Burning Island

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 22 Jan 2020

Member Reviews

Burning Island is the second book by Suzanne Goldring who brought us the superb My Name is Eva last year. For me, this new book didn't quite have me as gripped as her previous offering but none the less it was a very good read and it shows what careful and impeccable research Suzanne puts into her books in order to bring the time she is writing about alive onto the pages for her readers. This book was set between the present day and World War Two and I have read many, many books set during this time period so it was refreshing to see that the story took place on the island of Corfu. So many other books in this genre are set in France or Poland etc. so it was interesting to see how people living on an island coped with invasion and having their lives ripped to shreds all because of the actions of a mad man. Although, I couldn't shake the feeling throughout that I had read a book with similar themes and being set on an island during the war. The title still alludes me but it still feels as if I had read previously about what had happened to the Jewish people on the island during the time. I pushed this to the back of my mind and became immersed in the story as it weaves back and forth between Amber and James in modern day Corfu and Rebekka and her family in 1944.

Usually I would prefer one time period over another when a book has a dual timeline running through it but here I found myself equally enjoying both parts. Ultimately, I was intrigued as to whether there would be a connection between the two stories and if so what would it be? Would there be lessons to be learnt from it? In the brief prologue we are introduced to Amber who lives on the island having escaped from the rat race that was London with her husband James. She is thinking over what has recently happened and now that she knows the truth she will never look at Corfu with that same innocence again. The echoes of the past sound all around her and she wishes to strive for the truth as she knows this sun soaked island where people come to seek both pleasure and relaxation has a powerful history which should not be forgotten.

We then go back to the time when Amber and James arrive on the island both stressed and overworked but Amber in particular. They needed to get away from the life which would eventually break them if they kept going the way they were. Grabbing the opportunity to help a friend of James' with his property rentals on the island they soon find themselves miles away from their previous existence. They leave their well paid but demanding careers behind but little do they know what new experiences await them and what Amber sees and hears will change their lives forever. Is she ready to take on board what will eventually emerge and what they will also discover about themselves in the process?

The descriptions of the island were stunning and I felt like I was right there alongside Amber and James as they get used to their new surroundings and life as they made the decision try and open up a restaurant. This would allow James to fully indulge his true passion for cooking and food. The vast majority of the novel when set in the modern day was about how James and Amber went about this. There were also several characters introduced including Greg Richards, a successful entrepreneur married to Pat, but also a local Dimitri who seems to be very helpful in guiding James when it comes to picking out property. From the outset, there just seemed to be something very off about the whole buying property thing and as the book progressed I found myself even starting to dislike James. I think he changed when he came to the island, as did Amber, but his alterations were for the worse not the better. It's like he lost the spark and love he had for Amber as he became all consumed by the end goal of getting the restaurant up and running with the help of Greg and Dimitri.

Amber also seemed to be separating herself from James as if she could see that the people he was surrounding himself with maybe were not the best. She found allies in two women Marian and Inge who run two shops full of antiques and unusual objects on the island. These two characters I definitely felt I had read similar characters to them before even down to the fact that one of them was ill. But in the present day story they were the most interesting characters. I did question for quite some time as to their inclusion but I should have trusted as to what the author was doing as they do play a very pivotal role both in terms of being like surrogate mothers to Amber and the role they have to play in tying the story together. They were an unusual pair but Amber feels a deep connection to them and I suppose as she uncovered their story and was feeling neglected in a way by James she knew she could rely on both Marian and Inge when times got tough. In getting to know them she came to understand they had a story to share and she mustn’t let it go unheard.

At times, I did feel the modern day aspect of the story did become a little repetitive with not much happening. It is only as I reached part two that I felt the action really picked up and things became an awful lot clearer and little clues and connections I had missed before began to make themselves known. It was tense edge of your seat stuff and very well written and I had no idea how things would pan out. In terms of the outcome for Amber, the author could have gone the usual clichéd route but I am glad she didn't but that the character stood true to her principals and also with her discovering of past events and didn't go down the route I had fully expected her to and I appreciated the fact the norm didn't happen.

As for the scenes in the past, we come to know the story of the island through chapters from Rebekka's point of view who is only 13 when the Germans arrive on the island of Corfu and her life is changed forever. What unfolds is a desperate story of sorrow, hardship, destruction and brutality as the Jews on the island are rounded up. At times, it was difficult to read of all they were enduring. It showed how no one was safe or immune to what was going on at the time even living on an island. The Italians had left but then the Germans arrived exerting even more power, cruelty and barbaric acts. The Jewish community was one of peace but an annihilation occurred as deportations began but amidst this dark time and events a ray of hope shines through in relation to Rebekka's sisters Matilde and Anna.

