Estonia,Forest Brothers novel by Geraint Roberts (signed copy) WW2, shetland bus
December 1918: The royal navy sends a squadron of ships to the fledgling Estonian nation to aid their fight for independence. When the squadron is due to depart, a young navy officer jumps ship, sacrificing his career for the love of a woman - but the navy reclaims its own. Huw Williams is dragged back to his homeland in disgrace.
Years later, the world is at war again. Huw is scratching a living on the docks when the past comes to call. He is flung into covert operations in a land caught between two armies, and a people living under threat of instant death or deportation to oblivion in Siberia. Huw soon finds out that killers are on his track.
He joins the Forest Brothers, the partisans living secretly amongst the silver birches of Estonia. There, ghosts of his past life emerge. This is not the return to romantic dreams he had imagined. Nevertheless, an old flame rekindles, and the once embittered Huw rediscovers his desire to help save the country and the people he loves - but how can he do either, forced to live as a fugitive in the forest?
Geraint says: I first visited Estonia twelve years ago. It was February, minus twenty and the snow was heavy on the ground. The wind was so bitter as to make it painful to look out to the Baltic Sea. The capital felt deserted as I toured the old town with my future wife, moving from warm café to warm café to restore feeling to my extremities. There was ice on the inside of the bus windows, and sleigh rides were available at the local museum but rather than admiring the view, passengers would be tempted to hide under the horse-blankets to keep warm. No doubt it was the extreme cold that kept tourists away at that season but I felt privileged to have such a gem of a city to myself, to appreciate the beauty of the medieval Old Town in its winter splendour.
Since that time, I have visited Estonia on a regular basis, albeit at times when the country is at least forty degrees warmer. I have been enchanted by the medieval fortresses and long stretches of woodland. I have strolled the rugged northern shores and the long sandy beaches around the summer capital. I have enjoyed the tranquil islands and watched meteor showers from the forest glades. I have eaten blood sausage with black bread and washed it down with cold Estonian beer or Poltsamaa wine. I have delighted at the spectacle that is Leigo. Indeed, the bulk of the novel was written in the forest near Märjamaa (admittedly with one leg in plaster up on a chair).
I wanted this novel to do two things: to revive awareness of an event long forgotten in the UK and to explore the links between the countries that were there long ago. In one sense, the goal has been achieved in that my life and family have been a renewal of those links. The Estonians I have been privileged to befriend are initially reserved, but warm and independent in thought. As I go about my life in Mid Wales, watching my Estonian wife and daughter, seeing their pride in the language and culture of the land of their birth, I cannot but see the many parallels between the psyche of this small nation and that of my Welsh homeland. It makes me feel at home, it makes me feel part of the land.