Top positive review
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Heart wrenching- a must read
on 8 November 2010
This is one of those books I'd had sat on my shelf forever before finally picking it up- and I'm so glad I finally read it. Initially I had my reservations, and whilst the first couple of chapters were admittedly a bit hard to get into, thankfully I persevered and was rewarded with an intensely moving novel.
A brief summary: Alexis doesn't know a lot about her mother's family. Sofia has never spoken of her childhood growing up in Crete, and when Alexis decides to visit the island, she discovers the haunting family secrets that her mother has kept hidden for so many years. An abandoned island off the village of Plaka is the first clue for Alexis as to her mother's heritage and soon she uncovers a story of illness going back generations, tragedy and romance...
I'd perceived that this book would be a little overly-heavy on the details and too entrenched with historical facts about Crete and Greece to be an enjoyable read, particularly given the subject matter, but fortunately I was wrong. It is clear that the author has done her research but this book never strays into too many niggly unnecessary details, keeping the reader turning the pages.
As someone who has never visited Crete, the depictions of it and of Spinalonga in particular seemed so vivid and rich that I felt I was there alongside the characters. Describing somewhere where people perhaps have misconceptions of already is not easy but I felt that in the case of Spinalonga, Hislop pulled this off aptly.
There are flaws of course- the character development can be a bit dry in places and if I'm honest, I didn't particularly like Alexis, Anna or Sofia very much and reading about them grew a bit irksome. Maria is the real character you want to know and understand in this story.
This may be a fictional read, but to know that Spinalonga is infact real and that what happened there really did, is just heart wrenching. An incredibly moving read and highly recommended.