Reviewed by Nina Longfield
Set along the southern tip of Portugal in the slowly decaying grand city of Faro, 300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson is as permeated with rich story as the setting is steeped in the warmth of the sun. The main character Joanna Millard, a journalist between jobs, is the perfect protagonist for this vividly set story. She sees everything. Her descriptions of the sleepy community draws the reader into the setting. One can almost feel the heat of the Portuguese sun, the stench of rotting marine life, and the haze of sand blowing over the land from the Sahara Desert.
Joanna is in Faro in the pretense of studying the language. She is also running from a failed relationship. In language school, she takes up a light friendship with the only other English person in the class. Nathan Emberlin is several years younger than Joanna. He is charming and easily liked. Both Joanna and Nathan seem to be holding onto secrets though Joanna reveals her past with the right questions. It is when Nathan seeks Joanna’s assistance in investigating a decades old conspiracy in Faro that the reader begins to understand Nathan better.
With the entrance of Ian Rylands, a British expat and a relic of a bygone era, Joanna is led deeper into the history of Faro and corruption. Rylands passes an old novel to Joanna telling her she might find answers within. The novel, The Alliance, written in the late forties by a former American Esta Hartford, describes disappearances and conspiracies. As Joanna reads and digs deeper into Nathan’s quandary, she becomes convinced that perhaps the stories are in some way connected.
Lawreson’s 300 Days of Sun provided me with many elements that make me want to dive into a book and keep turning the pages. There are captivating characters, vivid settings, and an enticing plot. With characters as slow to reveal themselves as the warmth of the Portuguese sun is slow to fade, Deborah Lawrenson expertly builds both setting and characterization to create a tantalizing novel with lots of depth to sink one’s reading teeth into.
300 Days of Sun is a fascinating novel that is difficult to put down. I was absorbed by the contemporary story blending with the past. The more Joanna read and delved into The Alliance by Esta Hartford, the novel within this novel, the deeper I was drawn into Joanna’s and Nathan’s stories. I felt one with Joanna working to figure out the investigation and how it related to the events of the past detailed in the fictional novel.
I thoroughly enjoyed 300 Days of Sun. Lawrenson’s writing is crisp, descriptive, and inviting. The novel flowed easily from beginning to end seamlessly weaving together the present and the past.
Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.