The Village is a fictional account of a very real part of WW2 that we don’t often hear about. Crete is the largest Greek island, located in the Mediterranean Sea with a colorful and often harsh history, having been invaded by Romans, Greeks, Turks, Germans... The Village is the story of the German invasion of Crete in 1941.
Anastasia and her husband, son and granddaughter live in the village of Ayios Stefanos, situated above the coastline; Paul Cuthbertson is a British artillery soldier, and Dieter Lehmann is a German paratrooper. All of their lives become entwined in ways that none of them would expect. When the German paratroopers first invade the island they are met with fierce defense from the British, New Zealand, and Cretan forces, but once they take control of the airstrip they effectively are able to take over the island. However, the Cretan Resistance doesn’t back down, and in turn the German forces dole out some horrific punishments on the general population. While The Village is fiction, the author Philip Duke based it on fact, and many of the events in the book are quite real.
I was a bit thrown off at first, as the author skips between scenes without much transition (and between characters too a bit further on) but about 30 pages in I suddenly realized I was hooked and couldn’t put the book down! I enjoyed how the author attempted to maintain humanity in all of the main characters, despite the atrocities committed. There are lots of graphic descriptions of battles and massacres, which are not for the faint of heart, but there are also some beautiful descriptions of the island and Cretan people in general. This creates a special balance, where the reader imagines the contrast between the brutality of war, and the timelessness of the island’s beauty.
There were a few things that I wasn’t too sure about (the end is a little predictable for example), but all in all this was a great read, especially because the author does not romanticize war in the way that many writers do when creating stories about WW2, and also because the battle of Crete is one we don’t read about very often. It appears that the author has written another novel on the island, and I’m intrigued to read this one now too!
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.