The Blue Dolphin

Fictional Drama

1944 & 1994 / WWII
Another great book from an author who knows the country so well and writes of it so poignantly.
Nefeli lives with her eight-year-old daughter Georgia and owns the Blue Dolphin Tavern near the coast on a small island. She was widowed four years earlier and is now struggling to make ends meet. The village ladies think it is time for her to marry again. They select a husband for her and, in order to provide Georgia and herself with a secure future, she agrees although her heart isn’t involved in the bargain. One night while walking on the beach, she discovers a badly injured Luftwaffe pilot. She knows that if the villagers find him, they will kill him, and should she decide to help him, she would probably be killed also. Nevertheless, she is a compassionate and pious woman who feels it is her duty to help him. She does not anticipate the feelings he would arouse in her which seem to her like a betrayal of her country.
In this book, the author has created a portrait of life on a tiny remote island that I suspect has changed little over the centuries. The peaceful existence is brought to an end by the war. The descriptions of the landscape and cobalt blue roofs, of warm breezes and Homer’s wine-dark sea will evoke memories in anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting the Greek Islands – and depict a stark contrast to the violence that unfolds.
Like all good stories, this one incorporates elements of betrayal and tragedy, romance and heroism, conflict and resolution. The author uses simple prose to portray simple people, and just a few words are enough to give us a feel for the characters.
It was a slow starter, but the scene was set very well in the beginning. Another great novel from a prolific author.
Highly recommended.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds

© Susan Appleyard
e-version reviewed


Reviewed in the United States on June 9, 2021

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In the beginning of this remarkable read we are introduced to Nefeli, the owner of The Blue Dolphin tavern and widow of Yianni who died in battle during WW2, and her daughter Georgia. Their close, loving relationship is sustained throughout the entire story through the village matchmakers going to work on Nefeli and eventually finding her a husband that is okay with Nefeli. Only okay for she doubts that the love she knew with Yianni will ever be matched. As talk of finding her a husband drops to the background, the Greek island comes to life with a friendly fisherman, Socrates, bringing Nefeli fish to serve her customers, Agamemnon the mule offers endless help when most needed, Germans occupiers show up at the tavern (some unfriendly, others not), and andartes visit the tavern and Nefeli helps them store weapons in her deceased husband’s boat stored in a locked cave. Scenes move along until a violent storm besieges the island ripping buildings apart, so severe Nefeli has to bring her animals (large and small) into her two room home to keep them safe. During the storm a German pilot washes ashore in a life boat. When Nefeli fines him half dead her character runs deep with compassion. It is here in this union that a crescendo of all the aforementioned happenings come together in a poignantly beautiful way, where enemies see beyond the fearful façade into each other’s hearts. Where this story shines is in the relationships. To begin with mother and daughter. And then Nefeli and the German pilot. Circling around these main relationships are other significant tensions building ones: the man chosen to marry Nefeli and his domineering mother, the interfering matchmakers, the village collective, and a Greek man who helped translate for the Germans. The interplay between the individuals is beautifully written, as good as the best of classic Greek tragedies, as scenes unfold and dialogue resonates authentically. Passion burns from the pages and I couldn’t put this incredible read down. Finally when the last page is hit, the surprising ending left me half breathless as I continue on to read a little of this history. It is in these last pages my respect for this talented author draws me in further as I reflect on the dept of research she has put into her work: impeccable in detail and responsible to the portrayal of facts. Thankfully, there are a few pages left when I venture to the ending—another story by Gauci. It’s a relief I get to encounter more from this wonderful author. Highly recommend.

Marina Osipova‘s review

Jun 12, 2021
Read 2 times. Last read June 12, 2021.

Enchanting from the beginning

This meticulously researched novel brings readers to Greece under German occupation in 1944 and then the following years.
Kathryn Gauci is a storyteller who possesses a phenomenal ability to make her readers fall in love with her characters, equally real and rounded, whether sympathetic or abominable. In this story, I rooted the most for Nefeli and Martin.
In the words of the main character, Nefeli, about love, “It was like a tidal wave – unstoppable,” and such is this story. It started with calm nostalgia, inevitably growing into a narrative that wouldn’t let you stop reading, swelling in its intensity, and finally crushing upon you with such merciless power, I had to take a breath to digest the scene before moving on to the last part of the tale. It was sad to part ways with the characters.
The story line is easy to follow. The language fluent and rich. This is historical fiction with a touch of romance and a female character to respect and adore. For this reader, The Blue Dolphin was a page-turner. Highly recommended.

Helen Johnson Brumbaugh

Reviewed in the United States on June 12, 2021