A World on Fire
Did you, as a child, watch scary TV from behind the sofa? This is the lasting reaction I had to this book. It’s not for the squeamish! Set in Greece in 1894, it tells the story of the Greek revolution, emerging from Ottoman rule – a horrifically bloody conflict. The protagonists are feisty Hara, whose character is far too large to be contained in her small corner of the Mani, and who unwillingly becomes the symbol of Greece; and Tzanis, the Prince whom she rescues from a shipwreck and eventually falls in love with – a relationship which can never be realized whilst the conflict plays itself out. The heroism of these two, and supporting characters, against the tragedy that unfolds makes the story strongly action-packed. You see the whole of the European stage, with the great super-powers initially unwilling to stop the conflagration happening in Greece; Hara forms the fulcrum that is used to make them intervene, with tragic consequences for both her and Tzanis, and many around her.
James Heneage’s historical credentials are sound – he’s written about this part of the world a lot. I’m confident that the conflict was just as brutal as he’s portrayed it here. If this were a non-fiction book, the blood dripping from every page could be justified – but I prefer historical fiction that doesn’t give me such a visceral reaction. I think the story would have been better served with less gore; but perhaps if your tolerance for violence is better than mine, you would enjoy it more than I did.