I’m enjoying this book very much. It’s told from different points of view and each voice is unique. I’ve often heard and read of the comradeship among soldiers, and at the beginning of the novel one of the characters expresses this in a lovely way --
You come to know every nuance of each others’ moods; you know exactly what the other is going to say; you know exactly who will laugh and for how long over which particular type of joke; you acquaint yourself intimately with the smell of each man’s feet and perspiration; you can put your hand on someone’s face in the dark, and know who it is; you recognize someone’s equipment hanging on the back of a chair, even though his is the same as everyone else’s…Two of the voices in this novel are soldiers; one is Italian and one is Greek. I especially appreciate these dual perspectives, but as you can imagine the bottom line is the same - war is hell. As one of them says, "The world looked the same, but beneath the surface it had broken out with boils."
Most of the novel thus far is set on the Greek Island of Cephallonia in 1940-41. The Greeks fight the Italians relentlessly and to great effect and it is not until the Germans march in with their large numbers and superior equipment that the Greeks are defeated. After neighboring Corfu falls, the Cephallonians wait for the Italians to occupy their island –
Families embraced more than had been the habit; fathers who expected to be beaten to death stroked the hair of pretty daughters who expected to be raped. Sons sat with their mothers on doorsteps and talked gently of their memories… Many people visited their favourite places as if for the last time, and found that stones and dust, pellucid sea and ancient rock, had taken on an air of sadness such as one finds in a room where a beautiful child is lying at the door of death.Imagine the hopelessness. All of the able-bodied men were off fighting and the remaining inhabitants could only wait for abuse from the invading army. How many times has this happened throughout history? In how many languages have people expressed the same despair?
Books like this make me wonder why I was so fortunate to be born in this time and place. I don’t understand my good fortune, but I suppose the sentiment is as old as war itself.