The Officer and the Spy
by Jenny Ashcroft
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Pub Date 16 May 2023 | Archive Date 06 Jun 2023
Harper 360, HQ
“An unforgettable story of great love torn apart by war, of heroism and betrayal, passion and pure evil, all set against an idyllic Greek island backdrop. It’s a genuine masterpiece, a book to lose yourself in.” Gill Paul, The Secret Wife
“With the historical authenticity of Sebastian Faulks, the perfectly observed family relationships of Santa Montefiore, and the gut-wrenching twist of Jojo Moyes, The Officer and The Spy is epic, enthralling and deeply emotional.’ Iona Grey, Letters to the Lost
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Under the Cretan sun, in the summer of 1936, two young people fall in love…
Eleni has been coming to Crete her entire life, swapping her English home for cherished sun-baked summers with her grandfather in his idyllic shoreside villa. When she arrives in 1936, she believes the long, hot weeks ahead will be no different to so many that have gone before.
But someone else is visiting the island that year too: a young German man called Otto. And so begins a summer of innocence lost, and love discovered; one that is finite, but not the end.
When, in 1941, the island falls to a Nazi invasion, Eleni and Otto meet there once more. But this time Eleni has returned to fight for her home, and Otto to occupy it. They are enemies, and their love is not only treacherous, but also dangerous. But will it destroy them, or prove strong enough to overcome the ravages of war?
An epic tale of secrets, love, loyalty, family and how far you’d go to keep those you love safe, The Officer and The Spy is an exquisite and deeply moving love letter to Crete – one that will move every reader to tears.
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“What a beautiful novel. So romantic, so epic, so tear-jerking.” Lorna Cook, The Forgotten Village
“I was completely spellbound . . . It’s the best book I’ve read this year.” Kathleen McGurl, The Forgotten Secret
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 10 members
Jenny Ashcroft has become my go-to WWII fiction writer, especially when I want an excellent romance with my history. She is brilliant, and leaves no historical stone unturned. Her latest is another example for why her books are so unputdownable - fascinating characters, excellent writing, and a plot that keeps you turning the pages. The romance was wonderful as well, and I appreciated that the location in this book is different than most WWII fiction novels nowadays. She is at the top of her game with this newest book, and I loved every second of it. I will definitely be ordering a paper copy to have on hand. If you love fiction, especially WWII - then you absolutely must read Jenny Ashcroft and all of her books, including this one.
If you only read one historical fiction novel this year; The officer and the Spy should be that book. I didn't want to put it down. I had to force myself to temporarily put it down to adult. I can't begin to say how badly I wanted to hide in a corner with an endless cup of coffee while I read all 480 pages. There is so much in this story that needs to absorb and remember. I learned so much about the horrors of World War 2 on the Island of Crete. I lost count of how many times I cried.
The Officer and the Spy is an emotional story. Eleni returns to Crete each year to visit her grandfather. In 1936, when Germany was actively spreading their influence, she meets Otto Linder, a German on vacation with his family. He was the boy next-door that she couldn't forget even after he broke her heart. When war comes to England the boy she loves becomes the enemy.
Eleni is living in London in 1940, working for the government. She has caught the eye of the SOE. Her experience and the languages she speaks soon has returning to Crete, but not returning her family in Chania, the place she considers home. No one is to know she is on Crete working in Heraklion..
As Crete begins to fall to the Germans she knows what she must do. Eleni is soon considered a rogue agent but that won't stop her from returning home . Her bravery had me in awe. Her dedication to the Cretans left me speechless. Eleni risks everything to help the resistance. Her antics had me on the edge of my seat. The atrocities had my stomach aching. No matter how challenging the story became to read, I couldn't put it down. I needed to know everything that happened to the characters.
One of those characters is Otto. He is back in Chania, now as a member of the occupying force. Eleni and Otto are enemies but they can't stay apart. Their romance was a highlight during a time of bleakness. Their love was the bandaid to ease the pain while reading all the horrors the Cretans suffered. They risked everything to be together. They will risk everything for a better tomorrow.
Jenny Ashcroft blew my mind. I loved the way she set up the story. I can honestly say I expected a different ending. She had me fooled. She had me so invested in the story that I devoured every page. She has written a very believable story. I became completely invested in some of the characters and was thrilled to discover what happened to them after the war.
The Officer and the Spy is a novel of many complexities. Jenny Ashcroft has created a love story, set within the historical fiction of World War II and the German invasion and occupation of Crete. As is the case with all of Ashcroft’s historical fiction, the history takes center stage. The research is thorough and meticulous. The obligation of historical fiction is not to revise history but to tell a story within that history. This is what Ashcroft does.
Ashcroft tells a story of deep and enduring love. Elani and Otto fall in love during a perfect summer, but life is filled with so many complexities in the midst of war. Readers are reminded that not every German was a Nazi. Some German soldiers were good men, capable of compassion and love. The Officer and the Spy reminds readers of the horrors of war and the injustice of life. This is a novel that is happy and sad.
Thank you to the author and publisher for providing me with this ARC to read and review. I loved this novel and highly recommend it. Thank you also to NetGalley for introducing me to Ashcroft.
4.5 very strong stars! The Officer and the Spy was the second book that I had read by Jenny Ashcroft and it was every bit as good as I had hoped it would be. Jenny Ashcroft once again proved what a master storyteller she is. Her research for this book was impeccable. She was able to provide accurate information about Crete’s history before, during and after World War II. To the horror of the world, the Nazis managed to capture and ultimately occupy Crete in 1941. The Officer and the Spy was inspired by the stories and experiences of her very own family. The timeline alternated between 1936, before the war, 1941, the battle of Crete and the Nazi invasion and 1974 when a witness to the atrocities that occurred in Crete was interviewed and the transcripts were shared.
