The Metal Heart by Caroline Lea


It is 1941 and twins sisters Con and Dot live alone in a ramshackle old bothy on a small Orkney island. They need to row across to Kirkwall to collect provisions each week. The people of Kirkwall find the sisters strange, taciturn, unusual and they whisper about them living alone on the cursed island of Selkie Holm. But in 1942 everything changes as a thousand Italian prisoners of war are brought to Orkney to build defences and their camp is built on the island of Selkie Holm. When Dot rescues Cesare from drowning their lives are connected and he vows to help the sisters in whatever way he can; repairing their damaged roof and promising to fetch medicine when Con becomes ill. However the tension of the camp, the superstitions of the local people and the privations of war boil over into a conflict that ends in death, because there is a reason why the sisters chose to live cut off from everyone else and they will protect each other no matter the cost. 

I was utterly enchanted with this book from page one. I simply couldn't stop reading. Caroline Lea is a gifted writer conjuring character, place and atmosphere, so much so that I shivered with the cold and damp as read in my sunny garden. I was so caught up in Dot, Con and Cesare's story that I raced to finish the book and felt bereft when I did. A stunning work of historical fiction, based in fact but steeped in the folklore and atmosphere of Orkney. A must read for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Caroline's previous work. 

Thanks so much Penguin Random House for a proof copy of the book and the chance to take part in this blog tour.