Published by Headline Review
Ebook & Hardback (30 May 2019) | Paperback (20 February 2020)
Source: Copy provided by publisher for review
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour and to Headline for providing a review copy. My apologies to the organisers for the delayed review – my blog has had “technical problems” and I’m only now catching up.
ABOUT 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.
My most favourite Victoria Hislop book is The Island however, Those Who Are Loved now sits up there alongside it. It’s not a quick read and requires time and investment but it is so worthwhile immersing yourself into this wonderful story.
Those We Have Loved is an epic story of Greece’s turbulent and often brutal political history from 1930 through to modern day and is a captivating and powerful read. Focusing on one family – and one character in particular, it is wonderfully told story of personal conviction and strength of character.
Themis Koralis (to use her family name) is our main character and the story begins with her in 2016 as an elderly woman, surrounded by four generations of her family to celebrate her birthday. Following the celebrations, she tells her story to two of her older grandchildren and this is where her life story unfolds.
As a young child she is bought up in an apartment in Athens by her grandmother after a devastating event causes a family split. Her young life is not a particularly happy one. Although her grandmother does her best for all the children and to provide for them during particularly difficult times, her elder sister Margarita is spiteful and nasty whilst her two elder brothers Panos and Thanasis are always at loggerheads and tensions are fraught as they have different political beliefs. One was a passionate believer in the Government’s collusion with Germany believing the Germans to be allies and the other is an ardent communist.
As Themis matures, she witnesses tragedy and extreme suffering caused by the German occupation beginning in 1941, followed by civil war and makes up her mind which path she will follow. This decision will shape the rest of her life and will have both tragic and dramatic repercussions.
I had no real idea of how violent and turbulent Greece’s political history had been and how much death and suffering had been caused by politics and through Themis, Victoria Hislop has walked me through decades of Greek history.
I am not sure whether I would have made the same decisions as Themis, but I admired her greatly for having the courage of her convictions and for staying true to her beliefs. She was a marvellous character and one that absolutely made the story for me.
The story has everything, drama, tragedy, cruelty, love, tenderness and joy. I was so completely enthralled and although my proof copy was over 480 pages my interest never wavered. Man’s inhumanity and cruelty were sometimes hard to read but then there were times when people who had nothing, came together to help one another.
I know from previous books that Greece is Victoria Hislop’s specialist subject but even so, the amount of research required to produce a story rich in such detail with such vivid imagery shines through. I loved it and if you want a book that not only entertains but educates as well, then look no further!
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 1.2million 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.