Behind the Olive Trees by Francesca Catlow – a romance and much more set in beautiful Corfu
Behind the Olive Trees by Francesca Catlow
This is a lovely book of place and characters which feature in a carefully plotted novel of sun, love and much more. Following the very enjoyable “The Little Blue Door”, anyone reading it will be inspired to read the first book and begin to look forward to the promised third book in the series. Set in a post pandemic tourist spot in Corfu, the sun filled experiences of Melodie and those she has come to know and love reflects the lives of contemporary women in all their possibilities, confusions and challenges. The sense of place which pervades this carefully written book is so strong that the house and other settings seem almost to exist as another character. The relationship between Melodie and Anton is celebrated throughout this book, despite some of the problems that they face. As Melodie struggles to discover what is being said in Greek, her narration must pick up on the small signs and clues of body language and context, and the reader is able to attempt to genuinely assess the situation alongside her. In a realistic and relatable story, Melodie must reflect on who really matters in her life, and how best to live her idyllic life in the sun in the light of her difficult past. I enjoyed reading this well written book, and am glad to have had the opportunity to read and review it.
As the book begins, Melodie has gathered her courage to visit her mother’s house for the first time since she inherited it. Accompanied by the resourceful fourteen year old Gaia, she discovers that a young woman has been staying there. This is a discovery that will have important implications for the rest of the novel, as the girl reappears and refuses to be ignored. Meanwhile Melodie’s attentions and emotions are wrapped up in her love for Anton, and a wedding which is beautifully described in every respect. One of the clever aspects of this book is the way that many characters are introduced and reintroduced so that Melodie’s story is not told in isolation, but like most people’s lives lived in a context of others with all their faults and positive aspects. We accordingly see the friends and family members who have an influence on Melodie and Anton, the family resemblances and ties that link to the past and people who are no longer living. There are also stunning descriptions of the brilliantly designed house and garden that Melodie has come to live in, from the big rooms to the extensive garden with its romantic hideaways. The life in the area is also pretty idyllic, with locals who Melodie is coming to know well. There is definitely a difficult element of life ever present, as a person who Melodie feels that she must support is unpredictable, and not universally welcomed. As a very important person becomes suspiciously unwell, and other things happen that unnerve Melodie, it seems that she cannot relax and enjoy her life in beautiful Corfu.
This is a well written book that manages to include so much, as elements of thriller begin to emerge in a novel that is almost set in paradise. What has happened to Melodie in the past would need working through, but as her narration progresses she becomes more certain that there is so much that still needs explanation. The building tension in this book is so well handled against what could simply have been a romance that the author demonstrates real skill in handling ideas, and so left me wanting to discover what happens next. This is a really impressive novel.