The Malta Independent 17 November 2019, Sunday

Under a Maltese Sky: Novel by Irish author set in World War II Malta

Therese Bonnici Saturday, 12 September 2015, 09:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

Under a Maltese Sky is the name of a novel which was recently launched in Ireland. The book, by Irish author Nicola Kearns, encompasses romance and adventure within the context of the WWII Siege of Malta.

In comments to The Malta Independent, Ms Kearns explains that she was inspired by her great uncle, a member of the Royal Air Force who served in Malta during World War II.

The story makes references to episodes which occurred during the Great Siege of Malta.  To write the book, Ms Kearns spent almost a year carrying out research, with assistance from Malta Historical WWII group as well as the National War Museum.

As part of research, Ms Kearne visited Malta in November 2013, visiting Sliema, Valletta and Gozo.  “One driver, Michael Sultana, showed me all around Gozo and was so helpful with information about the war in Malta. He spoke with great pride about his country and he is even mentioned in my book,” she says.

Much of the rest of the story is fictitious; however there are parallels to events in the life of the author herself or lives of people she knows. “In some way, each character in the book is based on a real person, some who have passed on,” she says.

Ms Kearns is already busy writing the sequel to the first book. “Many of the same characters will be in it, and there will also be flashbacks to the war in Malta with more detail, although it is mainly set in 2003 and onwards.  Some events mentioned in the first novel will be explained, but it is hard to state exactly what, without giving away the story…” Ms Kearne says.

The author will be visiting Malta again in December, together with her family.

 

  

Synopsis:

Young Anabel Mellor leaves England to join her father, a RAF Wing Commander based in Malta. She volunteers as a nurse in the famous Mtarfa Military Hospital before the outbreak of WWII.

Ernie McGuill is an Irishman.  Disillusioned by his country’s fight for freedom he leaves Ireland and eventually becomes a renowned reconnaissance pilot in the RAF.  While stationed in Malta his homosexuality is revealed when he falls in love with a fellow male officer.

Unaware of Ernie’s relationship, Wing Commander Mellor’s plans for the pilot and his daughter to marry are thwarted when she falls for a Maltese fisherman, Franco. However, his daughter’s pregnancy is unknown to him when he sets events in motion for Franco, due to his Italian origins, to be extradited as an enemy alien.

He finds the solution to his problem when he catches Ernie with his lover, an offence punishable by instant dismissal. Ernie agrees to marry Ana to keep his position. When Ana gives birth in an air-raid shelter not long after the death of her father, Ernie cruelly tells her the baby has died. When a friend discovers the lie Ernie quickly leaves Malta, taking a bereft Ana with him. 

Eventually they settle back in his native Ireland where Ernie becomes an alcoholic and Ana has a lonely and miserable life. Her marriage is never consummated and she is shunned by the village due to her being English. Her only consolation is correspondence with Billy, the husband of her best friend Katie, who was killed during the war. Ana and Billy meet once again, a reunion which results in the birth of her daughter, Maria. 

Many years later an unexpected gift from her grand-daughter Jessy brings about Ana’s return to Malta, albeit in some trepidation.

In Malta, Jessy falls for a local man named Salvatore. It becomes apparent later in the book that he is the son of Franco, Ana’s former lover. Franco had returned from his exile to the Orkney Islands after the war. He was devastated to find out from Ana’s friend Jeany that Ana had married Ernie and gone to England.

Franco learned that his baby hadn’t died but had been left at the convent where Jeany was living at the time. His later marriage enables Franco to adopt the baby. When Ana and Franco eventually meet the past is revisited and Ana meets her child.

When Ana and Franco eventually meet the past is revisited and Ana gets to meet her daughter.

The novel gives much detail on the Siege of Malta, the air battles and horrifying conditions of a people living close to starvation amongst almost daily bombardment. There are also references to the Civil War in Ireland in the 1920s and the extradition of Italian POWs to the Orkney Islands.

The book concludes with Ana’s pilgrimage throughout the island of Malta, visiting the graves of her father and her dear friends. Her relationship with Franco is rekindled and he proposes once again in a place very dear to their hearts.

Ana ends her days on the island, surrounded by those who love her in a country where she has always felt at home – under a Maltese sky.

 

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