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The Thread is set in Greece's second city Thessaloniki with a prologue set in the present day. A young Anglo-Greek hears for the first time the story of his Grandparents and this story starts in 1917. A fire rages out of control and most of the citizens are left homeless. A baby boy is born that night and The Thread follows the story of that child - Dimitri Komninos. As a small boy Dimitri plays on the street with Katerina who is a refugee from Asia Minor, she fled when the Turks invaded her homeland.

This is a story of long-lasting, enduring love. It is also the story of a nation and particularly a city. Following the turbulent events of the twentieth century. Fires, wars, invastions, dictatorship and earthquakes this country and it's people went through so much. There are heartbreaking scenes within the story - the brutality and violence that happened during the German occupation - the fierce civil war and fighting between the Government and the rebel communists

At times this is a complex read and The Thread is an apt title - not only because of the links to the textile industry but also the clever way that Hislop has linked her characters, regardless of their race or status within the city.
Ultimately a love story, this is also a story of survival and of bravery, of passion and at times of brutality and such great sadness.

As in her previous novels, the modern day prologue and epilogue tie up the historical story. It's a neat way of letting the reader know how history influenced the present for the characters.

I was bewitched from page one, and The Thread is most certainly going to be one of my Top Five reads of 2011.
33 comments318 of 325 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This is the first book I have read by Victoria Hislop and I shall definitely be reading her others. Young Dimitri visits his grandparents in Thessaloniki in 2007. He would really like them to come and live with other members of the family now they are old and frail but they tell him they are happy where they are.

Most of the book is taken up with the story of their lives. Grandfather Dimitri and his wife Katerina first met as children when Katerina arrives in Thessaloniki as an exile and ends up living next door to Dimitri and his mother in a rundown area while their mansion is rebuilt following a fire which destroyed much of the city.

What follows is a joyful and at times harrowing and poignant story of their lives from the World War I to the latter half of the twentieth century. Katerina has a gift for sewing and embroidery and as she grows up finds it easy to get work. Dimitri is not on good terms with his wealthy father and frequently disagrees with him on politics and his future career to the extent that he is estranged from his family and has to visit his mother, Olga, in secret for much of her life. The chapters which cover World War II show how inhumane people can be but it also shows how compassion and humanity can be found in the most unexpected places.

I found the book enjoyable and well written in a low key style which lets the events of the story speak for themselves. The backdrop of the volatile politics in Greece over the whole of the twentieth century is never obtrusive though the main characters are clearly rooted in their time. I liked Katerina, in particular, as a character and she comes over to the reader as a very strong and down to earth individual. Dimitri is not so prominent in the story and I didn't really feel I got to know him that well as I was reading the book. It is a story of how exile and war affect everyday life and how individuals deal with manmade and natural disasters.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys novels where the setting is as important as the characters. I really felt by the end of the book that I knew a great deal about Thessaloniki even though I have never lived there.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 27 October 2011
Victoria Hislop's latest novel is a story about love, loyalty, family, war, politics and Greek history all blended into an easy and accessible read. The story is set in Thessaloniki, in Greece where, in the early part of the last century, Victoria Hislop tells us: "Thessaloniki was a place of dazzling cultural variety, where an almost evenly balanced population of Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted and complimented each other like the interwoven threads of an oriental carpet". However, the threads started to unravel during the Greco-Turkish war, when a large number of Muslims left Greece, and further unravelled during the Second World War, when the Jews were tragically removed during the Nazi occupation.

The story centres on Dimitri Komninos, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant who is a native of the city, and Katerina who comes to Greece as a young child, a refugee, separated from her mother, during their flight from Asia Minor when their home in Smyrna is destroyed by the Turkish army. As Dimitri and Katerina grow up, Katerina trains to become a seamstress, creating beautiful garments for the rich, whilst Dimitri studies medicine and becomes interested in the Communist Party. Life is not always easy, but with the invasion of their city by the Italian Fascists and then the Germans, Katerina and Dimitri become horrified witnesses to war and to ethnic cleansing. This causes Dimitri to become much more politically active and to join the resistance movement and, whilst this may not be an obviously romantic context for their love story, it is an exciting one. As the lives of Dimitri and Katerina become further entwined, we learn not only about them and their growing and changing love for each other, but about the story of Thessaloniki itself, about how and where we live can shape and define us, and about how political changes can impact on ordinary families and change their lives completely. It is also about how the past cannot be forgotten and about how what has gone before impacts on life in the present.

