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The Black Earth

Cover of The Black EarthRead An Extract of The Black Earth

Author: Philip Kazan

Genre: Crime, Mystery & Thriller
Format: Paperback
Rights: World English
Pub. Date: 23rd May 2019

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Price: £8.99

Format: Paperback

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Latest Extra: Link: Best historical fiction book to read this summer, says The Times

Synopsis of book»

1922. Young Zoë Haggitiris is forced to flee with her family during the Turkish invasion of Smyrna. When tragedy strikes in the midst of their escape, Zoë is found floating alone in the icy waters and is rescued by a passing ship. Caught up in a sea of desperate refugees, her life is touched by an English boy, Tom Collyer, before the compassion of a stranger leads her into a new life.

1941, Greece. In the chaos of the British retreat, Tom and Zoë are briefly reunited before fate cruelly separates them once more. Tom will discover that the war will not end so easily for either of them and, if they can find their way back to each other, that nothing will ever be the same.



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Following their first brief, chance encounter as young children in the chaos of Piraeus harbour, the reader follows the lives of Zoë and Tom through childhood until fate or destiny throws them together again in another chance meeting. They will each in turn act as rescuer of the other but face separation, loss and traumatic experiences. The connection they feel will help them make sense of the chaos around them, finding in it something pure and true amongst the horrors of war.
The Black Earth convincingly portrays the chaos and breakdown of society in time of war. Particularly memorable is the depiction of the terrible suffering of the people of Athens, including near starvation, during the occupation by the Nazis during World War 2, and in the aftermath when the area descends into civil war. I know the author drew on his own family history as inspiration for many of the events and some of the characters in the book which no doubt accounts for its sense of authenticity.
Amongst all the horror, however, the book shows that there are still opportunities for random acts of kindness, even in time of war, including the one that will change the course of Zoë’s life. I was particularly moved by part three of the book in which the story is told partly through Tom’s letters describing his experiences and hopes for the future. Reflecting what must have been the experience of many in wartime, the letters are written and sent more in hope than expectation of being received by the intended recipient; the correspondent not knowing, even, if the recipient is still alive to read them.
I absolutely loved this book, even though it put me through the emotional wringer. The author kept me hoping and fearing, fearing and hoping right up until the last page. I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a little tear at the end. The Black Earth is highly recommended for fans of historical fiction who love a strong story based around real life events with engaging and believable characters. I’m so glad to have been introduced to the writing of Philip Kazan and I can safely say The Black Earth won’t be the last book of his I read.Cathy Johnson

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