An Unprecedented Wartime Thriller  - Daniel Rhodes, thebookcommentary.com

 

Through Forests and Mountains is a gripping World War II story, as nuanced as it is delightful. The Germans seemed unstoppable until Yugoslavia's Tito devised a clever strategy to counter their assaults. Margaret Walker takes us behind the scenes of one of the most effective resistance groups in history, one that foiled the Nazis at every opportunity. This is historical fiction at its best and the author captures the spirit of war with extraordinary skill, weaving fascinating details into the story and creating characters that are not just lovely but utterly captivating. Mara is the character through whom most of the quirkiness in the story is channeled. Everything about the story is enjoyable, from the scenery to the exceptional portrayal of the characters. The book's tone is created by the sharp contrast between Mara and Anton. It is a mesmerizing portrait of war and readers will love the unique care for plot, setting, and character —a balance that comes across as a remarkable feat in this novel. 

Reviewed by Christian Sia for READERS’ FAVORITE, 2020 Novel Competition

‘Through Forests and Mountains’ by Margaret Walker is a military novel with strong historical underpinnings. Set in Yugoslavia in 1941, the story follows Anton Marković, A submarine captain in the Yugoslav Navy after a propeller accident leaves him crippled and left behind as the German and Italian armies attack. He suffers an infection and nearly dies, and joins the Montenegrin Partisan group where he meets Mara, the daughter of the Yugoslav ambassador to Britain. He is attracted to her, but she isn’t easy to get. She is a woman whose heart longs for someone else. She likes Tito and has a possessive ex-boyfriend who is hunting her. As the group moves from place to place, Anton is keen on Mara who doesn’t pay him much attention but, when she disappears, Anton can’t stand the thought of losing her. Together with Nikola, they set out to find her. What happens next is a face to face confrontation with Miroslav. But who will have Mara?

 

Anton is a character that I liked - an awkward man who is more connected to machines than to people and who feels a strong attraction for a woman after suffering a tragedy at war. I was very keen to see what will become of him and Mara. The romance is beautifully well written and I loved the way the author writes about the emotions of the characters. The suspense is strong and it allows the read to follow the characters as they evolve through difficult situations. The story is beautifully told and the themes of war, love, patriotism, and friendship are well developed. Margaret Walker has a unique gift for setting and the historical elements of the setting are intelligently crafted, allowing readers a feel of WWII while exploring the politics of the war at the time. Through Forests and Mountains is an adventure in wartime and a story that captures the austerity of life during the German and Italian invasion. It features strong characters and a love story that progresses to a delightful final scene.

                                                                                                                       

HeenaRathore Pardeshi, the Reading Bud 

Through Forests And Mountains by Margaret Walker is a beautifully written story about personal emotions and difficult situations (socially and otherwise.)

This book reads more like an experience than a story and takes the readers to the historical settings of upheaval in Yugoslavia in the year 1942. The historical backdrop is beautifully articulated and I was really impressed by the author penchant for details. The characterisation is brilliant and I loved the main leads, Anton and Mara, as well as the cast of secondary characters. All the characters had so much to offer to the story and the build-up of the plot, that it made the book a rich combination of a solid plot with equally strong characterisation.

This book covers a wide spectrum of emotions - from one's love for their country and friendships between individuals to blossoming romantic relationship between the leads (that is built slowly and steadily.) Overall, this book is a highly engaging and entertaining read and I would recommend it to all readers, especially readers who love historical fiction works.

                                                                                                                        

N.N. Light's Book Heaven  


Through Forests and Mountains is a riveting tale of World War II not often told.

It’s 1942 and fascism is sweeping through Europe like the plague. Many strong men have gone off to war, leaving farmers and women to fend for themselves. Mara is one of those women and she is thrilled when she is allowed to fight back with a weapon. When she meets Anton, she’s not sure what to make of his scowl. He’s got a bullet wound in the head but maybe it is more than that. As they travel through the forests and mountains in Yugoslavia, one thing is certain: death to fascism by any means necessary.
 

