If war is madness, how can love survive?
Yugoslavia, summer 1979. A new village. A new life. But eight-year-old Miro knows the real reason why his family moved from the inland city of Knin to the sunkissed village of Ljeta on the Dalmatian Coast, a tragedy he tries desperately to forget.
The Ljeta years are happy ones, though, and when he marries his childhood sweetheart, and they have a baby daughter, it seems as though life is perfect. However, storm clouds are gathering above Yugoslavia.
War breaks out, and one split-second decision destroys the life Miro has managed to build. Driven by anger and grief, he flees to Dubrovnik, plunging himself into the hard-bitten world of international war reporters.
There begins a journey that will take him ever deeper into danger: from Dubrovnik, to Sarajevo, to the worst atrocities of war-torn Bosnia, Miro realises that even if he survives, there can be no way back to his earlier life. The war will change him, and everyone he loves, forever.
Wow. What can I say about The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe? My mind has been blown apart by this novel.
Ok, let’s start here:
I was born in 1983. I was raised in Liverpool and I have spent my years trying to consume as much information and knowledge as I could. Yet I knew nothing about the war in Kosovo. Sure I had heard about it on the news but I was too little to comprehend what was happening. This book, The People We Were Before, has changed that somewhat. I’m shocked at my ignorance of a genocide that took place in my lifetime and I knew absolutely nothing about it. Nothing.
The People We Were Before could be described in many ways: a family saga, a romance, a thriller, historical fiction, war story. It cannot be pigeonholed into just one category.
Thorpe’s story focuses on Miro, a young boy whose family has just moved to the Dalmatian Coast with his family amidst the stirrings of political strife. The story develops along with Miro’s change from boy into man; the trials and tribulations that grown up life bring shakes Miro’s world to the very core and his life mirrors the chaos of the warzone that is developing in Dubrovnik.
Thorpe’s character development is tremendous. I truly felt the familial ties between Miro and his brother Goran, I enjoyed the friendships that Miro developed and I fell hopelessly for his love story with Dina. I became part of the story with them. When an author can so seamlessly transport me to another world I know that I am reading something pretty special.
Whilst normally I am a character driven reader it was the descriptions of the abject horrors of war that really packed a punch with me. The panic and the mayhem that Thorpe portrays in The People We Were Before is astounding. My heart was beating wildly throughout most of the book as I felt true panic for Miro and co.
The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe is the most ambitious debut I have read in a long time and fortunately for Thorpe she delivers.
The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe is available now.