Gost is surrounded by mountains and fields of wild flowers. The summer sun burns. The Croatian winter brings freezing winds. Beyond the boundaries of the town an old house which has lain empty for years is showing signs of life. One of the windows, glass darkened with dirt, today stands open, and the lively chatter of English voices carries across the fallow fields. Laura and her teenage children have arrived.
A short distance away lies the hut of Duro Kolak who lives alone with his two hunting dogs. As he helps Laura with repairs to the old house, they uncover a mosaic beneath the ruined plaster and, in the rising heat of summer, painstakingly restore it. But Gost is not all it seems; conflicts long past still suppurate beneath the scars.
In this moving novel from Forna (The Memory of Love), the scars left by the Croatian War of Independence underlie a deceptively simple account of a Croat developing a relationship with foreigners moving into his village. Exactly what Duro Kolak experienced in the fighting that enveloped Gost, his small town, is only hinted at for much of the book, creating a suspenseful backdrop. As the story opens in 2007, Duro meets Laura, an Englishwoman who has arrived in Gost with her family to start a new life. He offers her his assistance, even as other locals are less than pleased to have the newcomers around. Forna does an exquisite job of contrasting her leads perspectives on Gost Laura thinks it s one of the most beautiful places she s ever been, while Duro sees past the tranquil surface to the region s blood-soaked recent past. This is a powerful exploration of the impact that violence has on those who suffer it and those who inflict it.