Could the answers to their anguish lie amidst the warm, turquoise seas and golden beaches of some of the hidden corners of the sun-soaked Greek islands, havens of peace which have seen their fair share of human tragedy, loss and love over the last one hundred years?
If a holiday in the sun still seems a distant dream, then Summer in Greece – a beautiful timeslip tale which weaves seamlessly between the First World War and the present day – could be just what you need.
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, Secrets of Santorini and Greek Island Escape – and has used the rich history and culture of her adopted country for her captivating storytelling.
Wilson’s love of all things Greek – the food, the fascinating people and the alluring landscape of the idyllic islands and their magnificent mountains – shines through in this new outing to the small island of Kea which witnessed a terrible tragedy in 1916.
The British hospital ship, HMHS Britannic, sister ship to the ill-fated Titanic which sank in the Atlantic in 1912, was transporting medical staff to clearing stations on the island of Lemnos during the Gallipoli campaign when it mysteriously went down near Kea, killing thirty people on board.
Harnessing the theories of why the largest British ship afloat was able to sink within the space of just fifty-five minutes, Wilson weaves seamlessly between past and present to bring us a story of heartbreaking history, emotion and redemption.
For years, 36-year-old vet Shelly Summer has buried herself in her work in her home town of Dover, trying to forget the circumstances surrounding her beloved mother Maggie’s death at Christmas time over twenty years ago.
Consumed by guilt and nightmares, Shelly only truly feels herself when she is diving in the azure sea of the Mediterranean… the calm and stillness of the clear waters help her to forget. So she has booked a week in Syros, a working Greek island with deserted beaches that preserves the glamour of a bygone age.
But before she leaves home, Shelly stumbles across the belongings of her great-grandmother, Gertie Smith, who she can still fondly remember. Amongst the memorabilia are recordings of Gertie’s memoirs and as Shelly listens to the tapes, she starts to uncover the secrets of Gertie’s past, which might just hold the key to letting go of her own.
In Dover in 1916, we meet trainee VAD nurse Gertie, a doctor’s daughter who signs up and trains for the war effort aged just eighteen and is thrilled to learn that her destination will be Greece. With a head full of blue skies and handsome men, she boards the Titanic’s sister ship, the hospital ship Britannic.
Unprepared for the horrors of war, Gertie heads for the Greek island of Lemnos on a mission to rescue three thousand wounded British soldiers but tragically, the Britannic never reaches its destination.
Fortunate to be rescued, Gertie is taken to the island of Kea where she meets and falls in love with a Greek fisherman called Manno… but she finds herself torn between him and her duty to an English soldier.
And a dark cloud still hangs over Gertie… she cannot shake off the guilt she feels from that tragic night the ship sank and she is desperately afraid that one day her past will catch up with her…
Wilson’s time-travelling family drama is a rollercoaster journey full of heartbreaking emotions, self-discovery and real history as we are plunged into the lives of courageous and caring Gertie and her great-granddaughter Shelly as the two women battle their demons in the heat and gentle charm of an enchanting Greek island.
Both haunted and burdened by guilt, the two women must come to terms with what happened in the past and learn to love and live again. Through the tapes she left behind, Gertie becomes the voice of age and wisdom, and the powerful inspiration for Shelly to finally see a clearer path ahead.
Expect twists and turns along the way, a cast of vibrant and authentic characters, moments of tear-jerking sadness and heart-lifting joy, and a backdrop of breathtaking beauty as Wilson delivers what proves to be the perfect summer escape!
(Zaffre, paperback, £8.99)