The Germans were unstoppable until Tito in Yugoslavia came up with a brilliant plan. Margaret Walker takes us inside one of the most successful resistance groups who thwarted the Nazis at every turn. While this is historical fiction, Through Forests and Mountains reads like a World War II memoir. Everything from the setting to the beautiful descriptive narration to the characters adds immense enjoyment to the story. The stark contrast between Anton and Mara sets the tone for the book. The plot moves at a good pace. Margaret Walker must have done a lot of research and it shines in Through Forests and Mountains. I learned quite a bit from reading and look forward to reading more from Margaret Walker. If you’re a historical fiction reader, you’ll quite enjoy Through Forests and Mountains. If you’re looking for a fresh viewpoint on World War II, pick up Through Forests and Mountains. Highly recommended!  

                                                                                                                          

Elizabeth Abbottsmith

Through Forests And Mountains beautifully integrates the complexity of the WW2 Yugoslavian " Resistance " fighters in their partisan fight (for freedom from Nazism & Fascism ) with romance, the role-of-women, and even a humourous perspective on human frailties.
Highly - researched and detailed to the social, health and military settings of 1942, this novel provides much insight into the complexities of mid-century demographics. Dedicated reading of this novel is richly rewarded ...especially from an Australian context. "Young Adults" and older members of the Yugoslav "diaspora" alike will appreciate this book...especially as a rich preparation for the sequel. Frequent references to the introductory map is perhaps useful...and do enjoy learning fragments of Serbian language from this complex Bosnian- Serbian region.

Susie Helme. ReedsyDiscovery.com

A heroic story, gorgeous, unclichéd writing, reflecting superb understanding of the history.

The pronouncements of the partisans on the two extreme ends of the political spectrum, communists and fascists, are credible; this evidences the author’s understanding of both and is something that is hard to do. The scene where Mara first encounters the villagers of Drvar is astounding!

We learn the complicated history of wartime Yugoslavia, fed bit by bit into the dialogue. This is very artful. Despite the complexity of the history, the plot is not too complex to follow, and time is taken to appreciate the horrors of war.

Death to fascism; freedom to the people!

Shadower: manuscript review by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Shadower by Margaret Walker is an exciting journey through a theater of World War II that is not often explored; the war in the Balkans and more specifically, Yugoslavia. It is July 1943 in Dalmatia, an area currently under Italian occupation but things are changing. Italy is beginning to capitulate in the west, with the invasion of Sicily and the coming inevitable invasion of the Italian mainland by the Allies. Captain Anton Markovic was once a submarine captain in the Yugoslav navy but those days are long gone and he is fighting with the partisans in the mountains, forests, and seas of Dalmatia, near the city of Split. Anton met and married Mara whilst with the partisans a year ago. Together they are engaged in a battle against the occupying Italians, with their acts of sabotage and their plans to thwart the theft of their nation’s treasures, before the Italians collapse and leave Split for the Germans to take over. Before that happens, though, the partisans want desperately to secure, for themselves and the Allies, the significant stocks of military supplies, guns, ammunition, and fuel that are currently held by the Italian forces. Against a backdrop of collaborators, the local Italian command, traitors within their own ranks, and a beautiful yet duplicitous secret agent, Anton and Mara must navigate the tides of war and ensure not only their own survival but help to hasten the inevitable Allied victory in this conflict. Shadower is an exciting, adrenaline-filled adventure that grabs readers from the very beginning and takes them on a roller-coaster journey of high emotion, constant danger, and strident patriotism and nationalism.

Author Margaret Walker has tapped into an underexploited aspect of the war that is every bit as interesting and drama-filled as the battlefields of France or the North African desert. I found it fascinating to compare the almost laissez-faire attitude of the Italian soldiers and officials to that of Nazi Germany. The two countries may well have been allies but in many ways that is where the similarities ended. Consequently, the Yugoslav partisans definitely did appear to have some advantages that were not apparent to the French or Polish resistance movements, which were brutally crushed by the Nazis whenever they were discovered. In Anton and Mara, the author creates a side-story romance that at times stole the show from the actual fighting action. Her descriptions of the consummation of their marriage and their stolen moments amid the chaos of war and constant vigilance was a highlight of the story for me. The writing style is relaxed and fluid and the entire story is one easy read. I particularly liked some of the secondary characters, especially the schoolteacher, whose love of Il Duce and fascism was sorely put to the test by his friendship with the young farm boy, Goran, who fought for his nation with such passion and verve. This is a fantastic read that has interested me in reading more from this particular author and I can highly recommend it.

