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Two books with #WW2 connections

Of Darkness and Light is an engaging mystery of art and artists set in WW2 Norway. Heidi Eljarbo has certainly given herself a challenge – to write two historical periods in one novel which flow seamlessly from one to another, but the narrative works well and the two timelines inform each other beautifully. We begin the story in WW2 Norway where Soli works in an art shop. We see the shock of the invasion of Norway by the German army and what that means for Soli’s close family and friends.

As the book progresses, the art shop where Soli works is frequented by Nazi collectors of fine art, although the owner does his best to hide the most precious works from these men. When a murder happens right outside the shop, Soli finds herself irresistibly drawn into the mystery of who killed her colleague and why, and the puzzle deepens when Soli discovers that the victim, who she thought she knew well, is also known by another name.

At the same time a painting is missing from auction and Soli must uncover what has happened to it before the Nazis do. I can’t reveal too much of the plot without revealing all the twists and turns, but suffice it to say, Soli and her Art Club are drawn into the Resistance in their bid to save the art world’s cultural heritage from being stolen by the Nazis. Soli is an engaging protagonist, with the skill to tell a real painting from a fake, and the author makes the most of Soli’s ‘eye’ in giving us detailed descriptions of people and places. The reveal of what is inside the walnut and gilded frame is a highlight for me in descriptive writing.

As well as finely drawn detail within WW2 Norway, We are taken back to 17th Century Valetta, Malta, to the studio of Michelangelo known as Caravaggio, and his model Fabiola, again all described in sumptuous detail. If you love the art world and a good mystery, you will really enjoy this well-written book which has plenty of excitement and intrigue to keep you turning the pages.

Find out more about Heidi and her other books.

Endless Skies by Jane Cable is a contemporary romantic novel that harks back to memories of WW2. Archaeologist Rachel Ward’s relationships with men have always been a disaster.  Short-lived, and lacking in commitment. This novel begins to unlock why by gradually letting us into her past. Brought up by her grandmother, Rachel has a natural empathy with Esther, an elderly woman in a care home near where she is working. I really enjoyed the character of Esther, and thought she was drawn well without too much sentimentality.

The men in Rachel’s life are the dreadful, manipulative Ben, one of her students, and Jonathan, who is a property developer. An affair with Ben was always going to be a bad idea, but it also causes Rachel to look back at why she always makes such bad choices. Jonathan asks Rachel to do some work surveying what used to be a local airbase. This links up to Esther’s story, but I won’t give too much away.

One of the delights of the book is the atmospheric setting of the flat Lincolnshire countryside, and the deserted airfield which contributes to the idea that the ghosts of the past still have a bearing on what happens in the present. A thoroughly enjoyable read with multiple interesting strands.

Read more from Jane about the book.

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Forged in Ice – what inspired my new Viking Saga by Ken Hagan

 

Today I welcome Ken Hagan to tell us what inspired his new novel, the first in a Viking Trilogy.

Ken: My thanks to Deborah for inviting me as guest author. 

Forged in Ice is set in 27829574._UY500_SS500_960AD. It tells the story of a boy and his family who leave the Norse Kingdom to live in the sparsely populated colony of Iceland — risking their lives in a hazardous voyage across the Atlantic.

My interest in the Viking Age was first aroused during my university days in Dublin, a city steeped in Viking history. The Viking settlement, on which today’s city centre is built, has yielded significant archeological finds, including ankle-fetters and neck-irons that were fastened to slaves. The infamous slave trade centered on Viking Dublin will feature in the second book of the trilogy to be published later this year.   

Reading the Icelandic Family Sagas really got me hooked. In them I discovered a new dimension to the Viking Age. Here was humdrum family life, the struggle of men and women to survive in a hostile climate, petty disputes between neighbours that erupt into feuds, stories of fraud and double-dealing, but also feats of sporting prowess and courage, honest intentions, love and loyalty.

Women are strongly portrayed in the Sagas. We see to what lengths they will go to assert their rights, and what influence womenfolk have on the outcome of events. It is not hard to understand why some commentators have argued that women were the sources for many of the original spoken sagas.       

During 1990s I travelled on business to Sweden and Norway and, while there, I was able to expand my knowledge of Viking culture. Visits to sites of Viking graves revealed sophisticated spiritual constructs of the afterlife. And elsewhere, beautiful full-size replicas of longships demonstrated for me how truly advanced, by comparison with the rest of Europe, was the technology of Viking shipbuilding.

I am indebted to Professor Neil Price, Uppsala University for my understanding of the Viking mind, for my insights into the Viking view of the world, many of which I have tried to weave into the tapestry of my books. Dr. Price is Chair of Archeology at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. Neil.price@arkeologi.uu.se  His major work, The Viking Way: sub-titled – “Religion and War in later Iron-age Scandinavia” (ISBN 978184217265) is regarded as an authoritative source of material and provides rare insights in the field of Viking research.

FORGED IN ICE is published by Endeavour Press.

Buy the Book – Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com

Where to find Ken: Website Twitter Facebook

Thanks to Ken for stopping by my blog.