Metal Heart
Caroline Lea

Book cover image

Narrated By: David Monteath, Arielle Free, Simone Lahbib

Duration: 9 hours and 7 minutes

What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.


The sky is clear, star-stamped and silvered by the waxing gibbous moon.

No planes have flown over the islands tonight; no bombs have fallen for over a year.

Orkney, 1940. Five hundred Italian prisoners-of-war arrive to fortify these remote and windswept islands. Resentful islanders are fearful of the enemy in their midst, but not orphaned twin sisters Dorothy and Constance. Already outcasts, they volunteer to nurse all prisoners who are injured or fall sick.

Soon Dorothy befriends Cesare, an artists swept up by the machine of war and almost broken by the horrors he has witnessed. She is entranced by his plan to build an Italian chapel from war scrap and sea derbis, and something beautiful begins to blossom.

But Con, scarred from a betrayal in her past, is afraid for her sister; she knows that people are not always what they seem.

Soon, trust frays between the islanders and outsiders, and between the sisters - their hearts torn by rival claims of duty and desire. A storm is coming...

In the tradition of Captain Corelli's Mandolin, The Metal Heart is a hauntingly rich Second World War love story about courage, brutality, freedom and beauty and the essence of what makes us human during the darkest of times.

Praise for Caroline Lea:

'Enthralling' Stacey Halls, author of The Familiars and The Foundling

'Fantastic' The Times

'Memorable and compelling' Sarah Moss, author of The Times Book of the Year Ghost Wall

'Intensely written and atmospheric' Daily Mail

'Gripped me in a cold fist. Beautiful' Sara Collins, author of The Confessions of Frannie Langton

'Brilliant' Daily Express

© Caroline Lea 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021


Historical crime and mysteries, Historical fiction, Thriller / suspense fiction, Historical romance, Family life fiction, Narrative theme: Love and relationships

Listen to a sample

A tense, passionate and deeply atmospheric novel about a community in wartime - and two defiant hearts. Orkney was so perfectly realised, too, that I almost felt windblown. I loved it all the more so for having read it during lockdown: Caroline's beautiful transported me entirely to another time and land

Susan Fletcher

A powerful Second World War love story. As tensions grow between the Italian PoWs and the Orkney men, the scene is set for a dramatic reckoning. Lea writes beautifully of island life and love, and the sacrifices that both demand

The Times

Atmospheric, heart-wrenching, evocative - this is a gorgeously written story about the scars we carry with us, and how they can be overcome

Gytha Lodge

Uses the true story of the building of the chapel on Orkney by Italian prisoners during the Second World War to fashion a fast-moving and very touching story of sisterly devotion and passionate love

Adèle Geras

Confirms Lea as a highly original and inventive writer

Sunday Times

A story of innocents caught up in the machinery of war. Exquisitely researched, beautifully told, this tiny corner of Scotland came alive

Mary Beth Keane

Myth, legend, fear and superstition all play a part in this intensely atmospheric novel

Choice Magazine

A beautiful, heart-breaking tale of grief, love and the bond between sisters. I read it in a day, desperate to know what would happen

Louise Hare

Lea deftly taps into an age-old theme: suspicion and mistrust of outsiders. Woven throughout The Metal Heart is the potent reminder that there are always innocents caught up in the cruel, unforgiving machinery of war


The remoteness of the Orkney islands intensifies the hopes and fears of war. The Metal Heart is a story of passion and separation in which the isolation of twin sisters within a tight-knit community threatens tragedy. A deeply atmospheric novel of hope and redemption.

Isabelle Grey

Draws you into a wild landscape through an exquisitely told love story

Elodie Harper

Superbly plotted . . . a story that comes together convincingly, complete with a wonderful double-twist in its final pages

The Orcadian



A fantastic, atmospheric debut

The Times

Memorable and compelling. A novel about what haunts us - and what should

An enthralling tale

Stacey Halls, bestselling author of The Familiars

Intensely written and atmospheric, with an unusual setting, this is a stark evocation of a community where fear of the outsider is rife and unsettling

Daily Mail

A perfect, gripping winter read. I loved it

Utterly unputdownable. Rich in superstition and mystery, it pulled me in. An incredible novel

A chilling tale