The Long Shadow
The Long Shadow is compelling historical novel which tells the human story of the Eastern campaign in Salonika and will appeal to readers of The Island and The Thread.
Fourteen-year-old Andrew discovers his mother's hidden diary at his grandmother's home during a Christmas gathering. His eyes are opened to a family secret when he reads about her time as a Red Cross nurse in Salonika during the First World War, and the tragic love affair she had with his father, a Greek officer who died in battle. Four years later, Andrew is impelled to visit his father's land and trace his roots. What - and who - he finds there will change his life forever.
The Long Shadow is filled with descriptions of Greece and its people. Dramatic images of battle and the terrible conditions endured by the Allied Armies entrenched around Salonika in the “Birdcage” are authentic and vivid. Greek “rebetika” music and dance play a vital role, reconciling in Andrew the dichotomy of belonging to two very different cultures and helping him to unite them in his heart and soul.
I became instantly emotionally involved with this epic story. The author, herself Anglo-Greek, writes with visionary passion about the contrasting societies of Greece and England. `The Long Shadow' shows how events that occurred under the bright sunshine of Greece created shadows that fell upon the English countryside, touching Downlands `a quiet, decaying, lovely old place, set in the soft rolling hills of the Gloucestershire countryside. It is here that the teenage Andrew finds and reads his mother's hidden diary, and abandoning his English family, sets out on a journey to Greece.
Under various different `rational' guises, all the characters in `The Long Shadow' are motivated by love, and this makes it a very human and fascinating book. Some people, such as the glamorous Marika, keep all their love for themselves. Others, like Andrew's mother Dorothy are inspired by higher ideals. Having trained as a nurse, and ignoring all the people who didn't `approve of ladies being involved in the war effort' she travels to Salonika in Greece, during the First World War. The descriptions of the hospital camp are so detailed and involving that I could see it all, even smell it, and certainly taste the horrible food. Dorothy shows infinite care for the ill and wounded soldiers in her care, until a passionate romantic love tears apart her carefully organised life plan. Loretta Proctor expertly conveys the light-hearted joy of two people in love and the abandonment of English reserve to Greek passion. Thrillingly true romance!
Fulfilled love, frustrated love, excessive self love, characters who fight and die for love of their country - the deadening pain of losing a loved one - I went through all these emotions with the characters. The suffering of the refugees from Smyrna broke my heart, and the descriptions of their music and dancing at Bald Yiango's cafe are inspirational. I intend to find some recordings to hear it for myself.
The story is greatly enhanced by the powerful sense of place. For example, the author's descriptions of old Salonika, especially the mysterious and fascinating Jewish and Turkish areas of the city, made me want to go there immediately. Alas, later in the book I discovered that `the coloured houses, the minarets, the church domes and cypress trees' have all vanished, replaced by `white blocks of apartments and high buildings', in the more modern city of Thessalonika.
I knew very little about the history of modern Greece, until I read `The Long Shadow.' Loretta Proctor is obviously an expert, but the details that she gives us are all on the human scale, so that I had the feeling of living through these troubles with the characters. `The Long Shadow' gives a direct and personal view of history, full of truth, vibrant life and especially of love. Highly recommended
Mary V Hancock
There are some books which are a 'fair' read, some which are a 'good' read and some which are unputdownable. I class this book in the last category. It really is superbly written with scrupulous attention to historical detail and a story line which covers many years and many lives. It is told through the medium of a diary. A young boy discovers his mother's secret diary, reads it and is enthralled. The book unfolds during the 1st world war in Salonica, Greece. The whole point about the diary medium is that one's attention is held as an ongoing narrative as though one were actually there, and this has been achieved admirably.
The second half of the story concerns the exploits of the son - how he goes out to Greece and eventually uncovers the history behind all that has been revealed before in the 1st section. It is told with superb verve and great descriptive writing and should be a must on the bookshelf of anyone remotely interested in the Greek campaign from the 1st world war on, or, for that matter - for any reader who wants to be absorbed in a great story, told with dignity and great humanity. I thoroughly recommend this book!
The new paperback edition is now available from Troubador and a Kindle version on Amazon.' Signed copies available through the author.