Ooh another book review…and another good one! I was so hooked that I read it in 5 hours straight. Staying up til 1:30am on a work night? Not a feat I’ll be repeating. Was it worth it? Totally.
The Island by Victoria Hislop
Alexis is a 25-year old woman searching for answers. She’s lived a happy life with her family in London, but has always had questions about her mother’s past. She’s spent her most recent years exploring ancient history, yet finds herself looking a little closer to home as she contemplates the future of her relationship with boyfriend Ed. Her mum has always been very closed about her past, so when Alexis is handed a letter to take to the village of Plaka, Crete, along with an address and the name of a lady who will help her, she is surprised but delighted. We follow her journey to meet her mother’s family friend, where the intial revelation of Alexis’ links to the leper colony on the island of Spinalonga is first made. From there, we learn exactly what happened in Alexis’ family, long before her mother was born.
And it is SO good. The book is split into parts, starting in 2001, jumping back to the 1930s, then making our way back to 2001 again. Even though the story is bookended with Alexis’ journey, the central tale is all in the past. I loved how it was gripping with regards to the characters and the lives they lived. There was no twisting, turning plot, but it was so well written and so deeply personal, I was genuinely hooked by Hislop’s fantastic story.
It’s written in the third person, so we can see each characters thoughts as Hislop decides to divulge them, and there are so many brilliant characters! The family at the centre of it all, their friends, those who live in the leper colony, the doctors…I had so many favourites. They all had such depth, I felt as though I was reading a true story.
I also found the historical aspect really interesting. There is lots of fact in amongst the events. Spinalonga was, and is, a real place where real people with leprosy were sent to live in their own isolated community. Plaka is a real place. The truth of peoples’ perceptions of leprosy is still real today. I learnt a lot about the disease that I didn’t know before, and a lot about Greece/Crete that I never knew, I even began googling places to stay in Plaka as I’m keen to go and visit!
So if you need a book to read this Autumn, look no further. Buy it, borrow it (don’t steal it!), read it!