The Island by Victoria Hislop

I picked up a copy of Victoria Hislop’s book, The Island, from a local book sale. I was pleased to secure it because I really enjoyed her book The Thread and reviewed it on this site: Both books tell tales from Hislop’s favourite country, Greece. Victoria Hislop won Newcomer of the Year at the 2007 British Book Awards for this No 1 best-selling novel The Island. The book was alsovic and ian nominated for the Book of the Year award at the same event. She was born in Bromley, Kent, England in 1959. Victoria Hislop is a former journalist and met her husband, the Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, while studying English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford University, Oxford. They have two children together and live in Kent.

The historical novel, The Island, is set on the island of Spinalonga which is off the coast of Crete and on the village of Plaka. Plaka lies within swimming distance across from Spinalonga. The Island tells the story of Alexis Fielding. She is a 25 year old woman on the cusp of a life-changing decision. Alexis knows little or nothing about her family’s past and has always resented the islandher mother for refusing to discuss it. She knows only that her mother, Sofia, grew up in Plaka before moving to London.

Alexis makes her first visit to Crete to see the village where her mother was born and discovers that the village of Plaka faces the small island of Spinalonga. It is now deserted. She is shocked and surprised to learn it was Greece’s leper colony for much of the 20th century.

The Island goes on to tell how Alexis meets an old friend of her mother’s named Fotini, who is prepared to tell her the whole tragic story of her family. What Fotini tells Alexis is the story which Sofia has spent her life concealing. It is the story of Eleni, her grandmother, and of a family torn apart by tragedy, war and passion. Eleni has two children, called Maria and Anna with her husband Georgio. She discovers how intimately she is connected with Spinalonga and with the horror and pity of the leper colony which was once there. Alexis also learns that the secrets of the past have the power to change the future.victoria hislop

I did not enjoy The Island as much as I enjoyed The Thread. However, it is a fascinating story, beautifully researched and any body who has visited Spinalonga will find it evocative. Those who have not yet visited will want to go. I recommend this book to you.

Valerie Penny


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