Book Review: The Song of the Stork, by Stephan Collishaw #Legend100

Publisher:  Legend Press

Publication date:  1st March 2017

the-song-of-the-stork-my-review

the-song-of-the-stork-coverDistinctive, memorable and poignant. How such a slim volume can pack this much emotional punch, I have no idea. Its vivid, life-shattering horrors seized a little more of my heart with every passing chapter. 

During these uncertain times the contours of people’s bodies changed in tandem with the landscape; the deep ridges ploughed by German tanks mirror rib cages covered by streamers of shapeless rags, as persecuted human beings are reduced to scarecrows shivering in the fields they may have once owned. 

Through exceptional and sensitive narration the unbearable grief of what is to come will stir your soul. The Song of the Stork will drag you into the thicket to crouch alongside Yael, a mere fifteen year old, alone and stricken by hunger and fear as war tightened its steely grip. And yet, even when all other doors have been firmly closed to her she found the courage to prospect for one that may be open.

Under circumstances less gruelling than these it would be difficult to conjure optimism, but to convey the infinite joy of finding shelter in a chicken coop is the work of a truly gifted author. The initial reception Yael received from the owner of the coop is neither welcoming, nor hostile. Aleksei simply shows her a pamphlet as a stark warning for those breaking the law by helping the Jewish community. This non-verbal communication is his first tentative step of acknowledging her presence.

Yael has heard the rumours of this young man, of course she has. People mocked him for never uttering a word anyone, saying he was crazy and should be left alone. Witnessing the thoughtful and perceptive progression of how he adapted to the disturbance of his guest’s unexpected arrival was a pure triumph.

In a ravaged world where tomorrow may never arrive, you would be forgiven for mistaking the modest luxuries of having a floor to sleep on, or having a shallow bath of warm water to relieve your itching skin, for security or even love. As an agreeable routine lays down its roots, it is quickly followed by the first shoots of fondness which miraculously flourishes into something profoundly beautiful. But this humble, isolated life is not free from danger as unforgiving enemies continually threaten to force their way in.

The Song of the Stork captures the very essence of survivors longing for the wind to change and bring whispers of hope with it. Until then they embrace the conviction to not only salvage what remains of life but to live it, however challenging that may prove to be. An extraordinary read. Truly extraordinary. 

Rating:  5/5        

(My thanks to Legend Press for providing a copy of this title. It is my absolute pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

Legend 100 Club

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘An elegantly crafted, beautifully written novel about love, survival and hope against all the odds’ William Ryan

‘Tightly written and suspenseful… a darkly compassionate fable of human endurance in absolute extremity’ Stevie Davies

‘…a dark jewel that holds up for examination the proximity of terror and savagery to innocence and love’ Guy Kennaway

‘Stephan Collishaw takes your hand and leads you into a world of tragic beauty, inspiring strength and delicate kindness in the midst of horror’ Aistė Diržiūtė

Fifteen-year-old Yael is on the run. The Jewish girl seeks shelter from the Germans on the farm of the village outcast. Aleksei is mute and solitary, but as the brutal winter advances, he reluctantly takes her in and a delicate relationship develops.

As her feelings towards Aleksei change, the war intrudes and Yael is forced to join a Jewish partisan group fighting in the woods.

Torn apart and fighting for her life, The Song of the Stork is Yael’s story of love, hope and survival. It is the story of one woman finding a voice as the voices around her are extinguished.

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the-song-of-the-stork-author-profile

(Courtesy of publisher’s website)

Stephan Collishaw was brought up on a Nottingham council estate and failed all of his O’levels. His first novel The Last Girl (2003) was chosen by the Independent on Sunday as one of its Novels of the Year. In 2004 Stephan was selected as one of the British Council’s 20 best young British novelists. His brother is the renowned artist, Mat Collishaw. After a 10-year writing hiatus, The Song of the Stork is Stephan’s highly anticipated third novel. Stephan now works as a teacher in Nottingham, having also lived and worked abroad in Lithuania and Mallorca, where his son Lukas was born.

