Title: The Echoes of Love
Author: Jenny Ashcroft
Publisher: 5th October 2022 by HarperCollins Australia
Pages: 469 pages
Genre: historical fiction, World War II, Crete
My Rating: 5 cups
Under the Cretan sun, in the summer of 1936, two young people fall in love…
Eleni has been coming to Crete her entire life, swapping her English home for cherished sun-baked summers with her grandfather in his idyllic shoreside villa. When she arrives in 1936, she believes the long, hot weeks ahead will be no different to so many that have gone before.
But someone else is visiting the island that year too: a young German man called Otto. And so begins a summer of innocence lost, and love discovered; one that is finite, but not the end.
When, in 1941, the island falls to a Nazi invasion, Eleni and Otto meet there once more. But this time Eleni has returned to fight for her home, and Otto to occupy it. They are enemies, and their love is not only treacherous, but also dangerous. But will it destroy them, or prove strong enough to overcome the ravages of war?
An epic tale of secrets, love, loyalty, family and how far you’d go to keep those you love safe, The Echoes of Love is an exquisite and deeply moving love letter to Crete – one that will move every reader to tears.
You know how it goes. There are certain authors whose writing speaks to you, touches you, leaving its indelible mark. Jenny Ashcroft, for me, is one such author. I have read every book she has written and, without fail, each one has been five stars. Jenny has written tales that have not only taken me to such far off places as Egypt, Singapore and India but writes with such heartfelt, pure emotion that it stays with the reader long after turning the final page.
‘You make me feel, not alone.’
The Echoes of Love is another such novel. This one is especially poignant as it regales a tale very close to Jenny’s own heart and family. With such strong emotional connections (Jenny visited Crete each summer as a child) it is clearly evident throughout her tale. It’s a story written from her heart which ensured it touched mine. It is so cleverly written that not until the final few chapters does Jenny place down the final puzzle piece that ensures the tears will flow. With timelines before, during and after the war, each section is interconnected by an extract from a research interview conducted in 1974, between an interviewer and someone known only as “subject seventeen”. The reader is left guessing who ‘seventeen’ might be.
‘She didn't think about much at all.
She simply breathed.
It was her favourite breath of the year,
The breath that truly started summer for her.
The breath when her monochrome world shifted fully into colour, and her loneliness gave way to belonging.’
Jenny’s research on the historical aspects of life on Crete during Nazi occupation is incredible. As she does so well, period, place and people are accurately presented. There is a cast of characters that each bring something special that provides an overwhelming depth to this tale. It is, however, the two leads of Eleni and Otto, that are so moving. This is such a beautiful love story that I found myself at odds with my zeal to consume this book being in direct conflict with my desire to savour each word, thought and emotion.
‘In the space of a night, the summer ahead, so predictable, had .... pixelated, into unknowns: the endless possibilities.’
This truly complex story will immerse you to the life in Crete - the sun lavished fun days by the beach before the war and the terrible haunting days of the Nazi occupation during WWII. Herein lies you will read of atrocities from truly evil individuals, to the heroism of the resistance, to the final act of brutal betrayal. For an author to consistently provide five star ratings is something special - there most certainly is magic within each line with words floating off each page.
‘He hated what he'd become, what he did, but he wanted his life; the chance at a future that held none of this in it, where he built houses rather than threw grenades at them.’
Every read of Jenny’s has been for me such an evocative and sensory experience, filled with characters that speak to me on many levels; stories that draw you in and leave you sitting in reverie long after the final page has been turned. Once more I am in awe of how Jenny masterfully weaves a sense of time and place, heart and soul into her characters concerning the circumstances they find themselves in. The Echoes of Love will take you on such an unforgettable journey, you simply would not want to miss it.
‘We need to get to the other side’.
‘You think there'll be one?'
‘I do,’ she said. ‘I have to. And I want you there, with me…’
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.