Reviews

‘I have just wiped the tears away. What the Horses Heard is a masterpiece. Beautifully written, scrupulously researched and involving a fascinating subject, I loved it. I did not want it to end. The character of Cass Forrester is spellbinding and the prose enchanted me throughout.

This epic tale set at the time of the great war follows the devastating fortunes of the Forrester family. Cassandra and her brother Orion are exceptional people who take very different paths through the turmoil and trauma of war. Cassandra is a horse-loving feminist ahead of her time and Orion becomes a conscientious objector having been irrevocably affected by witnessing the accidental killing of Leo, their brother.

Rebecca Gethin is not only a great novelist, she is also a poet. The prose of this novel is of a very high quality. I was immediately engaged with all my senses. Horror and tenderness live in these pages but this is not sentimental jingoism. This novel explores difficult, shameful areas of history while never becoming preachy or mawkish as some other works set in the period have.

Everyone should read this book.’ (M.M)

‘This book is a wonderful read and a great page turner. Rebecca writes about war, death and love without being sentimental. The characters are believable and engaging. I found it an interesting and captivating story, especially with regard to how horses were treated and operated on during WW1 with well researched material that gave me a new insight into animal welfare during the war. Thoroughly recommend this as a darn good read.’ (F.M)

‘Rebecca Gethin writes about World War 1 from a different angle, the brutal involvement not only of thousands of horses but also that of women who cared for them. She draws her characters sympathetically especially the feisty heroine Cass, whose escapade disguised as a lad, follows the horses in her care all the way to the front. That a woman got so near to action and was accused of being a spy, seemed so outlandish that she was confined to a psychiatric hospital for a time. An interesting and gripping read.’ (R.C)

  • “Liar Dice” is a gripping story about a little-known chapter of 2nd World War history and its turbulent impact on three generations of women. As each woman’s story evolves, Gethin strips away layers of suspicion, memory and half-truths to show how the same cataclysmic events shaped her character. This journey brings a harmony and coherence to a family history which enables Petronella, the only one of the three women still living, to forge a new life.
    Gethin has a true poet’s ability to evoke the smell of fear in a partisan camp, the misery of an unhappy marriage or the sound of bees. She also uses her descriptive talents to full effect in recreating the harsh beauty of the Italian mountains which are the backdrop to this unmissable tale.

P. Bergin, Southampton

  • An amazing page-turner, she has the most poetic turns of phrase that captivate the reader. Since Ms Gethin is a published poet I guess I should have known when she turned her pen to prose she’d compose beautiful and taught sentences. Before I read this book I knew nothing about the Partisan movement in Italy during Mussolini’s reign, particularly that women were in the Partisans. Ms Gethin has piqued my interest in WWII from the Italian perspective. But more importantly, I loved the intergenerational nature of the scope of this book — from turn of the 20th century to modern day, across Italy and England, interwoven back and forth. Whilst reading this book I found myself questioning my own motivations for genealogical research. As I was reading the characters self-reflections, I in turn reflected about the nature of my own memory. Who am I within the context of my blood relatives? Do I feel comfortable in my own skin, and if not, is there a reason why? The authors exploration of bees in both the characters’ lives as well as their place in the environment is superb. Do yourself a favor and get this novel for yourself and then a friend — you won’t regret it!

C. M. Clipson, Atlanta, US

  • The book starts gently and builds up to an exciting climax in this story about a woman discovering family secrets. The novel transports you to the mountains of Italy in the Second World War, as partisans fight for their lives. It’s a story about families, friendships and what happens to communities in war time. The author weaves a cracking good yarn with moments of poetic beauty throughout. Would make a good choice for a book group as it’s easy to read and there is a lot to discuss.

Midknight Vision

  • I read many different types of novel and Liar Dice is right up there with the best of them. I really enjoyed the merging of fiction and historical information and highly recommend getting a copy. Could be a great a holiday book, as once I started reading it, I found that I couldn’t put it down.

Camber

  • “Liar Dice” is an exciting, pleasurable and satisfying read. Gethin skillfully intermingles the stories of three generations, and allows us to experience the thoughts and feelings of Petronella and also her mother Maddalena. The author pays equal attention to building memorable and nuanced characters, as she does to plotting, building suspense, with lots of twists and turns. I used to be a beekeeper, and I love how honeybees become a thread of magic throughout the novel. The writing is a joy, and poetic, in the best sense of the word, allowing the characters and us as readers to use the power of imagination. Early in the novel, Madallena remembers as a young girl looking at photos that her father had taken. He would tell her stories of the people in the photos and she “wanted to squeeze inside each frame as if it were a miniature doorway to walk through into the past so that I could hear birds singing and people talking to each other, at the very time it was taken.” And that’s what Gethin has done for us in this gem of a book. And I learned about the human side of the Italian resistance during WW2. Highly recommended.

E. Nobbs, PEI, Canada.

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