No planes have flown over the islands tonight; no bombs have fallen for over a year.
Orkney, 1940. Five hundred Italian prisoners-of-war arrive to fortify these remote and windswept islands. Resentful islanders are fearful of the enemy in their midst, but not orphaned twin sisters Dorothy and Constance. Already outcasts, they volunteer to nurse all prisoners who are injured or fall sick.
Soon Dorothy befriends Cesare, an artist swept up by the machine of war and almost broken by the horrors he has witnessed. She is entranced by his plan to build an Italian chapel from war scrap and sea debris, and something beautiful begins to blossom.
But Con, scarred from a betrayal in her past, is afraid for her sister; she knows that people are not always what they seem.
Soon, trust frays between the islanders and outsiders, and between the sisters - their hearts torn by rival claims of duty and desire. A storm is coming...
In the tradition of Captain Corelli's Mandolin, The Metal Heart is a hauntingly rich Second World War love story about courage, brutality, freedom and beauty and the essence of what makes us human during the darkest of times.
Praise for Caroline Lea:
'Enthralling' Stacey Halls, author of The Familiars and The Foundling
'Fantastic' The Times
'Memorable and compelling' Sarah Moss, author of The Times Book of the Year Ghost Wall
'Intensely written and atmospheric' Daily Mail
'Gripped me in a cold fist. Beautiful' Sara Collins, author of The Confessions of Frannie Langton
'Brilliant' Daily Express
I found this to be a beautiful little story, that has a big impact on the reader with the setting and backdrop of the War. And the fact that it is based on a true story of the Orkney Wedding Chapel which was built during World War II and explores the fear that the locals felt during the war.
The story centres around the sisters - Dorothy and Conn - who lead a very solitary life, keeping out of the way of many of the community - they feel protected by one another. But that is all set to change when a large number of prisoners of war are sent to Orkney and that strikes fear amongst all the locals wondering what impact will that have on them. Will there be less food? More trouble? It's a fascinating look at the genuine fears of this small community and really shows humanity in all its' colours.
The sisters become involved with the soldiers providing medical help, and through this time they get to see the prisoners as human beings. But it also brings into play the role that jealousy plays, especially when one of the sisters grows closer to Cesare, one of the prisoners, and the other sister feels put out. They've always been there for one another, and now that bond is being broken and it's not going down well!
I really loved the focus on relationships, especially against the backdrop of war. When everyone is feeling scared and fearful, and unaware of what will happen next, the bond between people becomes strained and you get to see a different side to people you think you knew!
This was an absorbing, dramatic and emotional story that really does transport you to a different time and place.