Like many people, I was utterly captivated by Victoria Hislop’s novel The Island which was published 14 years ago. Those Who Are Loved is her sixth novel and she has also written two short story collections. The idea for this latest novel came when the author saw the island of Makronisos while in Greece and was told that, although it was uninhabited now, it had been a prison camp for Communists in wartime.
I didn’t know an awful lot about Greece in the second world war except that it was occupied first by Italy, then Germany. I didn’t know there was a subsequent civil war with Greek fighting against Greek. Through Themis’ story, I feel I have a better understanding of what life was like for the Greek people. I really got a sense of the terrible conditions people had to live in under occupation and the desperation they felt. “Hunger drove people to desperate behaviour.” Even the political differences in Themis’ own family seemed to echo what was happening in the wider community.
What Themis has seen, heard and experienced gave her a strong sense of injustice and anger and led her eventually to become more and more involved with the Communist resistance. She showed such bravery as she put herself in danger. I’m not sure I would have been able to be so courageous in similar circumstances but who knows what any of us would do in that kind of situation?
I must admit that I did slightly prefer the first half of the book. It was so detailed. By contrast, the second half of the book about events after Themis returned from the prison island seemed a little more rushed. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the second half, just that the story moved along more quickly. I think I felt more connected to Themis in her wartime experiences, simply because of the meticulous storytelling.
Those Who Are Loved is an impeccably researched book bringing wartime Greece vividly to life. Themis’ story mirrors the story of Greece and its people through a very turbulent time. Themis is such a strong character and through her we see that strength of human spirit which can persist in the darkest of times and places, the love that drives people to do anything they can to protect their loved ones. An epic read indeed.
My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blogtour and to Headline publishers for my review copy of the book. Those Who Are Loved is available in hardback, ebook and audiobook and should be available to buy or order from your usual book retailer. Or you can order a Kindle copy here: Those Who Are Loved
From the back of the book
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.
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 1.2 million 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.