Monday, 12 October 2015

Guest Post and Book Review ~ Letters From Malta - A secret kept for 50 years by Mary Rensten

TITLE - Letters From Malta

AUTHOR - Mary Rensten

PAGES - 234

FORMAT - Kindle or Paperback 

Click here to Purchase

"When Jane Thornfield finds an envelope hidden in her mother's bedroom drawer it heralds the beginning of a journey of discovery. Long buried family secrets are unearthed and Jane is forced to question her very identity.

Jane's search for the truth takes her to Malta, where she learns about the harsh realities of life during the Siege of Malta in the Second World War. But her attempts to unlock a fifty-year-old secret are met with suspicion and a wall of silence.

Letters from Malta is about a woman's quest to make sense of her present and her past. The setting of Malta is brought vividly to life in this moving, perceptive tale of love and loss."


Having been to Malta myself, several times as a child then again as an adult; and with a Husband who grew up in Malta with an RAF Father, I was most intrigued to read this book.

It was a well researched book both based on Malta of today and during WWII. My Uncle actually

helped with the set up of the War Museum in Valletta so I was used to it as a child as Malta's history was drummed into me. Having driven the roads of Malta many times, before and after they had tarmac, I could picture the routes the author was describing that Jane had travelled along. When she was speaking of the car garage in the book, it brought back fond memories of a friend we made in Malta called Charlie (they're all called Charlie) who owned a garage, and it really warmed me. 

I enjoyed the flow of the book and the descriptive natures of each character she met along the way. I found she brought the people alive and vivid images of what they looked like came into my head.

It was a good storyline, with twists and turns and disappointments along the way. There were lots of questions that had to be answered and it made me want to keep on reading it.

It was a nice light-hearted read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 


Mary Rensten is the vice-President of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. Her novel "Letters from Malta" has just been published by Corazon Books.

Mary's novel was inspired by trips she made to Malta, and facts she learned about the harsh life for the islanders during WWII.

How a Holiday in Malta inspired my novel.

‘Malta? Never been there,’ I said.

 ‘So let’s go.’

A fortnight of sunshine and swimming, with unhurried drives in a hire car around an island only 16 miles long. How relaxing that would be!  Except that my husband had a plan. ‘We‘ll visit the silent city of Mdina, the ancient temple ruins at Hagar Qim, maybe the Buskett Gardens where the Knights of Malta flew their falcons, some of the cemeteries …’

‘Cemeteries? No!’

‘Military cemeteries. There’s one near an old airfield, Ta’ Qali ; remember what a strategic place Malta was in the Second World War?’

‘Oh, all right then, just one.’

A small rusty sign on the road to Rabat led us into a narrow lane, to a high wall and cypress trees. We parked the car, opened the creaky iron gate, walked respectfully, not speaking, along the path, looking at the incised stone slabs on either side, many of them - too many - marking the graves of young men who had died on this island in the 1940s. What sort of lives had they led here, these soldiers and airmen? Did they have Maltese wives, girlfriends? What if one of them were to fall in love with a girl in England, then come out here and …

‘I have to come here again,’ I said.

‘Oh no, it’s not giving you ideas, is it?’

Suddenly I wanted to see all the places on my husband’s list. As the story in my head took shape, I would see them, not just as a tourist, but as someone who had been here during a very dark time in Malta’s history, a time of constant air raids and the threat of invasion.  Had my ‘hero’ - I called him Peter and he was in the Royal Artillery - worked at Ta’ Qali perhaps? Had he walked around Mdina? luzzu fishing boats. Had Peter seen these, too?  So much to see, so much to imagine!  
Was he here when a bomb dropped on Mosta Cathedral, but did not explode; when the convoys with desperately needed supplies limped into Valletta Harbour?  I had my own list now: the prehistoric cart tracks, the Blue Grotto, its luminous water shading from ultramarine to turquoise,  villages like Marsaxlokk, with a harbour full of colourful

‘Enough,’ my husband said. We went for healthy walks along the Marfa Ridge, the wild headland at the northern end of the island; we swam and sunned ourselves.

Two years later, when we had our second holiday in Malta, it was no longer just Peter’s story; I had a ‘heroine’, writer Jane Thornfield, coming here and uncovering the past.  I was now seeing Malta through the eyes of both Jane and Peter, whose stories are linked, and when I met Maltese people, all so helpful, so willing to talk to me, even taking me to their homes, I was able to ask the questions that Jane would have asked.

My fiction had become a reality, and when I went back to Imtarfa cemetery to check a few final  details before we went home, I found it hard to believe that Peter was not buried there.

‘Is that it then? Are we done with Malta?’

‘No. I want to come back. There could be another story here.’

Reviews for Mary's book. 

Letters from Malta is about a woman's quest to make sense of her present and her past. The setting of Malta is brought vividly to life in this moving, perceptive tale of love and loss.

"The story sweeps you along and the characters are so real." Suzannah Dunn, best-selling historical novelist (The Sixth Wife, The May Bride)

"I couldn't put this down. I couldn't wait to find out what had happened in Malta 60 years ago." Meg Alexander, romantic novelist

"It has just the right combination of drama, humour, romance and intrigue to make it perfect reading at home or on holiday." TAR Entertainment