Book Review: The Metal Heart – Carolina Lea

Book Review: The Metal Heart – Carolina Lea

Release Date:
April 29th 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Pages: 464
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars


Orkney, 1940. On a remote island, a prisoner-of-war camp is constructed to house five hundred Italian soldiers. Upon arrival, a freezing Orkney winter and divided community greets them.

Orphaned sisters Dorothy and Constance volunteer to nurse the men. Dot is immediately drawn to Cesare, a young man fighting on the wrong side and broken by war and destruction.

The soldiers spend their days building a secret barricade between the islands. By night, however, they construct a reminder of their native land – an exquisite chapel.

As tensions between the islanders and outsiders grow, the sisters’ loyalty is tested. Will Dot choose love or family?


The Metal Heart is a beautifully written historical fiction set in 1940s Orkney. It follows the story of two sisters – Dot and Con, who volunteer at the nursing station for the Italian prisoner of war camp. As the soldiers spend their days building a barricade against rivalships, Dot becomes drawn to Cesare, a prisoner and painter. As tensions grow between the prisoners and the islanders, Dot and Con have to fight for their very survival.

I must admit I don’t read much historical fiction set during the war. It’s not really my thing but I thought this sounded so intriguing and I couldn’t resist picking it up. It’s a fascinating story and led me to spend a fair bit of time googling the Italian chapel that was built in Orkney. Lea does a brilliant job bringing to life the harsh, remote landscape of Orkney and I became totally swept up in the story. It’s an emotional tale and I shed more than a few tears at the ending.

The story is quite a slow-paced one and gives the reader plenty of time to get to know the characters. Dot and Con are such fascinating protagonists and the story really highlights the hardships they have been through and how much they have done to survive. I thought the romance between Dot and Cesare was well crafted and I loved seeing their relationship develop. I similarly liked the way Lea portrayed the islanders, who are unhappy with the prisoners being brought to Orkney. Lea did a brilliant job of building that tension more and more as the story progressed.

The Metal Heart is a captivating tale and I read the last hundred pages in a single sitting. The book has an absolutely stunning cover, but it has an even more fascinating story inside. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, this book is a must-read.

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