In the summer of 1936, Eleni Adams traveled to Crete to spend her nineteenth summer with her beloved papou (grandfather) Yorgos. This was the first time her father, a naval captain, had allowed her to travel to Crete without a chaperone. Eleni’s mother, her papou’s daughter, had died long ago. It had just been Eleni and her father for a very long time. Eleni had spent every summer of her young life on the island of Crete in Chania with her grandfather. During the year, Eleni and her father lived in the suburb of Gosport in Portsmouth. Father and daughter’s relationship was a bit strained and Eleni’s father was away for extended periods of time due to his position in the Navy. Eleni was glad to be back at her papou’s villa situated between Chania and Souda, overlooking the sea.
The summer of 1936 was quite different from any other summer Eleni had ever spent in Chania. It started the first evening that she had arrived. Eleni had decided to go for a swim in the sea. As she floated on the water, Eleni heard a name being called out in a German accent, Otto, Otto Linder. The villa next door to her grandfather’s, owned by Nikos Kalantis, had been let out to a German family. There in the water, not 20 feet away from her, Eleni and Otto had their first glimpses of one another.
During that summer, Germans had been sent to Greece to canvas its surroundings. Lottie’s father, the girl who came looking for Otto that first night Eleni arrived, was one of them. Otto’s mother and father were not in favor of much of what the Nazi’s stood for and believed. However, they needed to stay on the good side of Lotte’s father. Otto’s mother, once a brilliant musician, was suffering from multiple sclerosis and had to hide her advanced symptoms from the Nazi authorities. His sister, Krista also had early signs of the disease. Lotte’s father was a powerful man in the Nazi Party and could help protect both Otto’s mother and sister. The other guest that Otto’s family had brought with them that summer was Marianne, a Jewish young woman who was a music student of his mother’s. Marianne was a cello protege. Her command of the music she played was breathtaking. Her only fault was that she had been born Jewish during the rise of the Nazi party in Germany.
Neither Eleni nor Otto could stop thinking about one another. From that first moment Eleni and Otto met something magical occurred. The attraction they felt for each other was undeniable. Both Eleni and Otto slowly and innocently fell hopelessly in love with each other. They had managed to keep their relationship a secret from both their families. They both felt safe and so comfortable with each other. The summer passed way too quickly. Their parting at the end of the summer was the hardest and most painful thing for both of them. They kept in touch through letters and even managed to meet in Paris for a magical reunion. Then something occurred and Eleni severed all ties with Otto.
In 1940, Eleni was living and working in London. She had moved out of her father’s home. The SOE had had their eye on Eleni for a while. They wanted to recruit her and train her to go to Greece. It was just a matter of time before the Nazis would put their sights on occupying Greece. Eleni had Greek roots and spoke not only Greek but German as well. After undergoing vigorous training, Eleni was recruited to Heraklion. Eleni witnessed first hand the invasion of Crete. Unbeknownst to Eleni, Otto was also stationed on Crete. This time they were on opposing sides, though. Otto was a Nazi officer and Eleni was working for the Allied Forces as a spy. When they finally met once again they could not deny that they both still loved one another. Did their love have a chance of survival? Could they rekindle what they once had? What had happened all those years ago that made Eleni sever all ties with Otto?
Otto, although commissioned as a Nazi Officer, refused to comply with every order the Nazis issued. He described himself as “drowning “ in his current position as a Nazi officer. Otto detested what the Nazis stood for and what they were doing. For his family’s sake, he did what he had to do to be a good soldier and not raise unwanted suspicions, up to a point. I am sure there were some Nazi soldiers that felt ashamed and disgusted by what the Nazis were doing. Unfortunately, they were few and far between. I admired Otto for standing up for what he believed in and that he did not give in to every order the Nazis gave. Eleni was a strong female protagonist. She displayed courage, heroism, passion and loyalty. Eleni was meant to represent the many brave female heroes of Greece in their fight to protect Crete and win it back from the Nazis. She stood among the many determined resistance fighters on Crete that fought to defend Crete. The Officer and the Spy was about family, love, passion, secrets, commitment, friendship and determination. I really enjoyed reading The Officer and the Spy by Jenny Ashcroft and highly recommend it.
Thank you to HarperCollins Publishers HQ for allowing me to read The Officer and the Spy by Jenny Ashcroft through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
The last 10% of this historical fiction set in WWII Greece wrecked me. I was clutching my chest and sobbing my eyes out while also yelling “NOOOOOO!!!!” into the abyss. I could tell from the very beginning Jenny Ashcroft had personal experience with Greece and had researched exactly how Crete had been impacted by German invasion. Her descriptions made it effortless to imagine myself there on beach before the destruction of war. I was so proud, but also devastated by the main characters.
A great novel about forbidden love and war set in Crete in WW2. The story will hold your attention and provides plenty of suspense and action. I found it hard to put this book down! Overall, a great read for me.
Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
I just love a good book of love and war and this fit perfectly! Eleni and Otto were great characters who kept you reading with a prayer for a happy solution to their struggles. Very enjoyed!
Thank you Net Galley for the advance reader copy of this novel. This was a WWII historical fiction set on Crete. This one pulled at my heartstrings and was so well done. I loved each of the characters, the well researched facts, and the romance!!!! Otto is a hero! Highly recommend this for all WWII fiction lovers!