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4.7 out of 5 stars96
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 14 December 1999
Monserrat's book is probably the smartest insight into the character of the Maltese people penned by a non-Maltese I've ever read. The author has clearly understood the relevance of the Catholic religion and hierarchy; the sea and draught; but also the hardships of history especially in War time, when one tries to figure out what Malta and the Maltese are all about.
Try reading this book AFTER you've visited our islands, and see how your judgements compare with Monserrat's ...
Apart from being a great anthropological reading, this book is great fun to read ... a good novel by any standard.
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on 26 July 2003
I can't remember being so moved by a book. My father lived in the caves in Floriana, Malta during the war and this book is the first I've read that portrays the horrors that my family experienced. For a non-Maltese, the author understands and perfectly captures the Maltese sense of humour and the importance of their faith to them. The format is unusual - part historical, part fictional but this works well and eventually I found myself wondering which bits were fictional and which were fact. This is a first class Maltese history book and a first class novel. One question remains, did Dun Salve really exist or is he completely fictional..?
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on 8 February 2011
This book is a classic for anyone who is interested in Malta, and especially her rich history of triumphs over her enemies throughout the centuries.

Set in World War 2,the story centres around a humble priest who cares for his people and tries to encourage them through the relentless bombing of their island,and the near starvation which they endured. He does this by reminding them of all the times the small island has withstood the many onslaughts of the past.
Alongside this is the romantic tale of his niece and a British serviceman.

It is neatly divided into the main "episodes" of the various sieges on Malta and underlines the resilience and bravery of the Maltese people.It also gives a flavour of how closely bound they were with the British,which both her culture and relationships reflect to this day.

An idea to enhance the reading of the book, which is definitely a product of its time, would be to purchase,(or borrow), a copy of the film "The Malta Story", starring Alec Guinness.This film includes actual news-reel from the war. It too, is of its era, but if you are interested in Malta,you will want a copy of it.
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on 2 March 2016
I bought this book after seeing it on sale in the WW2 bunker museum in Valetta and having read The Cruel Sea some years ago. The 426 pages of a particularly dense type and the highly factual nature of the prose are very off putting but I found I was read it quickly after a slow start.
It's structured cleverly to give the reader a strong sense of place in the catacombs and around the Grand Harbour in 1940-42 but interspersed with sermons by the priest using historical events in the island's history - so it is almost an introductory history of Malta and its people.
The characters are all well drawn and memorable - members of the Kapillan's family, his two assistants and the odious Scholti plus numerous ordinary Maltese, both good and bad. There isn't much of a plot - it mostly being how the family deal with the war and constant bombardment - and that doesn't matter anyhow as Monserrat allows history to be the plot.
I think, from comments in the book, that Monsarrat is from a Maltese family himself as well as living the latter part of his life on Gozo, and has researched the topic meticulously to give it a strong sense of place and time,
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on 14 March 2016
The item arrived within two days, well inside the predicted delivery time. Having read the condensed version of this book, I was really impressed by the full version. It paints a picture in every sense so that you can see the suffering, the compassion and the love surfacing through the trials of war. I gained so much more by being familiar with both Malta and Gozo, so was able to identify with the descriptive scenes of those places. This added so much to my pleasure in reading this book. The sting in the tale was his long estranged brother in law being at his funeral, showing that family means all. A book that I shal read again and again. Bravo Nicholas Montserrat.
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on 9 November 2012
This is my favourite book ever. It's not easy to read but is well worth the effort, particularly if you know Malta as I do. The book itself was slightly disappointing as it was classified as 'good' but omitted to say the cover was torn and the page edges were rough. I expected a little of this, it being a first edition, but the tears on the fly cover make it an eyesore to display alongside similar books and the photo did not reflect this, nor was it mentioned. However, the book itself is in a readable condition and, on the whole I'm pleased that I bought it. I can't fault the service. Impeccable as always.
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on 8 February 2009
This atmospheric and gripping read has been a firm family favourite over many years and is an absolute must for anyone contemplating a trip to Malta and,in particular, Valetta. Everyone who ha ever read my copy has wanted one of their own.
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on 25 March 2013
The writer was involved in the war and saw life at its rawest in Malta during that period. the research into the background of the people is superb with characters coming to life and being truly human. It has a sense of realism that many fiction stories lack. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in Malta, the way they survived the war is amazing..
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on 21 August 2014
A very moving story, chock full of history, both of WWII and many centuries earlier. The central character is an absolutely delightful priest - a humble man who rose to the horrendous challenges of Malta during the bombardment of the last war. Many well known, distinguished names from that war, not to mention Nelson, Napoleon, the Phoenecians and the Romans all play their part! Monsarrat lived on Gozo for his final years and his love of the islands and its people shine through. Highly recommended.
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on 17 July 2014
Refinding an author is always thrilling and Nicholas Monsarrat is no exception. this book is a wonderful read from beginning to end and it works on two different levels. There is the story of the local priest who brings hope and strength to the local population in a time of extremes and then there is the totally factual history of this island of Malta and what it endured through those dark days of ww2. Having found Monsarrat again I am off to read " Three Corvettes"
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