This book was a gift and I must admit that initially I wasn't sure I would enjoy it, especially as I have to confess to finding some of the language a little cliched and some parts of the story just a bit too sentimental for me. However, Victoria Hislop has worked hard on her research of the history of Thessaloniki, her depictions of family relationships are effectively drawn and for an undemanding down-time read this novel worked better than I thought it might. 'The Thread' isn't a great literary novel, and not meant to be, but it is an interesting story with a good sense of time and place and one with a very accessible lesson in Greek history too.

3 Stars.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 November 2011
It is 1917 in Thessaloniki and Dimitri Komninos is born at the same time as a ravage fire breaks out, the first of many tragic events that destroy this Greek city where people of different races and religions have historically lived amongst each other in peace and harmony. Five years later Katerina Sarafoglou, a small girl, escapes to Greece when separated from her mother after their home in Asia Minor is eradicated by the Turkish army. This is the story of the intertwined lives of Dimitri and Katerina. From World War 1 through to modern day we read not only of the catastrophic events that took place and the heartbreak caused to so many families due to war and oppression, but also of love, friendship and bravery.
This was such an enjoyable novel , was hooked from the very beginning, highly recommend.
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on 9 June 2012
I thought this book was ok: quite readable and entertaining but I found the plot highly predictable. It's a good holiday read but one that you'd probably leave for someone else than make the effort to repack
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on 19 March 2015
I should have read the 1 star reviews before buying this book. The story is utterly predictable, not offering any twist or element of surprise; the obvious example of this is the fact that the key protagonists, Dimitri and Katerina are telling this story about their past and are together, alive and well, as they narrate the tale. Furthermore, whilst the author squeezes a lot of Greek history and family events into the tale, it lacks any drama. At no point in reading the book did I have a feeling of “what is going to happen next?”

Some authors can make up for these failings with their characters and engaging dialogue. Sadly the book failed on both these fronts too. The characters are very simplified, superficial and oh so clichéd: naturally Pavlina, as the house keeper, is also the local gossip; every feature and action of Konstantinos Komninos is “bad”; and obviously the main characters Dimitri and Katerina are always virtuous and the best at whatever they do. The characters are polarised between those that are good and those that are bad, lacking that depth of realistic good characters who have failings, and bad characters with redeeming features or some personal justification for their actions.

The theme of 20th century Greek history is also lacking authenticity and strength in description. Any war brings shortages in food, violence and injustice. Some descriptions therefore were just silly and naive, those of an armchair westerner who has never experienced hardship and looks back on these events with the eyes of 21st century excess and comfort.

I definitely won’t read anything else by this author.
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on 13 September 2012
Well, anyone with the gift of keeping thousands upon thousands of readers, and all the marketing fizz that goes with it, has to be good at something.

You don't buy a book like this because it's great literature (puzzling the Spectator review....)but because it's a good story and for the first half, this races along and engages us with a family in extraordinary circumstances. It's got everything you want for a beach read : settings and history and jobs that are written in an easy and often captivating way.

You'll learn something about Greek history and for once, won't regret a penny spent on this novel. How often can you say that?

Hmmm....but all those creative writing courses and publisher blogs who teach the craft of writing really ought to shut up shop because this book shows you don't need any of it to be a best seller. Nope. Nada. Squat. In fact, perhaps what Hislop proves is that if publishers just put books out there that aren't over crafted they might sell more.

The characters are engaging but they don't develop. There is tell and show all the way through with history given to you in chunks as if it is an essay and not weaved in as part of the plot. Poor people struggle but are NICE. Rich people are UNHAPPY. And the plot device used in all Hislop novels : that photo or letter that links it all up.

And then the end - within five pages we jump from 1961 to 1978 and cram in a quick earthquake to boot. From the depth of the first half we rush into a one hell of an end.

