25th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony. And a moment of violence has devastating consequences.
When time stops dead for Maria Petrakis and her sister, Anna, two families splinter apart and, for the people of Plaka, the closure of Spinalonga is forever coloured with tragedy.
In the aftermath, the question of how to resume life looms large. Stigma and scandal need to be confronted and somehow, for those impacted, a future built from the ruins of the past.
Number one bestselling author Victoria Hislop returns to the world and characters she created in The Island – the award-winning novel that remains one of the biggest selling reading group novels of the century. It is finally time to be reunited with Anna, Maria, Manolis and Andreas in the weeks leading up to the evacuation of the island… and beyond.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. About 15 years ago I read the prequel to this book which was called The Island. From memory it was a holiday read and I loved it. But because it was so long ago and I’ve read a lot of books since I can remember little of it. Apart from the island that became a leper colony and the way it tore apart lives when loved ones had to go and live there. But I was thrilled to be sent this follow up which I decided to read as a stand-alone novel.
It starts with a tragedy at what should have been a happy occasion. The release of all the inhabitants of Spinalonga after a cure had been found for leprosy. One of those released was affected personally by what happened and she is one whose story you read. How she coped with her release and the way she chose to deal with the tragedy that occurred. Anna was one of the central characters in The Island, and really the only one I remembered anything about.
The other thread of the story involves Manolis, who flees Crete after what occurred. He builds a new life for himself but can never settle into a relationship and be truly happy. Despite not remembering him from The Island it was his story I preferred. His life with friends, especially his landlady was one that I really enjoyed.
The culture, the people, the developing tourism all felt realistic and I would happily reread The Island and then read this again. I’m sure reading the two together will reveal so much more about the history from the time.
After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.
But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth . . .
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I read a lot of crime fiction, most of it fast paced some of it slow. Hermit is probably one of the more slower paced novels that I have read, but it is the only way it could be. It works perfectly.
It concerns one murder investigation and apart from a few memories that the chief suspect, Nathan, is encouraged to reveal takes place across one day. For the chief investigator Dana it is a very long day. It is the day which she started contemplating suicide until she got the call about the murder at the local store. It is a day that she never usually works, you only find out some of the reasons why very late in the novel.
As you would expect with a police procedural novel much of the book shows the attempts to find out why the store owner was murdered but it differs because of Dana’s method of gaining Nathan’s trust. She wants to know why he has spent living the last 15 years as a hermit and how he survived without any human contact. I felt at times she envied him for his way of life. Over a series of interviews between just the two of them everything is revealed. I felt sadness and horror over what happened to him, as well as awe over how he coped until the moment it all went wrong.
There were times when they seemed similar. Both struggling with events from the last, both struggling to explain why, both coping in different ways. It could have been depressing but for Dana’s colleagues, in particular Lucy who made me smile quite a lot. I wouldn’t like to be a lawyer who had to deal with her!
The ending left me near howling with frustration, this is one book I am absolutely desperate for a follow up.
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.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I had enjoyed reading one of the author’s earlier books, The Island, a few years ago so was looking forward to reading this new one.
It takes place in Athens and starts in the 1940s. Themis lives with her grandmother and siblings and almost straightaway you see how politics divided them. I had a lot of sympathy for their grandmother, having to cope with their disagreements on a daily basis.
I felt at times like I was reading two different novels. One concerning Themis and her life throughout WW2 and the civil war that followed. Her experience as a prisoner and the friendships made at that time. And another about her family life, her childhood, her marriage and the fear that her previous life would catch up with her. It was the latter that I found easier to read, not because I enjoyed it more, but because the politics, brutality and fear was so convincing I felt like I was there.
Themis was an astonishing character. Loyal, brave and caring. All three strengths that weren’t evident with her siblings at first. It was only in the latter stages of the novel that they could be seen in her older brother.
I’m ashamed to say that I know nothing at all about Greek history and by reading this book I learned a lot.
TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.
On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?
Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.
Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have been interested in reading this book for a few months so was thrilled to be asked to support its publication. I am aware of the play, Hamlet, but don’t know what it is about or that it was named after his son who died when he was a child. I have however, visited Stratford Upon Avon a few times and know the streets and the houses that are connected to Shakespeare.
Although the book concerns William Shakespeare and his family he isn’t named. He is known throughout as his son, her husband or their father. All of the other characters are named, even though his wife is known as Agnes not Anne. I liked the way this was done, showing that whilst he was living in London writing, there was another equally important life back in Stratford. And it was because of this life that he was able to do it instead of teaching Latin and selling gloves. And more importantly keeping him away from his father.
