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Emilio and Rosa are childhood sweethearts, engaged to be married. But it is 1942 and the war has taken Emilio far from Italy, to a tiny Orkney island where he is a POW. Rosa must wait for him to return and help her mother run the family hotel on the shores of Lake Como, in Italy.
Feeling increasingly frustrated with his situation, Emilio is inspired by the idea of building a chapel on the barren island. The prisoners band together to create an extraordinary building out of little more than salvaged odds and ends and homemade paints. Whilst Emilio's chapel will remain long after the POW camp has been left to the sheep, will his love for Rosa survive the hardships of war and separation? For Rosa is no longer the girl that he left behind. She is being drawn further into the Italian resistance movement and closer to danger, as friendships and allegiances are ever complicated by the war.
Human perseverance and resilience are at the heart of this strong debut and the small Italian chapel remains, as it does in reality on the island of Lamb's Holm, as a symbol of these qualities.
Kirsten McKenzie is 32 and lives in Pittenweem with her husband and two children. The Chapel at the Edge of the World is her first novel.