Published by Headline Review, 4 June 2015, 481 pages, £7.99.
Quick Description: Heartbreaking historical centered around three stories during the Turkish invasion of Famagusta (Cyprus) in the mid 1970s.
Plot: In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple open the island’s most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the Özkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city’s façade of glamour and success, tension is building. When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.
I became a fan of Victoria Hislop after reading The Island around 7 years ago and fell in love with her writing again when I read The Return. Hislop has a gift for weaving stories about passion, heart-ache, and suffering. We readers are so moved by the inspiring and courageous characters she spins to life. Our hearts lift they they feel joy and plummets when they weep. Her writing is emotional dynamite. The fact that the settings are always based on real events; leprosy, Spanish Civil War and now the Turkish-Greek aggression in Cyprus, makes the stories even more endearing. They also educate readers and makes us more empathetic and socially aware.
Even though The Return is still firmly my favorite, I can assure fellow Hislop fans or any historical fans, they would not be disappointed with The Sunrise. The author provides multiple POVs. Each character is given great depths of detail and complexity; their stories starting decades before and after the invasion. The novel focuses on three main stories, that of Aphroditi and her husband Savvas who own the newly constructed luxury hotel: ‘The Sunrise’, the Georgious’- a Greek family, and the Oskan’s- a Turkish family. All three families are connected to each other in ways they do not realize. When their world crumbles before them, those they can trust and those who betray are not as they had expected.
There are beautifully crafted sentences about the dazzling and dynamic Famagusta; its gorgeous beaches, its culture, the food and the people. This makes the destruction of the tourist haven even more heartbreaking and shocking. There is some romance and passionate scenes. But it takes a backseat compared to love between friends and families. There isn’t really a happy ending but a sense of acceptance and new beginnings for the characters. And learning that the situation in Famagusta has not really been resolved, leaves us still feeling glum. This isn’t a light novel, it packs a punch.
This novel covers the extremes of human kindness and cruelty; proving what Hislop concludes in her ‘Afterthought’: that it is the individual choice, not ethnicity, which plays the greatest role in distinguishing ‘good’ or ‘evil’.
Many thanks to Headline for my review copy! xx
Connect with the author: @VicHislop