I adored Agnes. Her spirit, her strangely modern approach to life and her way of reading people. It is implied that she could see the future but she could also accurately see a person’s true character. Especially concerning her father in law and her stepmother, and I liked how she used that knowledge to help her family. And most of all I liked the way she ignored all who tried to ridicule or insult her. I also liked her brother Bartholomew, large and protective and wise.
I have never read anything like this before. It made me want to find out more about the plays and when I go back to Stratford I will be looking with new eyes.
Today, I am featuring a character interview with Ed Belloc who is the partner of Marnie Rome in Sarah Hilary’s wonderful series. I first became aware of this series when I received a copy of Someone Else’s Skin in a goody bag at Theakston’s Crime Festival. This book was the winner of the Theakston’s 2015 crime novel of the year and was also one of Richard and Judy’s Book Club books in 2014.
Character Interview – Ed Belloc
What do you do for a living?
I’m a Victim Support Officer, working with men and women affected by violent crime. This is going to sound odd, but I love my job. It’s hard and heart-breaking, and funding cuts make it frustrating, but it’s far and away the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.
Did you meet Marnie through your work?
Yes, on a case involving child abduction. I was called in to support the family. Marnie was part of the team leading the investigation. It was her instinct that traced the kidnapping back to the grandparents. It was a tricky case, could’ve ended badly—wouldhave, if it wasn’t for her. Since then, we’ve worked together many times. I’ve never stopped admiring her courage and her resolve. Sorry, that sounds like I’m writing a reference … It’s an honour to work with her, though. Her bravery … People measure courage in different ways, but for me it’s about getting back up. She never stops getting back up. Take this latest case she’s working on: knife crime in London. Some people see that as a rising tide that can’t be stopped, but she sees every life affected by it, and feels it too. She puts the whole of herself into her work. That compassion and vulnerability? Is what makes her a great detective. At the same time, and for the record, I really wouldn’t want to be on the other side of the law where DI Rome’s concerned. She gets it done.
When did you first fall in love?
Honestly? When she brought that kid back home, right at the end of that first investigation. She didn’t want any thanks, or any glory. She just wanted to do her job. Then after Stephen … What he did to her parents—to her? For a long time she was grieving, fighting to get better. It was five years before I acted on those feelings. I spent most of that time thinking I’d never be able to tell her how I felt, because of everything else she was going through. Luckily for me, her patience outstripped my prevarication.
Do you find it easy to talk about each other’s work or do you prefer to talk about other things? I imagine with the job both of you are in it feels normal.
I’m not sure I’d call it normal, but yes. We do talk about our work, the same as other couples, I guess. I know she’ll listen and understand, and I hope she knows I’m the same. Of course, some nights we ask the Big Questions, like how come the redshirt vampires in Buffy spontaneously combust in sunlight while Spike just smoulders until he finds shelter? It’s not all work.
It is lovely that you can be with her without seeing her as a victim, does that feeling come natural or is it hard to put her past to one side?
Damn, that’s a really good question. I don’t ever forget what’s been done to her; she’s struggling with it every day. For a long time, the idea of being a victim horrified her. I think that’s changed, over time. She’s met too many survivors to think ‘victim’ means weak or helpless. Look at the women in the refuge where we worked together … She’s in a place where she’s ready to make peace with her past, and that’s a huge thing. I’m scared for her, if I’m honest, but at the same time I’m proud of her. Not many people make it through the way she has.
Do you think it’s good for her to maintain contact with Stephen?
If you’d asked me that five years ago, I’d have said no. I’ve hated the hold he’s had over her, all the ways he was still hurting her, despite the fact he’s in prison. But she needed to stay in touch. She wasn’t ready to let it go. That’s changed too.
Another character I have a lot of sympathy for is Noah. I feel that he is a good friend to both of you. Is it a fine line between friend and counsellor?
He’s a great friend, and the easiest man in the world to talk to. Life’s not been kind to Noah of late, but I hope he knows I’m here for him. He needs his friends right now.
What is your ideal date? Meal, concert, evening walk?
I refer to you to my earlier answer about Buffy. We still haven’t solved that spontaneous combustion versus smouldering thing …
About Sarah Hilary
Sarah Hilary’s debut novel, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, won Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year and was a World Book Night selection. The Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”) and a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, it has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series was shortlisted for a Barry Award in the US. Her DI Marnie Rome series continues with TASTES LIKE FEAR (2016) QUIETER THAN KILLING (2017) COME AND FIND ME (2018) and NEVER BE BROKEN (2019).