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The Island by Victoria Hislop

About the book

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…

Reviewed by Solent U3A Reading Group:

This book generated a lot of discussion by all but one of the group. Most felt her description of life on the island both fascinating and moving. Wonderful characters. A very good read.

Star rating: ****

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12 thoughts on “The Island by Victoria Hislop”

  1. Review by Bookends Hayling Library:
    A most enjoyable book; believable characters. Sad and moving, well written and a good insight into the Cretan life at the time as well as the Spinalonga leper colony and leprosy itself. Definitely recommended.
    Rating: 5 Stars

  2. Review by Morning Tide WI Reading group:
    A fictional story of life at Spinalonga, a small isle off Crete where people with any sign of leprosy had to live. In 1957 as medicine had found means of controlling and even curing leprosy in Europe, Spinalonga was closed and its remaining patients allowed to live on the mainland or in hospital. Enjoyed by all who would have given it ten stars.
    Star rating: ****

  3. Review by Everton reading group:
    A true picture of a Greek community with believable interpretation of the prejudices towards leprosy. A text book first novel which engenders empathy. The text is beautifully written with excellent characterisation. The highest score we have alloted ever.
    Star rating: ****

  4. Review by Hawkley Reading Group:
    We all thought the subject of the leper colony at Spinalonga was fascinating. We were shocked by how little we had known. Only one of us thought this overrode the slipshod writing, 2D characterisation and ‘clunky’ linking storyline – we didn’t need the invitation to use the contemporary characters Alexis and Sophia in order to relate to characters’ experiences in the 30s and 40s but we did need to engage with the earlier generation not cliches.
    Star rating: Half

  5. Review by Cowdray Reading Group:
    All the group really enjoyed this book. Felt we understood a lot more about leprosy and horrified that it still exists in so many places in the world. Vividly detailed account of life on Spinalonga, presenting the lives of its inhabitants with great empathy. A fascinating and moving love story, a gently gripping read.
    Star rating: ****

  6. Review by King’s Somborne Reading Group:
    Not a great work of literature but interesting subject matter. Characters rather clichéd. An easy read. Atmospheric picture of Greek village life and a society of outcasts making the best of a terrible situation. End reassuring and upbeat overcoming the feeling of guilt after years of keeping these dreadful family secrets.
    Star rating: ***

  7. Review by Shipton Bellinger WI Reading Group:
    Not a great work of literature but we thoroughly enjoyed it. we effortlessly learnt about leprosy in relatively modern Europe as we raced through the book.
    Star rating: ***

  8. Review by Enjoying Books Reading Group:
    A most interesting and unusual topic – leprosy and the interweaving of the family sagas made it a ‘good read’ despite a somewhat clichéd style.
    Star rating: ***

  9. Review by Faregrove Court Reading Group:
    We all enjoyed this book very much. Not just for the story line about people (one of us thought the main characters somewhat black and white) but because there was so much interesting background: about leprosy and the island colony; village life, local characters and festivals; the interaction with the German occupation. We rated it as outstanding for a first novel.
    Star rating: ***

  10. Review by Elson Readers Group:
    A fantastic book, raises ones awareness of leprosy and how it was treated.
    Star rating: ****

  11. Review by Goodworth Clatford WI Reading Group:
    Very well written and researched. Entirely believable. Thoroughly enjoyed by all the group. Characters well drawn, a page turner for excellence.
    Star rating: ****++

  12. Review by Andover Reading Group
    Surprising topic. Very descriptive writing. Everyone enjoyed the book and enjoyed the subject matter.
    Star rating ****

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