But Hislop's doing something right.
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on 5 January 2012
I was so looking forward to reading this, because so many of the reviews had whetted my appetite for a really meaty historical novel that would entertain as well as help me learn something. But my final verdict is that it didn't really work, either as a book about Greece or as a family saga. The problem might be to do with the characterisation. We don't really get to care too much about Katerina or Dimitri. Neither of them seems to change, we don't really know them any better at the end than at the start. So many 'why' questions are unanswered. Why is Komninos so cold? Why does Olga have agoraphobia? Why does Katerina marry that monster? I could go on, but to do so would give the story away completely. And yet, I did find myslef wanting to know what happens next, so it is a real page-turner. The tourist board of Thessaloniki must be thanking their lucky stars.
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on 27 August 2012
It is always a difficult balance to set the lives of key characters against historical events and places and this novel achieves this reasonably well. The story is gripping and you want to know how it ends though by around two-thirds of the way through it's becoming fairly clear. It is fluently written but with heavy doses of sentimentality. While the context is well developed - the history of Thessaloniki from 1917 to the near present in the wider frame of world events and Greek politics - the characters are less so. In a postscript Hislop notes that the city itself is a character and its turbulent tragic narrative of transformation from a well integrated multicultural city to one almost entirely Greek Orthodox is central, while The Thread's narrators, Katerina and Dimitri, remain rooted both in the city and its past, regarding themselves as custodians of a time when it was Jewish and Muslim as well as Christian. But the characters themselves are all drawn in black and white, good/bad, with little exploration of ambiguities or uncertainties and they don't really develop through the novel. Konstantinos Komninos is introduced as cold to those around him and indifferent to humanity and so he stays, without any exporation or inner tension or explanation. Likewise Katerina is long suffering and kind hearted yet a survivor - but again the absence of any interior monologue means that she remains one-dimensional and not in the end very interesting. When despite her strength of character in other respects she marries a monster it is hard to see this as plausible. Her love interest Dimitri, the son of Konstantinos, is similarly undeveloped although his involvement in the resistance and civil war could have been grounds for more nuanced exploration. While we sympathise with Dimitri's rage against his father it isn't really clear why he's developed so differently than his father had hoped. And so on with most of the others. The most potentially interesting character is Konstantinos's brother Leonidas but events mean that he doesn't have a large role in the story despite having been instrumental in creating the crucial thread. There are cleaver plays on weaving, tapestry and design that feature centrally in the lives of the characters and the notion of history and human relationships as interwoven threads. But the plot relies several times on coincidences that are to say the least implausible while courses of action that seem to the reader rather obvious are not followed. Why for example doesn't Katerina's mother having been separated from her daughter on the keyside find out from the seemingly well-organzed Red Cross where the next boat was destined? Well because then the story couldn't have developed as it did. So in all - well written and enjoyable to read but you need to go with the plot and not ask to many questions about it or the characters.
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on 27 October 2011
This book opens in the modern era, and ends there, but the rest is all 1917 and forward. A young man is being told the story of his grandparents a and why they do not want to leave the city. Making this a mix of historical fiction and modern fiction.

It was a good story about the Katerina and Dimitri, but it was just as much a story about Greek modern history and especially then Thessaloniki history. Because they see so much since they live through it. Honestly I can't even begin with all the twists and turns, war, politics and civil wars, it's always there in the background as life goes on, as life always does.

If I first look at all of this because it has such a big impact on things. First they fight with Turkey which brings young Katerina to Greece from Smyrna, and all the Muslims have to leave Greece. Tragedy from the beginning. Then there is of course WWII which brings Greece into another turmoil and lots of fighting, and the chapters I found the hardest. The Germans come and then they send away the Jews to Poland. And they think everything will be ok while I scream do not go. But of course they go. I will never understand the cruelty of humans, and why some just stand by. But all these things brings such a reality and impact to this story.

The story of Katerina and Dimitri is one that is long in the making. We know they will end up together but the road there is long because of war and its impact on both of them. And Dimitri is rich, but with a troubled family life. Katerina is poor, but with a loving family. But something brings them together, I will let something be a secret. I do like both of them, and their friends and family. Since the books spans over a big portion of time there will be losses, heartache and sorrow, happiness and new paths to take, weaving it all to beautiful story that takes a hold of you.

It was a lovely portrait over a family and a city. I must say that a lot of things happened in Greece, and it does make it a rich settings for a story.

Conclusion:
I read the book pretty fast because I wanted to know what would happen, and it would be a fiction book that I recommend.

Cover
Fitting
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