The Village

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 29 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

The Village tells a story in World War II of a British and German soldier, and the Cretan inhabitants of Ayios Stefanos. The English and  the Germans invade the island in order to fight, and the Cretans get caught in the crossfire. The English to the Greek are viewed as relatively neutral – they aren’t there to hurt the Cretans, but the islanders know that by the English just coming over, there is bound to be death.

After a terrible event, some of the Cretans form a rogue group to take matters into their own hands. I thought the overall story was very informative and interesting, and covered a piece of history I did not know much about. My one criticism is that some of the characters felt underdeveloped. In particular, sometimes it was hard to discern between the two male soldiers. I would have liked to have known more about the character’s motives and emotions in the first half of the novel.

Thank you Netgalley and John Hunt Publishing for an advanced copy. 3.5 stars.
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This novel was an emotionally riveting tale about a long forgotten aspect of World War Two. I knew that Greece was affected by the Second World War, but I didn't fully understand the Battle of Crete until I read this book.  It is 1941, The Manoulakis family consisting of matriarch Anastasia, her husband Antoni, adult son Yianni and his young daughter Elpida, are living their usual lives in the village of Ayios Stefanos located in the island of Crete, Greece. The scenery of the mountains and the beautiful Aegean sea were idyllic but life was hard, but yet everyone got on with whatever they needed to do. Yianni lost his wife Maria years ago, but he is still grieving and trying to search for purpose.  However, their normal lives don't last forever when the Germans invade, and the Allied soldiers from New Zealand, Australia and Britain come to help.  Crete, today is a big tourist destination with its scenic views and beaches, it is hard to imagine that this was the place where Nazi soldiers massacred the male civilians of the town which is depicted in the novel with ultimate brutality and carelessness. The German occupation tests Anastasia and Yianni like never before-Yianni joins a resistance group and Anastasia is pushed to her limits whilst trying to care for Elpida and confront the choices that war enforces on them-especially when there is a possible traitor and collaborator. The Germans were forcing villagers from their homes and set them up as billets for their soldiers. Meanwhile, in Liverpool, England, Paul Cuthbertson is boy who likes to be alone and read to escape his poor reality. However, he gets conscripted into the Royal Artillery. Before he gets drafted, he knew what the Germans were doing and survived The Blitz. He is at first naive but then gets a bit battle hardened and war weary after he sees his friends get killed by the Stukas and Messerschmitt 90s and 110s of the Luftwaffe, as well as the Allied loss of the Battle of Crete. He does what he needs to do, but still takes brief moments of escape into his solitary confinement so that he can think through what is going on. His life irrevocably gets entwined with Yianni's, Anastasia's and Dieter Lehmann's.  I was sad about Paul's fate nearing the final chapters but that's what makes the book so well written-it is realistic and doesn't pull punches. It says things like it is, even if it is hard to take, but that's the nature of warfare. Then, the novel shifts to Dieter Lehmann. Dieter is from a wealthy banking family in Berlin. He enlists in the German paratroopers-an elite army with esprit de corps, only taking the best of the best. He believes in the Fatherland and that Hitler brought opportunity back into Germany when it was at its lowest point and believes without good reason, that the Jews are the cause of Germany's ills. His unreasonable beliefs put him in conflict with his father as he doesn't agree with them. His father rightfully believes that war is not a way of solving one's problems and even if it did, what is the cost? He's afraid that Dieter will get corrupted and lose his goodness and morality. However, it is too late and Dieter gets deployed to fight. Dieter parachutes into Crete with the objective to take the village of Ayios Stefanos. The German paratroopers encounter heavy resistance from the villagers who leverage whatever weapon they can to drive the Germans out, but they are overpowered. Dieter witnesses the extreme cruelty and brutality the Germans take to exact revenge on the Cretan citizens. Dieter is also quite naive and becomes a bit hardened. He does what he is told, but still has lingering doubts about the extent of his sins. His support of the Fuhrer wanes over time as he has deep epiphanies on what exactly he is fighting for and at what cost? The cost is his morality and innocent goodness, and endless suffering to civilians with no peace of mind. His life also entwines briefly with Paul's, Yianni's and Anastasia's and Elpida's. His greatest one was  with Paul as the two men struggle with previously held notions toward each other, and how prejudices are ultimately damaging, as the two men seek to understand each other-they do agree that no one wanted to be involved in this war, but they had no choice. There is no purely good or purely evil. Dieter didn't really believe in the Nazi regime, but he thought what he did was right, but it was the complete opposite as he realises the Nazi's real goals were authoritarian control and supreme power. The ends don't really justify the means. Dieter tries to do some good and redeem himself. He and Anastasia very briefly had a positive moment which kind of changes her view towards all Germans being overly evil. However, nothing lasts as everyone must return to their places. Dieter and his unit gets transferred to the Eastern Front to Russia as they will now fight real soldiers, not civilians. Dieter hopes he can put Crete behind him. The Battle of Crete was a nightmare for the Greek civilians as well as the Allied soldiers who lost the battle and were driven back. IThis battle began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany began an airborne invasion of Crete. Greek forces and other Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island. After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered heavy casualties and the Allied troops were confident that they would defeat the