Their story and those surrounding them was one of courage and bravery and highlighted the lengths people went to at that time to keep anyone safe if at all possible. So many people put their own lives in danger and on the line even though they didn't have to and the author has highlighted this and brought it to our attention particularly in relation to Corfu which rarely, if ever, gets a mention in historical fiction books. I found the Corfu of the past aspect of plot fascinating and horrifying in equal measure but again I was curious as to how Suzanne Goldring would tie everything together but she did so very well and in a surprising way I didn't guess until literally a page or two before the reveal.

Burning Island is a very good book but I think there was even more of a shock factor in terms of the reveal in My Name is Eva and that's what slightly edges it out for me in terms of which book I prefer. That said this is an interesting and informative read and certainly an eye opener at times to a time that shouldn't be forgotten where the relative peace of so many was shattered by such cruel and destructive behaviour. Suzanne Goldring is a talented author and I look forward to seeing where her future books will take her readers to.
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*****Five stars to the beautiful novel by #Suzanne Goldring. Any novel that makes me laugh,cry and when I put it down feel joy is a five star novel.I've been lucky to find #Bookouture Publishing they select wonderful authors along with #Net Galley.I'm not being paid the e-book is free.
The setting is the island of Corfu and the book title says quite a bit. The storytelling is done by Amber and you fall in love with her character.It's present day but the book will go back to 1944 and rock you to your core.I never give spoilers in my reviews.
I enjoy my e-books but this one is worth the trip to the book store.💛
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What an amazing story. I loved the interweaving of the WW2 story and the modern one and how they came together in the end. Set on the island of Corfu, this is simply heartbreaking as Matilde and Anna are sent away to escape the Nazis, never knowing what happened to their parents as they are brought up by Agata and her husband. The modern story is just as engaging as Amber and her husband deal with their own problems. Full of secrets and surprises this book is simply gripping and I enjoyed every minute.
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I will be honest I read a lot of this type of fiction and I find it hard not to compare.

To me this book seems more about hope and showing that there was kindness and people who helped those who were destined to die even if it was detrimental and potentially lethal to them and their families.

I enjoyed this book and think it shows a lighter side of this genre instead of the darker side of this time period.  

I am impressed by the writing style and think that this is such a great style and it really shows how much this genre will resonate with other just like it did with me.
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This was a very Interesting book. It alternates between the present and 1944z in 1944, the Germans removed the Jews from the island and the book shared a little about what it was like. I would have liked to read more about this time and thought it would be more of the story than it was.
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Burning Island is a story of 2 halves with different timelines weaving 2 stories, intrinsically linked. The setting is the beautiful island of Corfu and Amber and James have relocated there after walking away from the drudge of life in London.  The year is 2016 and they've had enough of cold winters and jobs that no longer inspire them or motivate them. Their dream to move away to warmer climes and open a restaurant soon becomes reality when they are given the opportunity to work for James's friend in Corfu. However, the dream isn't all they thought it would turn out to be.  Other people have a different agenda, forming a wedge between the couple. Their story is told from the different perspectives of Amber and James.

The other story running alongside James's and Amber's is set in Corfu also but in 1944. Imagine being put in the position of giving away 2 of your 3 children in order to save their lives. That's the decision that Jewish couple Perla and her husband Issac must make. The German army have landed in Corfu. The island is caught up in war and the soldiers only know about one of their children, not all 3. A couple on the island will risk everything, including their lives to protect the children. 

The story spans across the years when Amber hears about the bravery and the death that took place on Corfu all those years ago and Corfu will never be the same for her.

I love a book with a dual timeline and I particularly love one with a dual timeline done well. Suzanne Goldring has excelled herself with this book. Like Amber, I am ashamed to say that I knew little of Corfu's history and its place in the second world war. The harrowing experiences of the Jewish people living on Corfu are written sensitively but in a way that made me weep for them. The book is very much character lead and while I found it difficult to connect with the modern characters, apart from Inge and Marian, the characters from 1944 totally blew me away and they are wonderfully written. There is real emotional investment for the reader. A great book. Would definitely recommend. Suzanne Goldring has now become a favourite author.
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Thank you to Netgalley for an ARC chance to read this fine book.

