story, almost a forestry guide of challenging reluctant happiness. The locals have a wonderful way of speaking, especially contemplative Amos whose spare room was commandeered for the tornado of the timber corps, Connie! The author has serenely animated the forest and its inhabitants, showering an otherwise two-dimensional page with an energy that leaves its impression on all five senses.

Even though patience, sacrifice and love offer their own rewards, finding Shelter in the most unlikely places proves to be unfamiliar territory for some as there are times when they just can’t see the wood for the trees.

I loved it, and I’m more than happy to recommend.

Rating: 4/5

(I was lucky enough to win a gorgeous hardback copy of this title via the publisher’s website – ‘Reader’s First’ – and it’s my absolute pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Perfect for fans of Early One Morning by Virginia Baily and the novels of Maggie O’Farrell.

Led here by necessity, she knows she cannot stay. Brought against his will, he never wants to leave.

Early spring 1944.  Connie Granger has escaped her bombed-out city home, finding refuge in the Women’s Timber Corps. For her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose.

Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. In the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom.

Their meeting signals new beginnings. But as they are drawn together, the world outside their forest haven is being torn apart. Old certainties are crumbling, and both must now make a life-defining choice.

What price will they pay for freedom? What will they fight to protect? 

The world was alive out here, the scent of bud and blossom in every breath a stark contrast to the thud of bombs into sandbanks, or worse, the iron tang of blood.’

‘This was a place where you could hide, where you could start again . . .

Shelter is a captivating and tender novel about love, hope and how we find solace in the most troubled times. 


(Courtesy of Reader’s First Website)

Sarah lectures in publishing at Oxford Brookes, is the host of Short Stories Aloud and a judge for the Costa Short Story Award. She has written for the Guardian, Psychologies magazine, The Pool, the Sunday Express and the Seattle Times. In 2014, Sarah was awarded a Jerwood/Arvon Mentorship on the strength of her opening pages of Shelter, and worked on the novel for a year with Jenn Ashworth, amongst others.


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