Photo credit (temporary only.). ADRIATIC NAVAL WAR  Zvonimir Freivogel and Achille Rastelli 2015 Despot Infinitus, Zagreb.

Eileen Charbonneau, Historical Novel Society

 

Trieste is the city in question, but the smaller Adriatic city of Cittanova also figures prominently in this 1928-set historical novel. Mussolini wants to make Italy great again after the winning sides have carved up the former Austro-Hungarian Empire following World War I. Matteo Brazzi, Cittanova’s new mayor and cafe owner, only cares about himself. If it means promoting Fascism and “correcting” the multi-cultural society into seeing themselves as Italian, then why not? But once the town’s favorite son, Giovanni, is abducted aboard a renegade submarine, Matteo realizes he’s up against an old rival in the sub’s captain. The town bonds to solve the disappearance.

Florid and darkly comic, His Most Italian City bristles with life. Although the main events take place over a day, the past comes alive with eight years of back narratives featuring doomed love affairs, treachery, vivid family life, political and cultural philosophies and clever children. The captain’s beautiful wife Nataša is pivotal to the back-winding plot. The beating hearts of both cities and the submarine add much to a story reminiscent of the best of Joseph Heller and T. C. Boyle, with the added bonus of wonderful characterizations of women and girls. What an impressive debut! I look forward to more from Margaret Walker.

Sarah Kennedy, author of ‘The Cross and the Crown Series’

 

This is a very fine novel about the conflicts in Italy and the surrounding territories that it claimed after World War I. The rise of Mussolini plays a big part, though the man himself doesn't make an appearance (which I prefer). The main character is not a likeable person--so much the better when his enemy is introduced!

There is a lot of information about submarines, and I've never really been interested in submarines--but in this book it's perfectly natural and I felt very close to the action. I also learned a few things.

The plot, characters, and setting of this book are all wonderful, but my favorite aspect of this book is the witty narrator. The descriptions and summations are so good that I caught myself re-reading individual sentences and passages over and over--a sure sign of a book that I love.

Highly recommended!

 

Matt Macavoy, www.mattmcavoy.com

 

This book is not just entertaining, interesting, well-written and professionally crafted, it is also educational and enlightening, with regards to a period of European history which is perhaps often overlooked. Set in 1928, in the aftermath of the First World War, Istria has fallen under the ownership of a now Fascist-run Italy, the land wielded and occupied with ruthless complicity by Mussolini. The formerly Croatian citizens now find themselves being naturalized by Italy’s ethnic cleansing of the area, assimilated into Italian identity, and even having their names changed to sound more Italian – or, as many Italians suggest, “corrected” to their original Latin form. Like most manipulated Italians, many Istrians welcome this change, as both sides fall prey to the Fascist propaganda machine. For some, however, the occupation is too imposing an offence to accept, and a new cause is born.

Ultimately, this is a simple story of revenge, set against the backdrop of a notable moment in history. It is an incredibly insightful, well-researched snapshot, laden with historical detail.


The real star of this book is the author herself. Walker is intelligent, endearing and well-learned in her subject matter. With her own background and family history, she is clearly passionate about the Istria region and its history, and it is an enjoyable experience to be informed on it by her. She is also an excellent writer, vivid and descriptive, yet human and engaging. Her writing has qualities of relatability, yet also the authority which comes from subject knowledge. You can feel the history permeating from the pages, and it takes no effort for the reader to become immersed in its culture and language. This is not a quick, flippant read; it is a serious book by a proper professional author, and it is highly recommended for those who want to learn a little something when they read, whilst wrapping it all up in the package of a nice, simple story of regret and revenge. A good book by an author worthy of respect and success.

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