Greek Island Escape by Patricia Wilson: Moments of heartbreaking history, tear-jerking emotion and painful remembrance - book review -
A dark corner in the history of modern Greece – both during and after the Second World War – takes centre stage in a moving, time-slip tale from a writer who has made this stunning part of the world her home.
Patricia Wilson, who spent many years on Crete but now lives on the Greek island of Rhodes, is the author of a series of sun-drenched novels – including Islands of Secrets, Villa of Secrets and Secrets of Santorini – and has used the rich history and culture of her adopted country for her captivating storytelling.
The tragic and turbulent events in Greek Island Escape were inspired by the death and suffering of many in the closing campaigns of the war, and the brutalities perpetrated during a series of far-right military juntas which ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974.
At its heart are several generations of a family, separated by time, war and domestic strife, but each searching for missing loved ones, and each desperate for a resolution to secrets and events in the past, and anguish in the present.
‘I am Sofia. I am searching for my daughter, born in Korydallos prison, Athens, 1st November 1972. Can you help me?’
On the beautiful beaches of Crete, an old woman is handing out scraps of paper. Sofia Bambaki, who is eighty-five years old and unable to speak, has travelled by ferry from her home in Athens and is desperate to find the daughter she has never known.
After a tragic childhood marred by civil war, and a soaring career as a singer, the brutal treatment of her beloved husband Markos by a tyrannical regime forced her to give up her daughter just days after her birth, but now she yearns to be reunited with her child before it’s too late.
Meanwhile in London, high-flying lawyer Zoë Johnson is searching too. In the months since her 17-year-old daughter, Megan, ran away from home, Zoë’s life has fallen apart. Her husband, Frank, an ambitious MP, has left her, their 14-year-old son Josh feels forgotten, and every day is a struggle. But Zoë is desperate to track down her daughter, even if she doesn’t want to be found.
In Manchester, Megan is living rough on the streets and making money by using her gift for performing arts. There’s a terrible secret which is stopping her going back home and she is determined to get to Crete to see her granny Anna.
As the lives of three women converge, we discover just how far a mother will go to find her daughter…
If a holiday in the sun sounds like a distant dream at the moment, then Greek Island Escape could be just what you need. Wilson’s love of all things Greek – the food, the fascinating people and the alluring landscape of azure seas, soft sand and magnificent mountains – shines through in a story that weaves seamlessly between past and present.
There are moments of heartbreaking history, tear-jerking emotion and painful remembrance as Sofia, Zoë and Megan discover that the bonds of love and family are more powerful than they could ever have imagined.
Set against the spectacular backdrop of Crete’s picturesque Chania region, with its breathtaking beaches, tiny islets that float on turquoise crystal water, and villages where life stands still, this is a truly captivating escape, and a dream read for all those longing for a sunshine getaway.
(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)