invasion. The next day, through communication failures, Allied tactical hesitation and German offensive operations, Maleme Airfield in western Crete fell, enabling the Germans to land reinforcements and overwhelm the defensive positions on the north of the island. Allied forces withdrew to the south coast. More than half were evacuated by the British Royal Navy and the remainder surrendered or joined the Cretan resistance. The defence of Crete evolved into a costly naval engagement; by the end of the campaign the Royal Navy's eastern Mediterranean strength had been reduced to only two battleships and three cruisers. The Battle of Crete was the first occasion where Fallschirmjäger (German paratroops) were used en masse, the first mainly airborne invasion in military history, the first time the Allies made significant use of intelligence from decrypted German messages from the Enigma machine, and the first time German troops encountered mass resistance from a civilian population. Due to the number of casualties and the belief that airborne forces no longer had the advantage of surprise, Adolf Hitler became reluctant to authorise further large airborne operations, preferring instead to employ paratroopers as ground troops.[18][19] In contrast, the Allies were impressed by the potential of paratroopers and started to form airborne-assault and airfield-defence regiments like the famous Easy Company 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. However, the consequences of Dieter's unit's actions reverberates almost fifty years later in 1990 as Dieter returns to make possible peace with the past. The ending chapters of this novel is tragic but it demonstrated that while some people attempt to redeem themselves, have the courage to change for the better, and perform good works and try to make peace with their pasts, there are always going to be some people who let their pasts dictate their thoughts and so they seek murder and revenge and can't let their hatred go properly, nor do they ever try to reconcile and forgive, despite the difficulty. The war keeps living on inside of them. The past was too horrific to ignore and forget.  My favourite quotes from the books were: "Whoever fights a monster should see to it that he does not become one." And "There is surely a clear line between what is good and what is evil, but either we are too willfully stupid to see it or, because of self-delusion or moral weakness, we allow that line to be smudged beyond recognition. Only after we have crossed that line and looked back can we realise its existence, and know that we have transgressed it with no hope of ever redeeming ourselves." Overall, this was a sad, but wonderfully written novel that sheds light on the forgotten Battle of Crete in the Second World War. Thank you NetGalley for providing me an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I enjoy reading about WW2 and this came from a different area of the world than the usual. I really felt for the characters, which led to me being in tears in places! It is hard to comprehend how people can be so cruel to each other. I admired the Cretans strength and wondered if i would have been so brave in such a dangerous situation. This was a page turner from about a quarter of the way in, but I felt the ending was a little rushed and I would have preferred to stay in WW2 a little longer.I would highly recommend this book to enable people to see how the island of Crete suffered during WW2.
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There are many books about war and it's horrors.  Most of these centered on the main fields of action during the conflict.  "The Village" has as it's setting the Greek Island of Crete and it is probably because the author lived on the island for five years and knows it's geography quite well.  It was definitely not the main theater of operations in the invasion of Greece. The  novel itself is an anti war work and has the strength to place characters created into actual settings on the island.
     The Nazis invaded Greece at the very onset of World War II.  While the main center of action was the mainland Crete was taken by them utilizing an elite force of Paratroopers.  Mr Duke has created characters in the three centers of action and used them to provide what is undoubtedly a realistic approach to the events.  There is a group of Villagers that remember a previous invasion by the Ottoman empire with attendant horrors and understand that they will have to resist a shortly expected invasion by Germany.  On the British side, Paul is from a small city  conscripted into the  British army and thrust into action with no idea of what is going on nor what is expected of him.  Dieter is from a well to do German family and believes sufficiently in what Hitler wants his people to believe. He feels that volunteering for the paratroopers is the way for him to show his faith and love for his country and for Adolf Hitler who he believes has restored Germany to greatness.
     Mr Duke utilizes descriptions of each of the three groups in turn in order to offer a complete picture of the invasion, and it's consequences for people going through the events.  Dieter rapidly loses his idealism when after the invasion he is forced to participate in a massacre of men from a small village and finds that the people killed were only defending their homes.  Paul watches friends being killed and becomes hardened to the task of shooting back. The contention of all anti war books is that use of military force is the most horrible way to solve any problem and "The Village" is no exception.  It is a fast read and interesting enough to pull the reader into wanting to finish it without pause.  The description of the actual places where the action took place is a nice extra which allows the reader to examine a topographical  map of Crete and quickly grasp what problems were faced by each of the participants during the invasion.  Good use of fiction to present a factual event to readers not aware of what happened there during a tumultuous period in history.
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Duke's story is an amazing tale of WWII Crete. The story spanned nearly fifty years as it told the story that connected Yianni and Dieter in ways they never wanted. Life in the little village was filled with love, song, and life until the war brought death, suffering, and loss. Duke's story grips you on page one and doesn't let up until the closing act. Perfect for anyone interested in social history and life during WWII. 

