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.  

The Little Blue Door by Francesca Catlow – the story of a young woman visiting Corfu with all its memories

The Little Blue Door by Francesca Catlow

Melodie is going on a trip to Corfu to help her regain perspective after the pandemic. Wearing a mask, she notices a girl at the airport with remarkable eyes, and it is a vision that remains with her. Arriving at a rented house she realises that the whole island reminds her of her beloved grandparents who have brought her up and have recently died. Reconnecting with those she knows from her frequent holidays on the island, she drinks, appreciates the never ending sunshine and explores the places she knows so well. It is when she meets the girl with the amazing eyes once more that her life view is changed, and she makes discoveries that she could never have foreseen.

This is a book told from the point of view of a young woman desperately trying to understand what she has gone through so far in life, and how she is to proceed in the future. The beauty of Corfu is vividly described as a backdrop to difficult events, but also the positive discovery of love in various forms. While the sights and smells remind Melodie of her grandparents, the atmosphere retains the hope which she is desperately longing for through the difficult months she has endured. She is honest in her narration, admitting when she feels that she has said or done the wrong thing. She talks about her clothes, her shoes, her drinking, but also about her feelings about going into a church, trying to hide in the sea. This is a novel written with great feeling for the place in which Melodie finds herself, its natural beauty and the welcoming nature of the people. Obviously the author knows and loves Corfu, and has used that knowledge as a context for a moving and well told story of a young woman. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this rewarding book.

Melodie is fortunate that her work can be completed anywhere online, and so she can indulge in a holiday of several weeks in the resorts on Corfu. She realizes that there is no one who knows or is concerned about her, now that her grandparents have gone. She has always understood that her mother abandoned her at a few days old, and her father was not known. She has not had a romantic relationship for a few years, she knows that she has been able to live as a sort of “hermit” with her online work in social media. She meets old friends and makes new ones, especially her friend Maria and her introduction to Nico. When she encounters the girl once more she discovers that Gaia can provide introductions to more than one person who will become important, all within the setting of an idyllic island existence.

This is a carefully written and structured book with real insight into the contemporary lives of women. Melodie is a very vivid character who is honest about everything, including her consumption of ouzo and attraction to certain people. The place is beautifully described, as well as Melodie’s thoughts about her past.This is a sensitive book which I really enjoyed and found difficult to put down as I was so keen to see what the outcome would be for Melodie and others I recommend it for those who enjoy contemporary stories in holiday resort settings, written with real feelings and empathy.