The Sound of the Hours

Written by Karen Campbell
Review by Lisa Redmond

Karen Campbell’s latest novel is a departure for the author, leaving behind contemporary Scotland for Italy in the Second World War. In The Sound of the Hours Campbell explores the lives of ordinary Italians in 1943, faced with the German occupation and the curfews and restrictions imposed by the Blackshirts as well as the approaching American army. Vita had been training to be a teacher, encouraged by her Scottish Italian father, but was persuaded by her mother to become a housekeeper for the local priest. Vita feels conflicted as she sees local people collude with the Nazis, and Blackshirts abuse their positions of power, while others fight and resist. Then she meets Frank, a Buffalo soldier who is treated as a second class citizen by the army he serves and feared as a monster by the Italians who have been served a diet of hideous propaganda by the Germans.

Campbell’s characters are carefully observed and their journeys utterly compelling. This book serves as window on a lesser-known area and period of the war, and it is eye-opening, heartbreaking and enthralling. Campbell may have made her name writing about the gritty reality of the Glasgow streets, but her first attempt at historical fiction is a triumph. A splendid tale of love, family and hope; perfect for fans of Victoria Hislop and Kate Morton.