Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Island

Title: The Island

Author: Victoria Hislop

Number of pages: 473

Started: 22 January 2013

Finished: 6 February 2013

Opening words:

Plaka 1953
A cold wind whipped through the narrow streets of Plaka and the chill of the autumnal air encircled the woman, paralyzing her body and mind with a numbness that almost blocked her senses but could do nothing to alleviate her grief.

As she stumbled the last few meters to the jetty she leaned heavily on her father, her gait that of an old crone for whom every step brought a stab of pain. But her pain was not physical. Her body was as strong as any young woman who had spent her life breathing the pure Cretan air, and her skin was so youthful and her eyes as intensely brown and bright as those of any girl on this island.

The little boat, unstable with its cargo of oddly shaped bundles lashed together with string, bobbed and lurched on the sea. The elderly man lowered himself in slowly, and with one hand trying to hold the craft steady reached out with the other to help his daughter. Once she was safely on board he wrapped her protectively in a blanket to shield her from the elements. The only visible indication then that she was not simply another piece of cargo, were the long strands of dark hair that flew and danced freely in the wind. He carefully released his vessel from its mooring -there was nothing more to be said or done - and their journey began. This was not the start of a short trip to deliver supplies. It was the beginning of a one-way journey to start a new life. Life on a leper colony. Life on Spinaloga

Plot summary:

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...

What I thought:

This was a well written book, which transported the reader into the story.  This might be seen as a touch unfortunate given that part of it was set in a leper colony.  It was a family tale that unfolded as a woman finally found out her mother’s true story.

It was also a book that helped to break down some of the mythology around leprosy, the stigma around the disease being a significant part of the story.

It was a sad and moving tale, but also one about loyalty and family relationships.  A good read, well told and with some poignant moments.

No comments: