May 1941 and the island of Crete is invaded by paratroopers from the air.
After a lengthy fight, thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers are forced to take to the hills or become escaping PoWs, sheltered by the Cretan villagers.
Sixty years later, Lois West and her young son, Alex, invite feisty Great Aunt Pen to a special eighty-fifth birthday celebration on Crete, knowing she has not been back there since the war. Penelope George – formerly Giorgidiou – is reluctant to go but is persuaded by the fact it is the 60th anniversary of the Battle. It is time for her to return and make the journey she never thought she’d dare to.
On the outward voyage from Athens, she relives her experiences in the city from her early years as a trainee nurse to those last dark days stranded on the island, the last female foreigner.
When word spreads of her visit, and old Cretan friends and family come to greet her, Lois and Alex are caught up in her epic pilgrimage and the journey which leads her to a reunion with the friend she thought she had lost forever – and the truth behind a secret buried deep in the past…
My thoughts on The Girl Under The Olive Tree:
We first meet Penelope in 1941 where her family are preparing her for her life as a debutante, but life is about to change when Penelope heads to Greece to visit her sister.
Jump to 2001 when Penelope has to make the tough decision of whether to return to Crete. Facing an island that gave her the best and worst times of her life, is bound to bring back memories and not necessarily ones she is ready to share…..
Penelope is a person who knows her own mind an extremely strong. character, so much so that she never shared any of her experiences of life during the war in Crete with her family.So when her niece Lois decides she wants to take Penelope on a holiday to Crete, Penelope isn’t sure if she can face going back but decides that maybe going back with family means its time to face the past and who better to face it with than her loved ones.
This is an immensely gripping read which had me turning the pages to discover what was going to happen,
It’s depiction of the brave women that were caught up in the Cretan war is inspirational and really made me love Penelope and Yolanda. They fought turmoil both professionally and personally, and still managed to show such strength and courage.
Leah Fleming has written a truly poignant and emotional read that will stay with the reader long after the book has ended.