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.
I was delighted when Jenny Ashcroft sent me a copy of her new book, The Echoes of Love, because I loved reading her other novels: Under the Golden Sun, Meet Me In Bombay, Island in the East and Beneath a Burning Sky.
The Kindle and Hardcover editions of The Echoes of Love are out now, with the paperback due for publication on the 8th June 2023.
I read this book in September as the summer was fading into autumn, but the descriptions of Crete transported me back to sunshine, balmy winds, and endless heat. Jenny has a gift for getting under the skin of a place so that the descriptions of the landscape add meaning to what is happening to the characters.
And what is happening, of course, is that Eleni and Otto are falling in love on the island - in the sea, by the rocks, in the town. The subtle depictions of each step on the way - the conversations, meetings and partings, glances and stolen moments - mean that the reader is invested in what will happen to Eleni and Otto as the threat of war gathers around them.
But this story is not just about Eleni and Otto's fate. A host of other characters bring out the complexity of the situation that Europe was facing. There is Marianne, the Jewish music student, Lotte, the daughter of SS-Oberst-Gruppenfuhrer Becker and Little Vassili, who has enlisted in the Greek army. Their stories intertwine with those of Eleni and Otto and deepen the reader's understanding of what happened before, during and after the war.
Interspersing the timeline set in 1936 are chapters that take the form of a transcript. These interviews take place in 1974 and add to the tension surrounding the growing question of whether Eleni and Otto (and their relationship) will survive the war. I enjoyed the tone of these interviews and how they contrasted with the heady romance depicted in the 1936 timeline. Another timeline also emerges - set in 1940 - and again gives complexity to the narrative in an intriguing way.
The sheer amount of research and work that has gone into this book was awe-inspiring, and it is fascinating to read at the back of the book how Jenny's own family stories and experiences have shaped the novel. The book covers some huge topics, yet manages to hold all the characters' stories together so skilfully. Without giving anything away, I found the concluding chapters very satisfying as they were true to the story but also to the realities of war.
This was a masterful, moving and epic story and I so enjoyed reading it.