Reviewing The Blue and Distant Hills, by Judith Saxton.
The Blue and Distant Hills appears, at first glance, to be a simple story of a young English girl, Questa, who couldn’t get out of Italy when World War II broke out, spent the war (and her adolescence) hiding with the Italian peasants (and later the resistance), and returned to England after the war. Her mother died when she was two, her father was killed fighting in North Africa, and she must somehow make a life for herself. She chooses to go to the family estate she has inherited in rural England, and begins running the farm.
Of course it cannot be as simple as that in a novel, but Ms. Saxton seems to feel that the ordinary tribulations of getting a farm running when it was occupied by the military during the war, with only an ancient woman and her son to help, isn’t enough for a seventeen-year-old girl ravaged by the war.
No, Ms. Saxton soon has Questa dreaming of Roman Britain, and falling in love with the ex-centurion she meets in her dreams. Questa soon realizes that he lives on the same estate she does, and soon their lives are intertwining in her waking life, too. I felt that Ms. Saxton introduced the dream element as a way of preparing Questa for real life and loving a man again, but I don’t think it was necessary. The book could have stood on its own, quite effectively, without the bizarre supernatural element.
If you’re looking for another Rosamunde Pilcher, don’t be fooled. The writing is just as good, but the supernatural side is just too much.
Three out of five stars.