Published: 28/08/2016
ISBN: 9781785892998
eISBN: 9781785896408
Format: Paperback/eBook

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Jim Pinnells is a contract consultant, claims manager and international arbitrator, with clients in every part of the world: Russia, the United States, Sweden, South Africa, Vietnam, Venezuela to name... read more

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Ilona Lost
by Jim Pinnells

Ilona Lost is a compelling and unusual love story.
It features two women fighting to survive in worlds dominated by men: the battlefield (1914-1918 and the Russo-Polish War), industrial management, and the bars and brothels of post-war London.

The Russian Front, 1916. An English nurse rescues a Polish teenager from rape by Cossack cavalry. The two women are emotionally numb after their experiences in the army camps, field hospitals and shattered villages of the Ukraine. As Bolshevik agitators demoralise the Russian army, chaos turns to hell. Lenin and the Red Army take over. Through it all, Ilona, the peasant girl, and Evelyn, the nurse, cling together, becoming not only comrades but lovers.

As the war in western Europe drags on, they find their way back to the English Midlands. Evelyn has lost three brothers during the war. The family factory makes car engines. She wins the fight to take it over and decides to build modern ambulances: at the front she has come to hate the ancient rattletraps that shake wounded men to death. Ilona works in the factory, but, unstable and demanding, she wants a kind of love from Evelyn that Evelyn finds impossible. They quarrel, and Ilona loses herself in the lesbian bars and brothels of London. But Evelyn cannot live without the girl she loves – and so starts her search for the lost Ilona, discovering the sordid and degenerate world of London, from Bloomsbury to the East End, made vicious by the war...

Ilona Lost offers an unforgettable image of love triumphing over despair against a backdrop of social, political and international savagery. It also sheds a rare and powerful light on the tragic divisions in the Ukraine, a useful insight at our own insecure moment in history. It will appeal to fans of historical, literary and romance fiction.

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The Causeway was born in a place of torture, sickness and death. The place is real, and to this day it has a chill that almost stops the heart. In the Bay of Naples, on the island of Ischia stands a convent, Santa Maria della Consolazione. Until the British navy destroyed it, the convent belonged to the Poor Clares. Saint Clare instructed that no nun should leave her convent even in death. Because the convent stood high on a rock overlooking the island, the dead nuns of Santa Maria could not be buried in the customary way, so their bodies were left to rot in a network of cellars. To the religious mind, the rotting, flyblown corpses are a useful memento mori. To help young nuns forget the temptations of this world, they were ordered to keep nightly vigil in this tomb. Nearby were punishment cells where nuns were flogged for every deviation from correct practice, for example for speaking to another nun. The discipline, the exposure to disease, the frugal diet and the absolute isolation from the outside world broke the spirit of most young women. Those who resisted, died. In time, the convent acquired a reputation as a dumping ground for unwanted daughters: the illegitimate, the handicapped, the unmarriageable for whatever reason. In exchange for a postulant dowry, the convent agreed to take care of a girl for the rest of her life—however short that might be. It was an evil trade conducted by professional killers with the support of the church.

After my first visit to this fearful place, it stayed with me. My imagination peopled it with the savage women who must have run it and with the slaves who were their victims. And with one girl who escaped. It was some years before she took her final shape: a Scottish Catholic girl of seventeen, Marion, sent away by her father to die because she was in the way of his dynastic ambitions. In the story Marion arrives at the convent, rebels against the regime, and escapes with another nun, Teresa, who is stirred by Marion’s plight. They escape in the year 1778, one day after Admiral Nelson rescues Emma Hamilton together with the King and Queen of Naples from the revolutionary Neapolitan mob. Revolution, the Italian Jacobins, Nelson’s navy and a burgeoning love between Marion and Teresa all delay or assist Marion’s final escape from the island.

The story is about corruption and liberation, hypocrisy and honesty, convention and revolution. But those are abstract terms. Really it is about Marion, a young girl sentenced to death by an evil establishment, finding in herself the courage and the strength to break free.

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