A tale of grief, survival and the inescapability of the past.
In an Italian prison camp in the summer of 1942, British officers captured in Africa are starving. It is in these unpromising circumstances that two men, Michael Armstrong and Harry Maynard, first meet. Before the war, Michael, the son of a Norfolk teacher, was expected to embark on a glittering career in law. Harry is the son of a Hull tram conductor. To relieve the boredom of captivity, Michael suggest that they write together. Initially dismissive, Harry finally agrees and the two men begin to write side by side in the same notebooks.
While Michael produces an autobiographical account of his war, Harry writes a fairytale about an orphan girl, Pelliger, who is raised by crows and longs to fly. Centring around her quest for identity, he writes about the most powerful human impulse of longing for love.
Many years later, Michael’s son, Ian, is selling his father’s house and stumbles across his wartime notebooks. His dad never spoke about the war but now Ian finds himself encountering a father he never knew. At a charity lunch, Ian meets Rose, Harry’s elderly sister, and her daughter, Clare. Rose identifies Harry as the writer of the fairytale and explains that she longs to find out what happened to her brother, as he never returned home from Italy. She later confides in Ian about her brief encounter with Michael, which led to the birth of Clare. After learning the truth, Ian and Clare decide to travel to Italy to try and solve the puzzle of what really happened to Harry...
paints a vivid and compelling picture of the lives of POWs in Italy and also the lives of the Italians who risked everything to save them. This book will appeal to fans of historical fiction, particularly those with an interest in World War II.