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4.8 out of 5 stars
37
4.8 out of 5 stars


on 1 May 2013
This is not a book about Greece. It not a book about war but it is a book about people, the situations they find themselves in; and above all about their loves. This skilfully crafted novel is in two parts, the first set in England and the second, mainly in Greece. The protagonist is Andrew who is shocked by the revelations in his mother's diary which he secretly reads. He discovers that his father is Greek and he vows to meet him. The second part of the novel shows Andrew in his quest and eventual success. Loretta Proctor, half Greek herself, has a vast knowledge and understanding of 20th century Greek history, especially as it relates to the two world wars and she uses this with great skill as a backdrop to Andrew's story. She brings out the horrors of war in Greece. She writes the diary as if using the language of the day and this gives the mother's account an authenticity and immediacy which is strong and real. I found the book very moving, especially the relationship between Andrew and his father. Being unfamiliar with the history, I found it fascinating, almost a distraction at times! This is a beautiful story and the second of Loretta Proctor's books I have read. It cries out for a sequel!
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on 28 June 2017
Full of facts and a great story. I love this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in WW1 Salonika
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on 25 July 2012
This book is largely based on a diary of a nurse stationed in Salonika during the First World War, and the effect of illicitly reading that diary on her son, Andrew. His solitary recovery of the events in this diary illuminates both his inheritance, and his current relationships, casting the 'long shadow' produced by its abruptly curtailed whirlwind romance. The personal story is equally reflective of the 'long shadow' cast by the war itself. This is a skillful parallel between the events for the characters and the wider stage in which their play takes shape.

Some of that almost soporific lulling also comes from the recapture of an age of innocence. The nurse Dorothy is young, and although she has decided opinions on most things, from pastries to people, she is conveyed as essentially uncritical, swept along equally by her compelling attraction to a Rhett Butler Greek of glittering dark eyes, as much as to her devotion to her role as nursing aide to the restrained and devoted doctor, Ethan Willoughby. In that sense it has the ingredients of conflicted romance, a very English Home Counties romance where the longing for wild exuberance is tempered by restraint, though not entirely!

There are well drawn characters, the polished Greek mother in her well ordered home of servants, ice cold water wells for cooling wine, of shutters and aromatic gardens; and her counterpart the present day English grandmother in a crumbling gracious Edwardian home, Downlands. The encounters with the Greek peasants, shepherds, runners, dancers and festivals falls like bright light on the impressionable Dorothy, avid for adventure, making the most of her war's interludes (and living with that living for ever after). Through her the reader is given the incandescence of a fresh light at the most dark period of European affairs. The details of Greek habits, food and peppered language make of this an interesting and unfamiliar meal.

The second half of the book covers the consequences of this clandestinely read diary on Andrew and on other characters we have already met in its pages. There is an underpinning philosophy akin to Julian of Norwich's 'All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well' although not necessarily in ways one might expect. Instead of a winding down, the book winds up, rather more satisfyingly, and, on reflection, entirely believable although un-anticipated.
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on 31 October 2012
I have just finished reading this for the second time and know I shall return to it again and again because of its strong, involving characters and the wonderful story they have to tell.

Nothing is more intriguing than a hidden diary, and when Andrew finds his mother's and begins to read it, a dramatic picture of her life in Salonka during the first world war enfolds. Dorothy's love story is touching and beautifully told, yet this is far more than a love story. The sights, smells, triumphs and tragediesa of World War One are described so vividly and knowledgably we feel we are experiencing them first hand.

I've now enjoyed several books from the pen of this author, but this is her best yet.

It's a novel to treasure.
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on 18 September 2006
I am not usually a great lover of romantic stories, but this one has certainly converted me, and I am eager to read her next novel, which I am sure will be as riveting, if not more so.

This is a very touching story, beautifully and sympathetically written, superbly scripted, and crafted by one of the most exciting new romantic novelists of today.

The story is set during the first world war, and it's about two people from two different cultures who are caught up in the conflict, and who fall hopelessly in love. This is a gentle story, with a slow, seductive build-up to a passionate affair, fraught with danger at every step.

