by Victoria Hislop
I picked out this book from my mother’s collection, when I was just about to go away with my parents for a short break. I felt it might make good holiday reading – and I was right. Although I persevered for a few days with my previous book, Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, I gave up on it soon enough and reached for the Hislop.
I’ve read two of Hislop’s earlier books, The Thread and The Island (neither of them reviewed on this site) as well as some of her short stories, and although I am not a fan of her writing style, she is a master of plot, and this story held my attention thoughout. The setting for this story is Cyprus in the early 1970s, immediately before, during and after the 1974 coup and Turkish invasion. I knew little enough about this history, despite having visited southern Cyprus (in 2002, shortly before the border to the north was opened) and having spoken with a colleague who was actually on holiday in Northern Cyprus when the invasion took place.
The real strength of this story is the way it demonstrates ordinary people caught up in seismic events that change their lives forever; how they support each other and try to retain friendships in the face of calamity; and how, even when we lose everything, life has to carry on.
The villain of the story (apart from the war itself) is a character who, at first, can be almost liked or at least admired. His true deviousness is hinted at but it is only towards the end of the story that his bad character is fully exposed to the reader, as well as to the other actors in the story. Through all their troubles, the Turkish Cypriot Özkan family and the Greek Cypriot Gorgeous stick together. But the fate of the island, and the populations who had formerly lived side by side, is forever changed.