Friday, 14 August 2015

Post Number 16: Victoria Hislop, The Sunrise


I finished this sitting in a big comfy chair in the conservatory, listening to the rain. Ironic, when  you consider the title of my chosen holiday read! Can't complain however, we haven't had too much rain this summer and the conservatory has been far too hot to do more than pass through it of late.

I added up my total reads for 2015 and am ashamed to say that it stands at only 12.  I am going to give myself more comfy chair time in the latter part of the year to boost this paltry number! I have probably read less this summer because of a new addiction...a free app on my tablet called twenty.  It is deceptively simple...you simply move tiles in numerical order, reaching 20 as often as you can. My daughter discovered it as a uni revision distraction, and it has rapidly become the time waster of the summer holidays.

picture from http://www.tripfiction.com
Onto summer reading then. I have read Hislop's other novels, and enjoyed two of them enough to give her latest release a go.  The Sunrise is set in Cyprus at the time of the civil war in the mid 1970s and shows how terrible it was for both the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots. As with her other novels, The Island  and The Thread, I learnt about a period of history of which I had been previously unaware.  I like the fact that fiction mirrors life, I have learnt a lot of facts through historical and political novels. Though I was only a young child at the time, I had never realised that there had been a civil war in Cyprus, and was shocked to read that the ramifications are still being felt.  In her afterword, Hislop brings readers up to date, and there remain 40,000 Turkish troops in the north of the island, even today.

So the backdrop is interesting.  The story is also good but its telling is a little stilted.  I never fully believed in any of the characters as real people.  For me, there was far too much telling and not enough showing. This was also my difficulty with The Return. It is a light read but with a heavy topic as its background, and I'm not sure that goes together.

The story begins with the tale of hoteliers Savvos and his wife Aphrodite and their exploitation of a rich and luxurious tourist market. The eponymous new hotel forms the backdrop to introduce two key families, the Georgious and the Ozkans. The names convey their cultural identity, but their contented co-existence, and indeed, co-dependence in the face of invasion belie the stereotype of racial disharmony. These families are used to show that cosmopolitan living is achievable in Cyprus, and was indeed lived out in the everyday lives of those who lived and worked in Famagusta before the troubles began. A significant side story follows Markos Georgious, Savvos's right hand man.  His initial depiction as someone whom Aphrodite is suspicious of, made her love affair with him an inevitability from the start. This plot line was never fully credible.

The plot follows the two families as they remain isolated in the city long after others have fled.  Such a situation enabled Hislop to convey the history of the place from a civilian viewpoint.  Fear is written about, but never feels tangible, and the story feels a little stilted and contrived.

In summary, I enjoyed it, but was glad of its brevity.  Now I find myself wanting to read something which makes me work harder, with more implication, but significantly, something whose characters live on after I've finished.  I have a feeling this book may be one of  my forgettable reads.

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