The story begins when a young boy, wiling away his holidays with an old aunt, stumbles across a diary hidden in a locked trunk in the attic. The diary belongs to his mother, and is written as a full documentary account of her life during those war years, and it contains vivid details of her duties as a nurse in war-torn Greece, and how she meets a young Greek officer - who turns out to be a spy - and how she falls deeply in love with him. They become engaged (the "Greek" way) and the young nurse consequently becomes pregnant, but unfortunately her affair has a tragic ending, she returns back home to England, where she gives birth to her son, who is the main character to the story, but there is a very clever, yet somewhat surprising twist to the tale.

I am greatly impressed by her highly graphic and descriptive attention to details, which brings the story to life, and I particularly like the way she describes the cosy contents of the room where the young nurse stays with her future husband, building up a colourful picture which draws you into the scene.

The second part to the story is how her young son, by her liaison in Greece, feels compelled to make a life-changing trip to Salonika (partly due to his strained relationship with his mother, and feeling that he is an outcast) to try and trace his roots. He very soon falls into unsavoury company, where the rooms he has to stay in have a very different atmosphere than the his mother's experience of comfort and luxury all those years ago. His life becomes even more complicated when he falls under the spell of the young girl of the household where he takes refuge, only to find out that she is a prostitute as well as a talented singer at a night club.

As the story moves on, you just don't want to put the book down, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The writer deserves many stars, as she is a star in her own right! Next book please!
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on 13 July 2009
I became instantly emotionally involved with this epic story. The author, herself Anglo-Greek, writes with visionary passion about the contrasting societies of Greece and England. `The Long Shadow' shows how events that occurred under the bright sunshine of Greece created shadows that fell upon the English countryside, touching Downlands `a quiet, decaying, lovely old place, set in the soft rolling hills of the Gloucestershire countryside. It is here that the teenage Andrew finds and reads his mother's hidden diary, and abandoning his English family, sets out on a journey to Greece.
Under various different `rational' guises, all the characters in `The Long Shadow' are motivated by love, and this makes it a very human and fascinating book. Some people, such as the glamorous Marika, keep all their love for themselves. Others, like Andrew's mother Dorothy are inspired by higher ideals. Having trained as a nurse, and ignoring all the people who didn't `approve of ladies being involved in the war effort' she travels to Salonika in Greece, during the First World War. The descriptions of the hospital camp are so detailed and involving that I could see it all, even smell it, and certainly taste the horrible food. Dorothy shows infinite care for the ill and wounded soldiers in her care, until a passionate romantic love tears apart her carefully organised life plan. Loretta Proctor expertly conveys the light-hearted joy of two people in love and the abandonment of English reserve to Greek passion. Thrillingly true romance!
Fulfilled love, frustrated love, excessive self love, characters who fight and die for love of their country - the deadening pain of losing a loved one - I went through all these emotions with the characters. The suffering of the refugees from Smyrna broke my heart, and the descriptions of their music and dancing at Bald Yiango's cafe are inspirational. I intend to find some recordings to hear it for myself.
The story is greatly enhanced by the powerful sense of place. For example, the author's descriptions of old Salonika, especially the mysterious and fascinating Jewish and Turkish areas of the city, made me want to go there immediately. Alas, later in the book I discovered that `the coloured houses, the minarets, the church domes and cypress trees' have all vanished, replaced by `white blocks of apartments and high buildings', in the more modern city of Thessalonika.
I knew very little about the history of modern Greece, until I read `The Long Shadow.' Loretta Proctor is obviously an expert, but the details that she gives us are all on the human scale, so that I had the feeling of living through these troubles with the characters. `The Long Shadow' gives a direct and personal view of history, full of truth, vibrant life and especially of love. Highly recommended!
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on 29 August 2012
You know that feeling you get when you finish a novel and you've accidentally fallen in love with one of the characters? Now what do you do? The guy doesn't actually exist. This happened to me with The Long Shadow, and I've having a hard time letting go.

