The acclaimed million-copy number one bestseller
Victoria Hislop is a writer and journalist. She writes travel features for the Sunday Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday and a number of magazines. She also writes regular features on education for the Daily Telegraph, and celebrity profiles for Woman & Home. Victoria lives in Kent with her husband, Ian Hislop, and their two children.
It would be hard to imagine a more cheerless setting for a novel than a leper colony on a remote Greek island, but the community of Spinalonga provides a remarkable backdrop for this affecting, multigenerational saga. At the outset of World War II, when she exhibits the first signs of leprosy, Eleni Petrakis is exiled to Spinalonga, an island off the coast of Crete. Leaving behind her husband and young daughters, Eleni believes her life is over. But the sun-soaked island, with its brightly painted houses and lively, well-run community, turns out to be a comfortable and humane refuge. Life is less kind to the family she had to forsake. While Maria remains a caring daughter to her single parent, sister Anna never recovers from the abandonment and grows into a cold and deceitful woman. In a cruel twist of fate, it is Maria who also falls prey to the disease on the eve of her wedding and who is sentenced to spend her own days on Spinalonga. Bookended by the present-day journey into her past by Anna's grown daughter, this debut novel is a deeply pleasurable read.-Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, Ont. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
'Adding depth and colour to the story is the description of Cretan life... in particular, the vividly detailed account of life on Spinalonga... It is one of the achievements of this thoughtful novel that it presents the lives of the island's inhabitants with such empathy. The result is a fascinating work that combines a moving love story witha plea for more understanding about this most cruel of diseases.' -- The Times 20060417 'This is a vivid, moving and absorbing tale, with its sensitive, realistic engagement with all the consequences of, and stigma attached to leprosy, elevating it beyond holiday literature.' -- Observer 20060416 'Gently gripping tale' -- Scotsman on Sunday 20060416 'Brings dignity and tenderness to her novel' -- Telegraph 20060430 'a compelling story that has rarely left the bestseller list this year and deservedly so' -- Sunday Express 20061203
Travel writer Hislop's unwieldy debut novel opens with 25-year-old Alexis leaving Britain for Crete, her mother Sofia's homeland, hoping to ferret out the secrets of Sofia's past and thereby get a handle on her own turbulent life. Sofia's friend Fortini tells Alexis of her grandmother Anna, and great-aunt Maria. Their mother (Alexis's great-grandmother) contracted leprosy in 1939 and went off to a leper colony on the nearby island of Spinalonga, leaving them with their father. Anna snags a wealthy husband, Andreas, but smolders for his renegade cousin, Manoli. When philanderer Manoli chooses Maria, Anna is furious. Conveniently, Maria also contracts leprosy and is exiled, allowing Anna to conduct an affair with Manoli. Meanwhile, Maria feels an attraction to her doctor, who may have similar feelings. Though the plot is satisfyingly twisty, the characters play one note apiece (Anna is prone to dramatic outrages, Maria is humble and kind, and their love interests are jealous and aggressive). Hislop's portrayal of leprosy-those afflicted and the evolving treatment-during the 1940s and 1950s is convincing, but readers may find the narrative's preoccupation with chronicling the minutiae of daily life tedious. (July) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.