Tuesday, June 8, 2021

"The Metal Heart"

Caroline Lea was born and raised in Jersey in the United Kingdom. She lives in Warwick, England.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Metal Heart, and reported the following:
The Metal Heart is set in Orkney in World War Two. Inspired by real events, it tells the story of twin sisters Dorothy and Constance, who are outcasts from Orkney society and choose to isolate themselves from the community. When a ship is torpedoed in Orkney’s waters, five hundred Italian prisoners are sent to fortify the remote, windswept islands. Many of these men are traumatised by the war: Dorothy and Constance find themselves swept up by the plans of one prisoner, Cesare, to create a beautiful chapel on the island. Built from salvaged war scrap, the chapel will be a monument to peace and hope. But as the girls spend more time with the prisoners, and romance blossoms, tensions on the island begin to rise…

On page 69, Cesare has just been introduced to some of the harsh realities of the camp in Orkney and, in attempting to quell trouble, is accused by one of the other prisoners, of being a traitor. This moment encapsulates one of the themes within the novel: what does it mean to belong to a country and to be loyal to it?

It also contains a description of Cesare’s memories of fighting in North Africa.

From page 69:
Cesare nods, remembering the months in the North African camp. The fat black flies that rose in clouds from the bodies of the men who’d protested, or drawn too much attention. The best way to survive is to be invisible – to imagine your body as part of a machine that does whatever is expected, without protest or hesitation.

‘We must line up now.’ Antonio claps him on the arm – his hand, for a moment, on that scrap of red fabric that would tell the guards where best to put a bullet – and then they follow the rest of the men out into the grinding cold and line up, ready to walk down to the quarry.
However, page 69 doesn’t touch upon the twin beating hearts of the novel: the sweeping romance between Cesare and Dorothy and the gorgeous chapel that the Italian prisoners built – I’d encourage you to look up pictures of this breathtaking piece of art, which I found so inspiring while writing The Metal Heart.

I wanted to shape a wartime love story which encapsulated some of the fear and horror of that time, while offering hope and redemption – a motivation that feels very apt in the midst of a global pandemic. I hope that readers find some solace in a book which, although it contains dark moments, ultimately offers optimism for the future.
Follow Caroline Lea on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: The Glass Woman.

My Book, The Movie: The Glass Woman.

My Book, The Movie: The Metal Heart.

Q&A with Caroline Lea.

--Marshal Zeringue