The Chapel at the Edge of the World

Written by Kirsten McKenzie
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

In 1942, Italian prisoners of war were taken to the Orkneys and employed to build the defences around Scapa Flow and later the causeway. While there they turned a Nissen hut into a chapel. The chapel is still there and is visited by thousands of tourists every year, myself being one of them.

These events are told around a story featuring Emilio and his childhood sweetheart, Rosa, who live on the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy. They are engaged to be married when Emilio is called up and sent to North Africa. He is soon captured by the English and finds himself on board a ship bound for Scotland and the tiny island of Lamb Holm. Meanwhile, back in Italy, Rosa and her mother, who runs a small hotel, find themselves caught up in the local resistance.

Although the characters are fictitious, I found this a very moving story and one that I couldn’t put down, made all the more real as I have seen the Chapel and appreciated its apparent isolation from the rest of the world. I highly recommend this book.