The gripping new novel by Sunday Times Number One bestseller Victoria Hislop is set against the backdrop of the German occupation of Greece, the subsequent civil war and a military dictatorship, all of which left deep scars.
Athens 1941. After decades of political uncertainty, Greece is polarised between Right- and Left-wing views when the Germans invade.
Fifteen-year-old Themis comes from a family divided by these political differences. The Nazi occupation deepens the fault-lines between those she loves just as it reduces Greece to destitution. She watches friends die in the ensuing famine and is moved to commit acts of resistance.
In the civil war that follows the end of the occupation, Themis joins the Communist army, where she experiences the extremes of love and hatred and the paradoxes presented by a war in which Greek fights Greek.
Eventually imprisoned on the infamous islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri, Themis encounters another prisoner whose life will entwine with her own in ways neither can foresee. And finds she must weigh her principles against her desire to escape and live.
As she looks back on her life, Themis realises how tightly the personal and political can become entangled. While some wounds heal, others deepen.
This powerful new novel from Number One bestseller Victoria Hislop sheds light on the complexity and trauma of Greece’s past and weaves it into the epic tale of an ordinary woman compelled to live an extraordinary life.
.I would like to thank the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.
Those Who Are Loved is a sweeping tale of a land and its people torn apart by war, both magnificent and ambitious in equal measure, I was left utterly captivated by the wonderful story and dazzling characterisation.
.From the moment, I read the first page I was caught up Themis’s life as she and her family were buffeted and torn apart, first by World War II and then the Greek civil war.
.The story is wrapped up in a delicious retelling of this period of Greek History, which for me was heavenly, but for those not as excited by historical detail, it is never at any point allowed to swamp the story. In fact, it creates a richness and depth that gives it an almost filmic quality and it sets the scene for characters who were shaped by what was a period of almost unpatrolled trauma, which tore not only the nation apart, but also created fault lines in families that never truly healed. It is all part of what makes this book such a compelling read, you feel that your there, not just in the families crowded family home, but also with Themis on the prison camps on islands such as Makronisos and Trikeri. For an historical novel to feel authentic the setting must make you feel you’re not only there in Greece, but also immersed in the period itself, and this novel does that with ease, when reading I was in the streets of Athens and the surrounding hills, as war and civil breakdown, ravaged the country and its people. It is at all times a compelling read, that I found it hard to put down, so immersed in both Themis story and that of the people of Greece itself.
.The characters are so real and vivid, that they have stuck with me long after finishing the book. Themis is shaped by her surroundings and the political turmoil that led to not only a war between nations, but also a civil war that engulfed her country and family! She is a stunning character, passionate, both capable of great compassion and love, yet also capable of acts resistance against her own people. She evolves as the story progresses and is a product not just of political passion and history, but her own personal demons and emotions. Rounded and capable of change, she is one of my favourite female characters in quite some time. The other characters are there to support her story, yet all are as deeply fleshed out as she is, especially her older brother and grandmother, who stand astride the political divisions that rock her family. There she sits a commited communist and yet her older brother, sits firmly on the side of the government of the day. Put these two characters together and you have the perfect assemble cast of characters, who represent how families were torn apart by political differences. They are all utterly memorable and play their part in this story of war, loss, love and survival.
Victoria Hislop said:
‘Those Who Are Loved has been germinating for a decade now, from the moment I first saw the island of Makronisos from the Greek mainland. I was told it was uninhabited, but had been a prison camp for communists. The discovery compelled me to read about the Greek civil war (in which many women played a role), but of course it also meant researching the events that led to that conflict as well as the long-term after-effects that are still seen in Greece even today. Everyone knows how much I love Greece, but exploring this story has taken me to some new and disquieting places.’
About the author
Inspired by a visit to Spinalonga, the abandoned Greek leprosy colony, Victoria Hislop wrote The Island in 2005. It became an international bestseller and a 26-part Greek TV series. She was named Newcomer of the Year at the British Book Awards and is now an ambassador for Lepra. The Island has sold over 1.2million copies in the UK and more than 5 million worldwide.
Her affection for the Mediterranean then took her to Spain, which inspired her second bestseller The Return, and she returned to Greece to tell the turbulent tale of Thessaloniki in The Thread, shortlisted for a British Book Award and confirming her reputation as an inspirational storyteller. It was followed by her much-admired Greece-set short story collection, The Last Dance and Other Stories. The Sunrise, a Sunday Times Number One bestseller about the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, was published to widespread acclaim in 2014. Victoria’s most recent book, Cartes Postales from Greece was a Sunday Times Number One bestseller and one of the Top Ten biggest selling paperbacks of 2017. Her novels have sold 10 million copies worldwide.