Category Archives: Balkans

Review of ” Port of No Return” by Michelle Saftich

Powerful story of little known ethnic cleansing of Italians at the end of World War 2.

Michelle Saftich has put together a moving story of a family uprooted and torn apart by the convulsions that Europe experienced at the end of World War 2. The book is set in Istria which had an approximately 40% Italian population and was given to the Italy after World War 1. Based on her father’s recollections she portrays a little known part of the war whereby Italians were forcibly removed by the Yugoslavs.

The story starts under the German occupation of Istria following the Italian surrender in 1943 and mainly follows the experiences of two families. Saftich has done her research well and the period detail is immaculate. She also makes you care about the characters and their extended families.

Whilst I did find one of the situations contrived, I enjoyed this compelling family saga set against the looming shadow of Tito’s partisans and the end of a way of life.

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Review of ” The Beaten Zone” by Tom Mykytiuk

I took a gamble on this one and it paid off.

I was looking for a fiction book on Tito and the partisans and came across this.

There’s a lot of criticism of self published books but Tom Mykytiuk has produced a fast moving novel that effectively melds the German attempt to capture Tito in 1943 with the ethnic conflicts of 1990s Yugoslavia.

His military background brings a high level of authenticity to the action, and his characters are not one dimensional that many in this genre suffer from.

If I had criticise there are a number of typos in the book such as OSE instead of SOE but these did not affect my enjoyment.

I understand there is another book with same characters in the pipeline which based on this debut will be well worth a look.

Review of ” Hearts of Stone” by Simon Scarrow

A very moving story of friendship, love and loyalty.

Simon Scarrow has produced an exceptional work moving from the present day to the past and back again as Anna a history teacher pieces together the story of her grandmothers life prior and during World War 2 on the Greek island of Lefkas.

Anyone who reads my reviews will know that I’m a stickler for accuracy in historical fiction and the author has really done his work here. The submarine and the missions involved in the story are real and one aspect I particularly liked was the mention of the little known Marlin submachine gun, which was only really used by partisans in occupied Europe. There’s even a brief bibliography of the author’s sources at the back.

However, the book is not all about guns and ships, there’s a powerful emotional pull, and as the story unfolds the author creates some very credible characters that you really care about. Some may think some aspects of the book are overlong, but the sum of the parts creates an exciting finale where the pre-war relationships ignite a fierce confrontation as the characters are torn between loyalty to their nation or their friends.

If this is good example of Scarrow’s work then I will definitely be looking into his other books.