In all honesty, two characters, a father and his son, have both captured my romantic imagination.

The Long Shadow not only contains fascinating, unforgettable, mesmerizing characters, it has history: lots of it. It brought the horrors of World War I Greece to life, and also managed to capture those precious moments of joy that occur even in the grimmest circumstances. The end, which I could not predict, was perfect and satisfying.

This author is becoming one of my all time favorites.
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on 11 December 2015
The Long Shadow, by Loretta Proctor, is the forerunner to Dying Phoenix. I read them in reverse order, but this didn't affect my enjoyment of either book. They can be read quite separately. The Long Shadow spans a considerable period of time, from the middle of the First World War until the late 1940s. It largely describes the lives of a mother and son, Dorothy and Andrew, caught between lives in England and Greece. The very different environments - of land, culture, community, and family - are excellently captured by Loretta's writing.

For all the social changes in Britain brought about by two world wars, a countryside house in the Cotswolds serves as an emblem - it is a haven of peace and sanctuary. It provides some glimpse of pastoral peace. The Greek landscapes, on the other hand, from urban Athens and Thessaloniki through to the remote rural villages of Macedonia, are in constant flux, repeatedly scarred by external invasion and internal feud. The picture of northern Greece at the end of the book is quite different from that at the start, after it has been touched by war, fire, land clearance, rivalry, and modernisation. It is a harsh time and place to live, but occasionally, and unexpectedly, it provides vistas of grandeur and beauty. It sways between hostility and brotherhood - but always with a profound and unpredictable passion.

The Long Shadow also captures, in bold manner, the highs and lows of having mixed-culture ancestry. Andrew can never decide whether he is British or Greek in his soul, and for much of the book he oscillates between them as he tries to find his own identity. His betrayal, in turn, of each of his parents has a terrible symmetry and inevitability. But it also has an entirely fitting asymmetry, matching the cultural background of each parent. The book pursues multiple overlapping arcs of betrayal and reconciliation, estrangement and forgiveness - some of these arcs can be closed, and others remain forever open and unresolved. Truly, living with a cross-cultural heritage can be fraught with difficulty and confusion.

Occasionally I come across people who say they can judge a book after reading only the first few pages. In the case of this book they would have missed a rare treat, since the book builds steadily from a gradual start towards a series of emotional and relational high points. It's long - nearly 500 pages in paperback - but well worth it.

In summary, I really enjoyed The Long Shadow, and recommend it to others.
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on 28 February 2016
This is a story full of intrigue, a story of love and war and commitment. One of our main characters Andrew reads his mother Dorothy's diaries written during the war and opens a Pandora's box. These tell of her nursing duties during the war whilst she was in Salonika. Her duties, the dreadful conditions, and her relationships. She meets with a Greek, Costa Cassimatis which changes her life for ever. This part of the book is written in diary form and takes us through the war. We get to learn lots about the war and politics. The hospital works under very difficult conditions. We also learn of the fire that happened in Salonika.

Dorothy's friend loses her fiancé in the battle of Doiran and she returns with Dorothy back to England. Dorothy is pregnant but doesn't hear back from Costa who is now in Athens fighting. We later learn that he has written three times to her and these letters are destroyed by her Mother who feels she is helping.

Andrew decides to go to Greece to find his home land and discover himself. He meets refugees who have so much less than he has and realises that he has actually had a very good life in England compared to these people. He realises that all his sufferings have been self imposed.

The ending is a good one. Ends are tied up and Andrew and his mother are both reunited in love. The book is unputdownable and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
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on 6 March 2014
I read this book as background to a research project on a particular woman who worked in the VAD in Salonika in 1916-18. I found the descriptions of life at the hospital to be vivid and convincing: they certainly increased my understanding of what it was like to be there, and my admiration for the volunteers. At the same time I enjoyed the novel in its own right, more than I expected, because I am not usually a reader of the historical genre. It works on different levels – as both a poignant romance, and as an analysis of what it is like to be born into two cultures and be pulled alternately in each direction whilst feeling one is not fully a part of either one.
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