I’m really delighted today to be sharing my review of The Olive Grove by Eva Glyn, due to be published as an ebook by One More Chapter on 3rd September, available for kindle and on all other major ebook platforms. A little longer to wait for the paperback and audiobook – they’ll be following on 25th November, and are available for preorder. My thanks to the publishers for my advance reading copy, provided via netgalley.
It’s no particular secret that Eva Glyn is the alter ego of Jane Cable, an author whose books I’ve thoroughly enjoyed since her very first – The Cheesemaker’s House, way back in 2013 (I shared my review again on its fifth anniversary – you can read it again here). I was so thrilled to hear that – as well as continuing to write as Jane Cable with Sapere Books – she would be writing “emotional women’s fiction” with One More Chapter under her new name.
And I was even more excited when the first book they published was The Missing Pieces of Us – originally published as The Faerie Tree, it was a book I’d very much enjoyed – and it was a pleasure to reshare my original review for the cover reveal (you’ll find it here – the paperback will now be released on 14th October, available for preorder via Amazon or through your favourite bookshop).
But this time, The Olive Grove is a brand new book – I’ve read about the book’s inspiration, and (even before I saw that glorious cover) it was one I was particularly looking forward to. Let’s take a closer look…
A woman searching for a different future
A man desperate to escape his past
Can these two find what they are looking for on the beautiful Croatian island of Korčula?
Antonia Butler is on the brink of a life-changing decision and a job advert looking for a multilingual housekeeper at a beautifully renovated Croatian farmhouse, Vila Maslina, is one she can’t ignore.
Arriving on the tiny picturesque island of Korčula, Antonia feels a spark of hope for the first time in a long time. This is a chance to leave the past behind.
But this island, and its inhabitants, have secrets of their own and a not-too-distant past steeped in tragedy and war. None more so than Vila Maslina’s enigmatic owner Damir Maric. A young man with nothing to lose but everything to gain…
A must read for fans of Rosie Thomas, Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley…
A strong sense of place is something I always look for in a book – I’ve only visited Croatia as a quick stop-off while on a cruise, it’s always been a holiday destination I’ve liked the look of, and if the sea is really as enticing as it looks on that wonderful cover I think it’s about time to make next year’s booking. This book really brings the destination – the island of Korčula – vividly to life, while providing a strong reminder about the troubled recent history of the countries that made up the former Yugoslavia.
But I’m jumping ahead – the book’s focus at the start is Antonia, one of those more mature characters I always enjoy, feeling less than comfortable with her life. She’s embroiled in an affair with a married man, and it’s a slightly grubby life that she really doesn’t want any more – he’s also her boss at the holiday company where she works, and that makes breaking things off many times more difficult. But it also provides a chance of escape – Villa Maslina is a new property on their books, the owner familiar to her, and when she finds he needs a housekeeper for the villa she decides it’s just the opportunity she’s looking for. The only downside is leaving daughter Honey behind – but perhaps it’ll give her rather immature daughter the opportunity to take more responsibility for her own life, allowing some breathing space to work on her less-than-stable relationship with her girlfriend, enabling her to make some decisions about her own future.
In Korčula, we meet the villa’s owner, Damir – a young man with a vision and a desire to better himself, beginning with creating a holiday property to be proud of from the home where he grew up. He’s immediately extremely likeable, and the friendship between them grows – but he’s a very troubled man, unsuccessfully having tried to move on from memories of his past, and those night-time horrors are now beginning to impact his waking hours. The shadow cast by those wartime experiences is a long one – and through their time together Antonia and Damir support and help heal each other, with an intriguing mystery to be resolved before he can achieve anything like peace of mind.
Despite the difference in their ages, I’d rather expected the friendship to deepen into a romance – but that would have only muddied the waters, detracting from the book’s themes and focus, and the romantic flurries that do feature involve others rather than the two main protagonists. There is a particularly strong supporting cast – and visitors from Antonia’s previous life to add texture and maintain that link with “home” – but the enduring impact of the book lies with Damir’s wartime experiences.
The book doesn’t become a dual time story, and I thought that was a choice that worked particularly well – instead, we’re offered glimpses of his past, images that sear themselves into the memory, powerful and affecting, building empathy for this young man and the traumatic events he experienced while still a child.
The story-telling is excellent – and every emotional touch extremely well-judged. I particularly liked Damir’s passion for restoring the old olive press in time for the harvest, all linked to his more precious memories of being provided with a safe home where he felt loved – beautifully done. The book’s pace is steady, with few fireworks in the present day story, but that was something I enjoyed – Damir’s emotional journey and the search that underpins it provides more than enough narrative drive to keep the pages turning. Antonia’s experiences give the story particular appeal for an older reader – that minefield of families and caring, life’s possibilities and the way she responds to them, all with particular authenticity, easy to identify with.
I really did enjoy this one – and must say that those comparisons with other authors in the book’s description are entirely justified. Filled with emotional complexity, coupled with a captivating story – I couldn’t have asked for more, and highly recommend this book.
Many thanks to Jane/Eva for asking me to share my review ahead of the blog tour – organised by Anne at Random Things Tours, it starts on Monday (30th August), and goes on until 9th September. Do try and catch some of the reviews from the many excellent bloggers who are part of it…
About the author
Eva Glyn writes emotional women’s fiction inspired by beautiful places and the stories they hide. She loves to travel, but finds inspiration can strike just as well at home or abroad.
She cut her teeth on just about every kind of writing (radio journalism, advertising copy, PR, and even freelance cricket reporting) before finally completing a full length novel in her forties. Four lengthy and completely unpublishable tomes later she found herself sitting on an enormous polystyrene book under the TV lights of the Alan Titchmarsh Show as a finalist in the People’s Novelist competition sponsored by Harper Collins. Although losing out to a far better writer, the positive feedback from the judges gave her the confidence to pursue her dreams.
Eva lives in Cornwall, although she considers herself Welsh, and has been lucky enough to have been married to the love of her life for twenty-five years. She also writes as Jane Cable.