From Goodreads: “Connie Granger has escaped the devastation of her bombed out city home. She has found work in the Women’s Timber Corps, and for her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose. Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. But in the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom. In each other they find the means to imagine their own lives anew, and to face that which each fears the most. But outside their haven, the world is ravaged by war and old certainties are crumbling. Both Connie and Seppe must make a life-defining choice which threatens their fragile existence. How will they make sense of this new world, and find their place within it?”
This was quite a sad story and a much slower book than I was expecting. In the past I’ve read a lot of books set in mainland Europe during the war, but hardly any set in Britain. This made a nice change actually, learning about how the people left at home coped with rationing and the lack of news from loved ones on the front-line.
I’d never heard of the Women’s Timber Corps so found that aspect really interesting. Of course I had heard of the Forest of Dean, and would really like to visit sometime as it sounds like an amazing and beautiful place.
Frank, Joyce and Amos the locals were lovely characters, as was Seppe the Italian prisoner of War, but I really struggled with Connie. I know she’d been through a lot at the beginning of the book, and she was probably suffering from PTSD. Of course back in the 1940s no-one talked about their problems with strangers, and that’s who Frank, Joyce, Amos and Seppe were to Connie, so she had no-one close to open up to and ask for help or advice. I was shouting and cringing at her as she made silly decisions about her future.
I felt so sorry for Seppe, who had struggles in the POW camp with another prisoner from his home town. He was a lovely character who was very timid, having had a tough childhood, but wanted a new start in the Forest with Connie and the others.
I loved how the ‘foresters’ pulled together and were kind to the POWs, not treating them as the enemy but as human beings. I totally understood where the title of the book came from.
The narration by Imogen Church was perfect. She brought Connie and the other characters to life so expertly it was a wonderful listening experience. If you haven’t listened to any books narrated by this amazing narrator you’re really missing out.
I recommend this book if you enjoy historical fiction, especially WW2 stories, but be warned you’ll have all sorts of emotions listening to this one, and they may not be good ones.