We were recently contacted by the English author Deborah Lawrenson, and asked to review her latest book ‘300 Days of Sun’ which is set in Faro and Lisbon – we were happy to say yes; and once Alyson had sat down and started reading the book, she was delighted to be able to review a entertaining, polished and thoroughly enjoyable book, that we are happy to share with you as our readers of this blog.
The book description reads as follows:
“Travelling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career. Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings, Joanna soon realizes Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline over two decades ago.
Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically insists she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford’s story and Nathan Emberlin’s may indeed converge in Faro—where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.”
We loved the fact that this book is set mainly in Faro – however we are usually wary of such a statement on a book cover, as so often it seems as if the author has never even visited the locations in question. In this case, however, we were pleasantly surprised; Deborah Lawrenson must have walked along every back street, and stopped in every church and café in Faro, such is the depth of her descriptions of one of our favourite cities.
She has a brilliant way of describing minute details which bring a place to life, and makes you feel as if you are really sat in a local Portuguese café drinking a rich bica coffee and conversing with the locals.
The main characters of the novel are very well drawn out, and without wanting to spoil any of the plot for you, within a few pages you find yourself totally engaged in the storyline and wanting to find out more. The plot is fast-moving, engaging and quite thrilling in places, as it swings between modern day Faro and World War II Lisbon.
The story at times touches close to that of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann – which is still seen as a difficult time for many in modern day Portuguese news .. and something that may well always haunt the Algarve, and sadly particularly the area of Praia de Luz. Comparisons aside, the story moves at an engaging pace, weaving history with fiction to a surprising yet satisfying conclusion.
But it is the depth and clarity of descriptions of Faro, the Algarve and Lisbon which makes this book stand out for us. The Chapel of Bones in Faro, the harbour-side with its boats, the small cafés and walkways, the cobbled streets, the open countryside of the Algarve, and even the drive to Lisbon, are all beautifully brought to life, woven into the well-crafted storyline with ease.
There is also a lovely sense of the past through the story as well, with pre and post war Lisbon and Faro woven into the story; as some of the characters find themselves at the last post of Europe with countless other refugees trying to flee the German advance. Espionage, the rise of Nazi Germany, and a sense of intrigue and frisson all enhance the over-arching kidnapping plot. The book jumps between the historical and the modern-day with ease, and the sense of timing and suspense between the two plots only adds to the need to “sit for just ten more minutes and read one more chapter”. It’s quite a page-turner!
So if you are looking for a summer read – look no further! 300 Days of Sun will captivate you – if you like a book that combines intrigue, mystery, a touch of romance, history, and travel, all in one book – then this might be just the book for you!
Disclaimer – we were given a free copy of this book to review – but all of the views and comments in this blog are our own – of course!