Remembering The Fight For Their Homes
The Girl Under The Olive Tree by Leah Fleming is both a contemporary and historical tale. It is set in Greece and Crete during the World War II years and 2001. It is an epic story of love and loss, friends and enemies, good and evil. The Mediterranean atmosphere is evoked by Leah Fleming’s use of language. The reader can almost ‘feel’ the heat. There is both beauty and horror in the landscape “How could there be such devastation on such a beautiful day?”
The story focuses on two brave Red Cross nurses. Their job was to heal the wounded regardless of their nationality. “I have taken vows to nurse all sick, no matter what their nation or religion.”
There are no winners in war. In every country mothers lose their sons. “Soldiers are the same under the skin, only the uniform marks them as different.” Soldiers have to follow their orders. For some, living side by side with the ‘enemy’ means lines are blurred. People are people no matter what their race or religion. War is distasteful. People matter.
There is a love story bubbling away beneath the surface. There is a love triangle as war throws people together. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring means that sometimes unlikely alliances are formed.
Leah Fleming shows that in war normal life tries to continue – people work, they marry, they have children. And side by side there is the extraordinary bravery of men and women in the resistance fighting for their homeland.
The novel alternates between the two time periods. The story is told in the third person except for when it is Penelope’s viewpoint in 2001 and then it is in the first person.
Leah Fleming has clearly researched the fight for Greece. There are many small and intimate details included in the story.
It was an epic and bittersweet tale that has left me feeling conflictingly sad and also peaceful and nostalgic on Penelope’s behalf. Leah Fleming writes with such artistry that the reader ‘feels’ what Penelope feels, and ‘sees’ and ‘experiences’ what she does.
The Girl Under The Olive Tree is a powerful read. It is hauntingly beautiful at times whilst showing the horrors and futility of war. I can highly recommend it.