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The sky is clear, star-stamped and silvered by the waxing gibbous moon.
No planes have flown over the islands tonight; no bombs have fallen for over a year.
Orkney, 1940. Five hundred Italian prisoners-of-war arrive to fortify these remote and windswept islands. Resentful islanders are fearful of the enemy in their midst, but not orphaned twin sisters Dorothy and Constance. Already outcasts, they volunteer to nurse all prisoners who are injured or fall sick.
Soon Dorothy befriends Cesare, an artists swept up by the machine of war and almost broken by the horrors he has witnessed. She is entranced by his plan to build an Italian chapel from war scrap and sea derbis, and something beautiful begins to blossom.
But Con, scarred from a betrayal in her past, is afraid for her sister; she knows that people are not always what they seem.
Soon, trust frays between the islanders and outsiders, and between the sisters - their hearts torn by rival claims of duty and desire. A storm is coming...
In the tradition of Captain Corelli's Mandolin, The Metal Heart is a hauntingly rich Second World War love story about courage, brutality, freedom and beauty and the essence of what makes us human during the darkest of times.
Praise for Caroline Lea
'Enthralling' Stacey Halls, author of The Familiars and The Foundling
'Fantastic' The Times
'Memorable and compelling' Sarah Moss, author of The Times Book of the Year Ghost Wall
'Intensely written and atmospheric' Daily Mail
'Gripped me in a cold fist. Beautiful' Sara Collins, author of The Confessions of Frannie Langton
'Brilliant' Daily Express
‘A heart-breaking tale of grief, love and the bond between sisters’ Louise Hare
‘A heart-wrenching story about the scars we carry with us, and how they are overcome’ Gytha Lodge
‘Lyrical writing and a compelling plot transported me to Orkney during the Second World War’ Harriet Tyce