I won't go into the premise as I feel many other reviewers have done a fine job of synopsis. I will tell that you I did enjoy the book. While it wasn't an intense page-turner, for me at least, it had some fine moments and was well told with excellent grammar and proof-reading.  

The author has done her research well regarding the Corfiot Jews during WWII and it's to her credit that she provided a sad and poignant epilogue paying her respects to them.

Well done. Would recommend.

Note for Publisher - as soon as Amazon allows, I will post my review.
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Happy publication day Suzanne Goldring! Burning Island is the most beautiful, richly layered story of tragedy and pain, challenge and hope, told through a dual timeline that is smoothly interwoven against the lush backdrop of the island of Corfu.

Corfu 1944 – the Jews who have, for many years, lived peacefully alongside their Greek neighbours, find their calm existence disrupted by the Nazi occupation. Perla and Isaac Nikorkiris know that soon they will be marched from their home, together with their 13-year-old daughter Rebekka, to un unknown destination. But there is still hope for their two younger daughters Matilde and Anna, who they have ensured were not registered, and therefore have not been included in any of the lists of Jewish names that the Nazi’s have compiled. They arranged to have them spirited away in the dead of night to a kindly couple who agree to look after them until after the war.

Corfu 1916 – James and his wife Amber escape the London rat-race for the sun-drenched island life, convinced by their friends Ben and Eleni, that they’ll be able to make a go of working and living here. With the help of knowledgeable, cocky Greg, who Ben introduces them to, their dream of setting up a Michelin star restaurant and hotel seems closer than ever, and they soon get to work setting up what they hope will be their future home together.

But although the island is beautiful and sunny, and people seem willing to befriend and help them, there is a darkness that lurks just beyond their horizon. There are local forces that are not so happy that foreigners are coming and setting up shop in their orchards and vineyards.

The story is cleverly recounted … not only in a dual timeline, but also from dual points of view. In 2016, we see things from both James’ and Amber’s perspective, and in 1944, the story alternates between what’s happening to Rebekka and her parents and to the two little girls left behind in the care of the kindly Agata and Georgiou.

There are numerous themes woven through this wonderful book. Obviously there’s the historical aspect, which I think is one that isn’t commonly known. The story of the Jews of Corfu isn’t one that’s been widely shared. Their tragic wrench from their simple, but comfortable lives; the horrific journey that followed and the fact that most didn’t even survive to see their final destination: Auschwitz. The ones who did, were so depleted by the end of it that they were mostly sent directly to the gas chambers. One has to wonder what on earth it was all for? Why did the Germans even go to all that effort of getting them there, just to murder them in the end?

Other themes were that of friendship, trust, greed, and the strength of female bonds and the roles that we play in each others’ lives. I loved how the women in this book supported each other, shared with each other and what they ultimately meant to each other. The importance of strong female mentorship and role-models became more and more evident as the book progressed.

I adored this book, and couldn’t put it down. It is a fabulous 5-star read, and ticks all the boxes required for a perfect page-turner!
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Thank You to NetGalley and Bookouture for the Advanced Reader's Copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Burning Island takes place on Corfu. Corfu is a Greek Island off the northeast coast of Greece, relatively close to Albania.  During WWII, it was first invaded by the Italians and in late WWII, the Germans took over.  Subsequently, the Germans herded up the small but thriving Jewish population and proceeded to send everyone to Auschwitz.  

Suzanne Goldring uses this background to tell several stories.  The majority of the novel takes place in the present day.  We have two perspectives in the present day:  James and Amber.  James is a budding chef who has a desire to start a restaurant.  James is blinded by his ambition to have a Michelin star. He makes friends with another English expat who does not always have his best interest in mind.   Amber is more down to earth.  She is drawn to two older ladies who tell her stories about the island and the people of Corfu.  At times, I wondered how such a different pair would have ended up marrying.  

In the past we follow Rebekka and her parents who are forced to go to the main square to await their removal from the island.  Rebekka has two younger sister who were unregistered.  Rebekka's parents give the two little girls to an older Greek couple who hide them.   

