The Girl from the Island by Lorna Cook: Superbly plotted, and brimming with emotion and drama - book review -

On the day their beloved mother dies, two sisters are forced to witness the arrival of Nazi invaders on their Channel Island home of Guernsey.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 12:30 pm
The Girl from the Island by Lorna Cook
The Girl from the Island by Lorna Cook

It is just the start of a five-year nightmare of German Occupation which will test the resilience and fortitude of the two young women, and bring a deadly danger that will change their lives forever.

Lorna Cook, whose debut novel, The Forgotten Village, was a Kindle Number One bestseller, weaves between two timelines for this gripping and heartbreaking tale of family bonds, secrets, sacrifice and love.

Using the real dark history of events on the sunshine island of Guernsey during the Second World War, Cook sweeps us into the lives of two pairs of sisters whose stories are separated by two generations and seventy-six years, but whose complex family dynamics and relationships throw up intriguing parallels.

In the summer of 1940, only days after the British army left Guernsey, sisters Dido and Persephone (Persey) Le Roy are grieving the death of their widowed mother when the island is invaded via sea and air by the Nazis.

At their home, Deux Tourelles, near the airport, the two sisters are left reeling by the suddenness of events but are still determined to rebel in any way they can. What they didn’t expect was the return of Jack Grant, their live-in housekeeper’s son, who left to join the war effort in England and has come back as an undercover spy to report on German troop activities on the island.

But the household is thrown into fear and confusion when German soldiers arrive at Deux Tourelles to requisition one of their bedrooms as a billet for an officer. And even more alarming is that the officer who will move in is a man called Stefan, known to Dido and Persey.

They haven’t seen Stefan for ten years but he was a regular summer visitor on Guernsey when he stayed with an aunt who lived on the island, and the four young people – Jack included – would spend many hours together.

But Stefan, who is now a part of the enemy and poses a danger to Jack, once meant a great deal to one of the sisters… can she reconcile the past with what is happening now?

In 2016, Lucy returns to Guernsey after the death of elderly relative Dido who lived at Deux Tourelles. She has been away for years and still has a fractious relationship with her married elder sister Clara.

The old family house, which is now up for sale, seems to be curiously devoid of any ‘knick-knacks’ and photos until Lucy discovers a photo from summer 1930 with four names on the back… Dido, Jack, Stefan and Persephone.

Lucy also discovers a shoebox with newspaper clippings, handwritten notes and one word standing out from the rest… resistance. Soon she is uncovering the moving story of a forgotten sister… a sister who vanished from the island one night, never to be seen again.

Cook is fast becoming an author to watch, with a growing army of adoring fans and a powerful ability to transport readers to events in the past, and weave enthralling tales that blend history and gritty realities with mystery, suspense and soaring romance.

Superbly plotted, and brimming with emotion and drama, The Girl from the Island is both a timeless exploration of love and survival, and an eye-opening account of the terrible hardships, uncertainties and cruelties faced by the brave people of Guernsey.

As the compelling details of the history and wartime years of Dido and Persey are slowly revealed, sisters Lucy and Clara are forced to finally confront their own personal conflicts, insecurities and hidden grudges decades later.

Rich in period detail, and colour-soaked in the scenic beauty of the island of Guernsey, this is a story to relish at a time when the world is waging a different – but equally deadly – war.

(Avon, paperback, £7.99)