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4.4 out of 5 stars1,472
4.4 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 16 July 2006
This has to be one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is certainly a quality book but without being heavy like an old classic. It is well-researched and contains powerful imagery and detailed descriptions of Crete. It makes you want to go and look up the places on the internet so you can see exactly where the novel is set. It is tragic without being upsetting. This novel makes you think about how we treat people today with certain illnesses and explores class, prejudice and discrimination wonderfully. It also makes you consider those who put themselves at risk for the sake of others and humbles the reader.

The story is well structured and I was not able to guess what was going to happen in the end, but the book was so enjoyable throughout that I certainly wasn't hankering to see what would happen at the end. This is one of those books I was sad to finish and will be pushed to find one so good to read next. I will definately be buying the author's next book and would highly recommend this to anyone who likes books that let you escape abroad in your own home but with a bit of substance.
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The acclaimed million-copy number one bestseller and winner of Richard & Judy’s Summer Read 2006 from Victoria Hislop is a dramatic tale of four generations, rent by war, illicit love, violence and leprosy, from the thirties, through the war, to the present day.

On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother’s past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.

Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone’s throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion. She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip…

I picked this book for are october book club read wow what a good read . It a very touching and so well written story . The book so well researched too . The basic plot is when people got leprosy they were shipped from their home of Plaka to the island of Spinalong . You have to live in this new community wow what a community they had on this island they had no chose but to make a new life for them selfs it was so heart breaking to read at times i was so hooked on the story to see what was going to happen next how did they cope ?

The back ground on leprosy was told so well it was so interesting to read . It will make you think about how we treat are loved ones .
The book all about one families lives the mum had to go to spinalonga she leaves behind two daughters they were so opposite to each other we get to hear about all their different lives and how things were for them my heart when out to them

You will feel compassion for those who had suffered but also for those that were left behind
The description of the places were very good you could see them all in your mind i did find the historically real parts of the story so interesting .

All the character were very good but i would of like them to have a bit more dept to them . You do become absorbed in the story .i did feel some of the action were predictable at times but that did not stop me from enjoying this book .i did find the story very gripping at times i just wanted to read more to see what was going to happen
I would recommend you this book
I would of liked a bit more of the ending i wanted it to carry on a bit more but what a great read it was
I hope you all enjoy reading are October book club read ?
What did you all think of it ?
4 stars read enjoy pass on
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on 8 March 2014
I went to Crete last year on holiday and visited Spinalonga, so I was eager to read this story. Initially I was disappointed that there wasn't more dialogue between the characters to give them depth. I realised that the subject matter of leprosy would be sad, but actually, I was surprised with the writing style since I expected it to be better. The story became interesting when I reached Maria's part and I thought the overall description of life on the island very poignant. Especially Eleni's very traumatic death. Ms Hislop's description of Cretan customs and traditions was very good and well researched. I would recommend this book but with reservations.
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on 16 June 2013
Having just spent a week in Crete and as this book was recommended to me by a couple of friends, I read The Island. I found the historically real parts of the story interesting but the style of writing was irritating. I made myself finish reading the book but wouldn't recommend the book.
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on 24 July 2006
This is a very touching and well written story. Hislop evokes real empathy for her characters' battles with the 'curse' of leprosy. The story details how the shame of the disease touched the lives of all affected family members, as well as the wider community. It is impossible not to feel the wrench of those who were exiled onto the leper colony of Spinalonga.

This is so well researched, that the events of the novel seemed real, without falling into the trap of writing a historical account. The plight of the central characters is so compelling that I couldn't put this book down. Further enhanced by beatiful depictions of it's Cretan setting, this book will encourage tourists to trek to Crete and the infamous Spinalonga. Sit back and enjoy...
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on 4 January 2011
The Island should be a really good read since the subject matter (the leper colony of Spinalonga off Crete) is so interesting. But it's let down by incredibly weak writing. Where were Hislop's editors when they were needed? She never uses one sentence when eight will do, the characters are thinly drawn, there is far too much unnecessary padding and the dialogue is clunky. We are always told what every character is thinking and feeling, nothing is left to the imagination. I also spotted some holes in the plot. Why did the inhabitants of Crete want to get rid of the colony when a rumour of leprosy infection circulated, but not when three main characters really were infected? And if Sofia didn't know who her real parents were, how was her paternal grandfather explained to her, when she went to stay with him once a month? A very unsatisfying read.
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on 1 October 2009
I have just finished this appallingly written novel and for the first time felt so strongly about how bad the book was that I decided to write a review. Indeed I only finished it because I was abroad for a long weekend and it was the only book I had with me. Ms Hislop's worst sin is that she simply cannot write and certainly not to a standard which should ever have got her published. Others have conjectured as to why she has been published. The reality probably is that her publishers recognise a cash cow when they see it regardless of the quality of the product (although judging by the reviews of 'The Return' they might struggle with novel number three). The clunkiness of her style, if style it can be called, would not have got her past first base in a creative writing course. It is embarrassing in its mediocrity and complete failure to create any sense of pace, characterisation or atmosphere. It is entirely cliche ridden. The structure is ludicrous - the topping and tailing with dull unbelievable characters does not begin to work. The central part of the novel collapses under the weight of sub-Mills and Boon writing with characters who have no colour and life and therefore in whom the reader cannot begin to care. There is a great book to be written about Spinalonga. The tragedy is that for most readers their 'understanding' of what went on there will be confined to this trash.
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VINE VOICEon 26 January 2010
A major theme of this novel is how things that previous generations do affects the lives of those born later. Although this book was probably an averagely good read - it was the fact that it really highlighted how our actions affect our children and childrens children that really did make me think.
I read this book back in February as part of a Book Group - and thought that although entertaining and quite interesting insight into the treatment of Lepers, it was sometimes a bit 'obvious'. For example the Pathetic Fallacy (where the weather is given human emotional attributes) was so overt that it really spoilt the upcoming 'suprise' because you expected something to happen as suddenly the clouds got dark and there was all this weather related emotional 'atmosphere'.
However I have thought about this novel a lot in the intervening months and its message is poignant and in many ways life changing. I think that it touches greatly on our notions of 'free-will'. I'm not the person I am because I chose to be that way - many and even most of my experience is derived from who my parents are, the decisions they made, the jobs they have and the location they lived, the attitude of their parents, my grandparents toward education etc. Considering this, it is interesting as a parent to reflect on how my actions, decisions and ability to grasp opportunities will affect my own children.
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on 20 February 2007
I enjoyed The Island but I think it has to be admitted that it cast leprosy in an "old" light: a book mentioned below, John Tayman's The Colony was aimed at the serious reader who wants to know about leprosy from a non-fiction viewpoint, and Dinah Kung's Under Their Skin offers readers a more complex, engrossing novel where leprosy medicine is in the fabric of the story, but isn't the focus. The Island was obviously meant for beach reading, even said so on the cover. I'm studying public health so I'm thrilled to see authors looking at medicine this way for all kinds or levels of reading!
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