My main complaint about the book is that is seems to be marketed as historical fiction, but I feel it is more contemporary fiction with views into the past.  
 I would recommend this book to people who like a present day story with some intrigue interlaced with historical fiction.
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In Burning Island, we follow two stories.  One situated during the second world war and one situated today.  At the end of the second world war the Jewish community of Corfu is under threat and everyone is registered.  However, two of the children of a family are forgotten. The family decides to hide them with an older couple who live a secluded life.James and Amber are a young couple living in the UK, but tired of the miserable weather and having friends in Corfu, decide to emigrate and start a new life and business in Corfu.
This novel started promising and I had high hopes for it.  However, I found that the story situated in the second world war wasn’t thorough enough and the focus throughout the book is mainly on the contemporary story.  As this novel is categorized as historical fiction, I would have liked the historical part to be more prominent.  Also, I found that there is only a small link between the two stories.  While it was an easy and enjoyable read it didn’t fully meet my expectations.
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This story is told in alternating timelines.  June 1944, Corfu, Greece; two little Jewish girls that have been hidden from the Germans are sent to live in a remote area of the island with acquaintances while their parents and older sister are being round up.  

June 2006, Corfu, Greece; Amber and James arrive from England hoping to open a restaurant.  Both stories and timelines are absolutely heartbreaking.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for this advanced readers copy.  This book is due to release in January 2020.
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I just could not put down this book.
It is written with such compassion about the fate of the Jewish community of Corfu something of which I was totally unaware of even though I have been to Corfu town many times.
It is a clever story line which is basically two separate stories of which the significance is revealed at the end. There are no happy ending but it deals with the bravery of people when faced with insurmountable odds.
This is the second of Suzanne Goldring’S books I have read and would really recommend her as an author to follow.
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Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I felt like I was reading  two separate stories, which only very briefly came together, firstly halfway through the book, and then again right at the very end.  Both stories were very good but didn't really tie in well for me.  That's not to satin  wouldn't recommend it though.
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This is a wartime story based on the island of Corfu, told from two different timescales between the 1940’s and present day.  Anna and Matilde are a couple of young Jewish girls living on Corfu.  Their family have been sent to a concentration camp by the Nazis, but the two little girls have been hidden and manged to evade capture.  Decades later, James and Amber decide to leave rainy Britain for sunnier climes in Corfu.  Here, Amber discovers the tragic story that happened to the people of Corfu all those years ago, and particularly the story of Anna and Matilde.

I’ve read many wartime stories but never one based in Corfu.  To be completely honest, I didn’t even consider that the Jewish community of Corfu suffered such tragedy during the war, and am shamefully naïve in the history of this.   After reading this book, I had to go and read about this part of the War, and after doing this realised how well researched this book and how much the author has done to make this book factually correct.

Both parts of the story were heart-breaking and had me on the verge of tears several times throughout.  I’ve read so many different accounts of what life was like during the War and whilst Anna and Matilde’s experiences were no different to thousands of other children it felt different because of the location.  James and Amber’s addition to the storyline was interesting and reminds us how the effects of the War were still being felt so many years on.

This was an emotional read, which at times made me forget that I was only reading a story.  Anna and Matilde’s story was definitely the more captivating, and to be honest I would have been just as happy if the book focussed on their story completely.  This book has given me an important history lesson and made me feel very humble about what these people went through.  Would definitely recommend.
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Brief synopsis from the book cover:

They were not her children. But she would protect them with her life… 

Corfu 1943. Though they don’t know it, five-year-old Matilde and three-year-old Anna have kissed their mother for the last time. The Nazis have reached their sun-scorched home, and they are being taken to a place of safety, on the north-eastern tip of the rocky island, to be hidden at great risk by kindly Agata and her husband until the terrible war is over. 

Matilde and Anna’s tears are soothed by Agata’s bedtime stories, but she is always alert. So far no soldiers have ventured down the steep rocky hillside to their secret haven, but Agata knows they are constantly scouring the island for missing Jews. And then, on a day when Agata’s husband is away, a German soldier appears… 

2016. Under a baking June sun, Amber and her husband arrive in Corfu from England, hoping for a fresh start. But not everyone is pleased by their arrival, and with the pressures of pregnancy, the couple grow further apart. Desperate to find a sense of belonging for herself and her unborn child, Amber finds herself drawn to the local story of two little girls, left by their parents and hidden for their own protection. 

But there are some who would rather Amber left Corfu’s terrible history well in the past. Can Amber uncover the heart-breaking truth about the two little girls, and what happened after a German soldier took a swim in the bay by their house? If she does, can the secrets of the past help her find happiness, or send her running from the island, alone? 