Thank you NetGalley and Top Hat Books for the opportunity to read an advance reader copy.
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Historical fiction is one of my all time favourite genres and was so pleased to have received an advanced copy of 'The Village' via Netgalley and the Publishers.  I was engrossed in this story from start to finish. Well written.  I have never been to Crete, but do hope to do so in the near future.  I shall remember this story when i do!   A story that i do recommend, especially if you enjoy wartime novels.
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An excellent and we'll written book about WWII.  This takes place on the island of Crete.
I have read extensively about Europe in WWII, but this is the first novel set in Crete.  The characters are well developed and you find yourself quickly turning the pages to find out what occurs next.
I recommend this to anyone having an interest in historical fiction.
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I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not regurgitate the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it.


A Cretan village confronts the Nazi juggernaut sweeping across Europe. A village matriarch tries to hold her family together...Her grieving son finds a new life in the Cretan Resistance…A naïve English soldier unwillingly finds the warrior in himself…And a fanatical German paratrooper is forced to question everything he thought he believed in. 
The lives of four ordinary people are irrevocably entwined and their destinies changed forever as each of them confronts the horrors of war and its echoes down the decades.


Having spent some major time in Crete, I was so happy to get this book to review as I did so many tours of WWII graveyards and other sites.  The book was expertly researched and written and I was sucked in from page one to the last as I knew that I had to see what happened to these people and their lives in a place that I live in for a rather long while.  It's a quick read at only 264 pages long: it was one of those books where you wanted more, more more!!!

If you are a fan of wartime novels or novels full of history, this is a great book for you: I can see my historical book club devouring this after I put it on their May 2019 TBR&R (To Be Read and Reviewed) list. I know that they will love it as much as I did and YOU WILL AS WELL!!
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