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Book Review: The Triumph of Love and Liberty, by Hugh Franks

Publisher:  Book Guild Publishing  |  Publication date:  25th June 2015  |  Edition: Hardback (Review Copy)

Triumph of Love and Liberty original copy

The Triumph of Love and Liberty

When little Paul Johnston is suddenly orphaned, the young Sussex lad ends up, by a series of strange events, being brought up in Hamburg by a German businessman during the turbulent inter-war years. Moving from 1930s Germany to an English public school, the conflicting influences of his youth are forced into the open when war is declared and he must choose on which side to fight – an issue further complicated by his falling in love with a young Englishwoman. Enduring a series of harrowing wartime experiences, from Dunkirk to the depths of a Russian winter, Paul battles to stay alive, desperate one day to be reunited with the only girl he has ever truly loved. This compelling tale of love in a time of war will sweep you along with the young soldier in missions that cover the length and breadth of Europe, as he changes from a naïve youth to a mature man.

Triump of Love and Liberty - review

At 240 pages this is a relatively short read, but a truly captivating one.  It’s both a wonderfully written and carefully considered story, concentrating on relationships in front of and behind enemy lines. It perfectly captures the emotions of war, misplaced loyalty and the beliefs we all hold dear, irrespective of which side we may have chosen to fight for.

This book summary may suggest a sweeping, war-torn romance and I’ve read other descriptions saying exactly that. I’d consider it much, much more. There’s also a psychological slant, why certain people are conditioned to do what they do, and the battle scenes later in the book are drawn entirely from a human perspective.

It begins by introducing the reader to the young and lonely Paul Johnson, who lived with his parents in Brighton (although they might as well lived apart with the distance they put between them and him). His background shows how a troubled childhood would affect his thought process in later years.

When he is orphaned, Paul’s story progresses from his English roots right through to his impressionable teenage years when he begins to establish a very different life in Germany living with his ‘Uncle Heide’. Upon seeing changes in the youngster coupled with potential trouble brewing on the rise of a new era in Germany, his Uncle reluctantly decides to send Paul back to England. He hopes that by attending a boarding school, the influences of the country of Paul’s birth will be beneficial, or at the very least a distraction.

A tragic pattern formed quite early in Paul’s youth as to the sort of character he would become. He doesn’t have a likeable personality and is controlling of others his age, showing little compassion toward them. And yet, the path his life takes is absolutely fascinating. Especially his friendship that blossomed with a quiet English Girl before the start of World War II and the impact of their relationship, which would have a profound affect on him and everything he was fighting for when the time came. She appears to be the first person he’s ever genuinely cared for.

A youth with a solid conviction can grow into a man gradually enveloped by confusion. This book offers a different take on an historical tragedy, and how easily young people’s minds can be persuaded to follow a lethal cause if the conditions are right, regardless of their original country of birth.

Well, I’ve read some cracking books lately, and this one is no exception. Highly recommended.

Rating: 5/5

(My sincere thanks to the Publisher Book Guild Publishing for kindly providing a hard back copy of this book for review. Thank you for making contact through the blog, without which I may have never discovered Hugh Franks’ brilliance.)

Triumph of love and liberty Book Links

Author Profile

Hugh Franks was educated at Hurstpierpoint College and Sandhurst. He joined his regiment, the 13/18 Royal Hussars, and with them took part in the Northwest Europe campaign from Normandy to the Baltic in the Second World War. He was twice mentioned in Despatches for bravery. After the war, he was a lecturer and instructor for the Army. He has written several novels, including The Dragon and the Needle (Book Guild, ISBN 9781909716261), plays, film scripts and short stories. A biography, Will to Live, won a US literary award in 1980.

You can discover more about this author’s work here:

Amazon UK   |   WH Smith   |   Book Guild Publishing   |   The Book Guild on Twitter

Book Review: Hearts of Stone, by Simon Scarrow

Publisher: Headline  |  Publication date: 4th June 2015  |  Edition: Hardback (review copy)

Hearts of Stone - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

The fierce courage of the men and women of the Greek Resistance is brought to vivid life in Sunday Hearts of StoneTimes 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 Review

Hearts of Stone is a vivid, brutal and often touching portrait revolving around the despicable nature of conflict and its everlasting affect.

Hearts of Stone by Simon Scarrow

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.

Thought-provokingly recommended.

Rating: 4.5/5

(My sincere thanks to the publisher @EllaMatildaB  @headlinepg for providing a copy of this title for review.)


Hearts of Stone - Author profile 2

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.

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