The Thread by Victoria Hislop
I have been suffering from breast cancer and am unable to enjoy many of my usual hobbies, so I have been reading even more than usual. With that in mind, my friend Jill gave me The Thread by Victoria Hislop. She had really enjoyed it and so passed it on. I had never read any books by Hislop, but I had heard of her. She is an English author who was born in London, England in 1959 but was raised in Tonbridge, Kent, and attended Tonbridge Grammar School before she read English at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford University, Oxford, England. It was while at University in Oxford that she met her husband, the comedian and journalist Ian Hislop. He read English Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford. They married in Oxford on 16 April 1988 and now live in Sissinghurst with their two children.
The Thread is set in Thessaloniki, Greece and follows the slow-burning romance between Katerina and Dimitri, the former a poor refugee from Asia Minor, the latter the son of a wealthy textile merchant. While Katerina supports her family as an expert seamstress, Dimitri angers his father by siding with the resistance against the occupying German forces in World War II, as the city, once devastated by fire, is torn apart by the Nazi persecution of its thriving Jewish community.
Their young grandson hears their life story for the first time when the book begins in 2007. He realises he has a decision to make. For many decades, they have looked after the memories and treasures of the people who were forced to leave. He must decide whether to become their next custodian and make this city his home. So, the reader knows the outcome of the relationship for the two main characters, Katerina and Dimitri, before being taken back to the beginning of their lives. Having knowledge of the ending does not detract from the enjoyment of the narrative because there are enough questions, surprises and anxious moments to keep the reader entranced from beginning to end.
Victoria Hislop’s novel, The Thread, is magical. It is carefully researched and subtly weaves a story of love, family feuds, resilience and loss against a backdrop of the turbulent history of Greece, and, in particular, the northern city of Thessaloniki, throughout the 20th Century. The readers are treated to a tale which not only provides a heart-warming love story, but enlightens and educates them with an accurate, fascinating insight into the history of this region.
This book will excite imagination and encourage travel to Greece and Thessaloniki in particular to experience the spirit of a city nestling in the arms of the ever-present Mount Olympus. However, for me, this book had a similar emotional appeal as A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. That book is reviewed here: https://bookreviewstoday.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/a-thousand-spl…haled-hosseini/. In that novel, reviewed at I was able to appreciate how political changes and religious extremes impact on normal, diligent families and their neighbours in Afghanistan: in The Thread similar trials are thrust upon a group of hard-working, tolerant, loving individuals in war-torn Greece. Their specific stories may be fictional but their voices are real and resonant. Victoria Hislop is a gifted writer. The Thread is a delicious book: if you have not yet read it, I highly recommend it. If you have read it, it probably deserves savouring again. Another of Hislop’s books The Island is also reviewed on this site: https://bookreviewstoday.info/2015/05/15/the-island-by-victoria-hislop/.