My rating:

Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars
Character development: 4 out of 5 stars
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Recommended for readers of:

Women’s fiction
General fiction


The book is written over two time lines beautifully woven together with interesting strong characters in both of them. The historical time line sheds a light on a little known historical fact, the heartbreaking story of the deportation of the Jews population of Corfu during World War II and tells the story of two young girls who are hidden by their parents. The time line in the present tells the story of Amber and James who move to Corfu for a fresh start. I found the historical time line the most interesting and also the strongest part of the book. I feel that the plot would have been even better, if the historical time line was described in greater detail.

Overall this is a nicely written book that gives an inside into a little known event in the history of Corfu. The characters are well depicted and interesting. The writing is captivating and the book is set in a beautiful location. If you enjoy historical fiction, this is an interesting story well worth reading. 

Review copy provided by NetGalley at no cost to me
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Burning Island is another dont want it to end, you will smile, you will cry wonderful read by Suzanne Goldring.

It is the story of 2 sisters in Corfu during World War 2 whom the parents sent away in order to save their lives and they were hidden and taken of care of.  It is also the story of the Germans moving the Jewish out of their homes and into concentration camps if they made it that far.   The dual story is that of James and Amber moving to Corfu to start a new life.  Amber learns of Corfu's history during the war and discovers what happened to the sisters. 

I loved learning the history during the war of Corfu , something I was not aware of.  

Suzanne Goldring has told another beautiful story and is well woth sitting down and getting lost in the story.  Please take time to read her notes at the end of the book. 
THanks to Net Galley and Bookouture for the privilege of reading Burning Island.
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This story takes place on the island of Corfu during two different time periods.  In June 1944, the Jews are being rounded up to be sent off to a "work camp."  Issac and Perla Nikokiris have 3 daughters,  Rebekka 13, Matilde 5 and Anna 3.  They did not register the two younger girls so they make the decision to have a doctor friend take them to live with a childless couple, Georgiou and Agata, who live in the mountains in order to keep them safe.   Isaac, Perla and Rebekka begin their inhumane journey to the work camp and the little girls begin a new life in the mountains. The second part of the book begins in June 2006 when Amber and James decide they are sick of the stress and long hours of their jobs and decide to quit in search of something more peaceful on the island of Corfu.  The book alternates between the different time periods and different POVs.   I especially liked the chapters that dealt with WWII aspect of this book.  I did not care for the chapters that dealt with James and Amber in 2006 because I felt there was too much time spent on his recipes and cooking and Amber's decorating.   Overall, it was a good read though.  Thank you NetGalley and Bookouture for the ARC of this very interesting book in exchange for an honest review.
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Two stories, one historical and one contemporary, meshed beautifully together in one book intersecting in a tragically engaging way. The dueling time lines were flawlessly written by Suzanne Goldring as her story telling reveals snippets of intrigue slowly and honestly. While the first 20ish% started off a little slow to me the story really starts picking up as we get deeper into the truths of the two stories and how they are connected. I'd classify this as strong woman's fiction. The heart of the story rests on the hope and pain of the female characters. I also loved how the setting of the story takes on a beating heart of it's own. Steeped in unthinkable tragedy in the past yet so alluring and seemingly magical in the present, Corfu becomes a character in it's own right.

Burning Island touches on a more obscure aspect of WWII that I never knew about making the fictitious story all the more interesting to learn and read. The depth of loss juxtaposed with love here was painful at some junctures of the story making it very emotional. To relive this time gives a reader a deeper compassion for what our fellow humans endured in the history of the world and how the history still evokes and challenges us today. Goldring's story telling comes off as a bit mysterious when she leaves bread crumbs of more to come. Her chapters are mostly short and concise allowing readers to get just what they need while wanting more. She gives hope with the pain too which, to me, is the mark of a great story. This was a very illuminating, engaging read.
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A dual storyline that intersects at the the conclusion. I enjoy the historical time period of WWII and love to read new things about it. I wish the author had written more about the two sisters and less about present day. The whole drama around James was not appealing to me. This was just an okay book for me.
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would like to thank netgalley and the publisher for letting me read this gripping novel loosely based on the truth around the corfu jews during world war 2...

wow where to start with this one...this is done in alternate chapters one about the jews of corfu and their treatment by the germans who invaded the island and how a family gave their two daughters away to be looked after till they returned...and the recent storyline of a couple who look for more in their lives than what they had,with the hopes that by having their own business and with hard work and determination their lives will be better and more enriched...

both stories are gripping in themselves and as both storylines continue you are gripped with each of them...willing them on

have to admit to shedding a few tears at the end and will be keeping an eye out for more of this authors works, this book wont disappoint and it highlights the journey of the corfu jews and how they were treated by the germans
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