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300 Days of Sun

Author: Deborah Lawrenson
Published: 12 April 2016
Reviewed: 18 August 2016

4.5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by the author in return for an honest review

 

Description:

Combining the atmosphere of Jess Walters’ Beautiful Ruins with the intriguing historical backstory of Christina Baker Kline’s The Orphan Train, Deborah Lawrenson’s mesmerizing novel transports readers to a sunny Portuguese town with a shadowy past—where two women, decades apart, are drawn into a dark game of truth and lies that still haunts the shifting sea marshes.

Travelling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career. Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings, Joanna soon realizes, Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline over two decades ago.

Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically insists she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford’s story and Nathan Emberlin’s may indeed converge in Faro—where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Deborah Lawrenson is a new author to me so I had no preconceived notions when I picked up this book, all I had was a description that truly fascinated me and piqued my interest.

Cleverly written as a book within a book, Lawrenson exhibits a the true mastery of her writing abilities.  Transporting the reader to Portugal, the reader encounters Joanna Millard who has travelled to the Algarve coastline to attend a language school and escape from a her stagnant life back home.  When she meets Nathan Emberlin and agrees to help him solve a 20 year old kidnapping case little does she know the journey she is about to take.

Woven into this novel is a book called The Alliance, about an American couple stranded in Portugal during WWII.  The narration then moves back and forth between current day and the story in The Alliance.

What I found incredibly enjoyable was the fact that Lawrenson had taken the time to thoroughly research the impact of WWII on the ordinary people of Portugal, how life was for both native citizens as well as expatiates.  The true extent of the political landscape, espionage and intrigue at the time are well detailed in her writing, giving the reader not only background information,  but also teaching them things they may not have known previously.

At the beginning I did wonder how Lawrenson would bind the two stories together and was intrigued to see how it would work, but I was incredibly impressed at how well it all tied up at the end.

The writing itself is wonderful, the descriptions of Portugal are absolutely mind blowing, more than once I looked online to see just how close to reality they were and was not disappointed, the reader really is transported to Portugal whilst reading this, sadly once you close the book you are back at home.

The characters were interesting and well developed, their predicaments compelling and really captured my attention.

An impressive historical fiction novel with mystery, suspense, romance and wonderfully descriptive settings.

I will definitely be searching out more books by this author to add to my ever growing “To Read” pile.

You can buy a copy of 300 Days of Sun here.

About the Author

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After a childhood of constant moves around the world – my family lived at various times in Kuwait, China, Belgium, Luxembourg and Singapore – I read English at Trinity College, Cambridge. I trained as a journalist on a weekly South London newspaper, then worked on several national newspapers and magazines.

My first novel, Hot Gossip (1994), was a satire based on my experiences working on Nigel Dempster’s diary column, and was followed by a sequel, Idol Chatter (1995). The Moonbathers, a black comedy, followed in 1998.

The Art of Falling was a complete change of direction, which took five years to research and write. But trying to get it published was like starting from scratch again. In the end, after many false dawns and disappointments, I published it myself under the Stamp Publishing imprint in September 2003.

Almost immediately it became clear that the novel had struck a chord with booksellers and reading groups around my home in Kent. Ottakar’s liked it enough to recommend it to their stores nationwide, and the rights were sold to Random House.
The Art of Falling was republished by Arrow in July 2005 and chosen as one of the books for the WHSmith Fresh Talent promotion that summer. It went on to sell more than all the others put together!

Songs of Blue and Gold is in a similar style: a story that grew out of my curiousity about past events and a love for the warmer shores and colours of southern Europe.

My latest novel, The Lantern, has been chosen for The TV Book Club Summer Reads 2011 on Channel4 and More4. I have also written a linked short story for Woman&Home magazine’s 2011 summer reading supplement.

I currently divide my time between rural Kent and a crumbling hamlet in Provence, which is the atmospheric setting for The Lantern.

To find out more about Deborah Lawrenson to go her website http://www.deborah-lawrenson.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @deb_lawrenson

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