Sunday 11 September 2016

300 Days of Sun - Deborah Lawrenson

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 it, 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.

What did I think?

When I think of World War II, I have never considered what the war was like for Portugal or Spain.  Portugal was officially neutral during World War II so thinking of it now,  it seems obvious that people would have fled to Spain then on to it's neighbour Portugal from France.  300 Days of Sun is set in Portugal, which reputedly has 300 days of sun per year (as opposed to the 3 days of sun we get in the North East of England).  Such a beautiful location but with a dark and dangerous history.

Past and present flow beautifully in 300 Days of Sun as they are so cleverly linked.  In present day we read about Joanna who is fleeing a stagnating relationship and embracing Portuguese life.  Joanna meets Nathan in her language class and the pair form a friendship. Joanna, with her journalistic skills, helps Nathan to uncover his past whilst reading of Portugal's past through a book called 'The Alliance'.  'The Alliance' is set in World War II and describes the plight of an American couple, Alva and Michael Barton, as they wait in Lisbon's 'Waiting Room' for a passage home.

Through the 'past' chapters, which are excerpts from 'The Alliance', we learn about Portugal's war.  It was a bit like a John le CarrĂ© novel with spies and underhand dealings where you don't know who is on which side.  I loved how the past became the present through Joanna's reading of the book.  It really helped the novel to flow effortlessly.  There were equally some strange goings on in the present, with the mysterious Ian Rylands who gives Joanna a copy of the book.  He seems to have some link to Nathan and a missing child...could they be one and the same?

300 Days of Sun is so very atmospheric; I felt like I could hear the waves lapping the shore.  I can no longer say that I've never been to Portugal, as Deborah Lawrenson took me there!

I received this e-book from the publisher, Lawsome Books, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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