The Island

The Island

4.04 (36,237 ratings by Goodreads)
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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...
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Product details

  • Paperback | 496 pages
  • 130 x 198 x 32mm | 340g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • None
  • 0755309510
  • 9780755309511
  • 85,673

Review Text

A young Englishwoman discovers her family's secret links to a Cretan leper colony, in an unusually humane saga.A bestseller in the U.K., British author Hislop's debut pays affecting tribute to the victims of leprosy and those who helped them. Alexis's mother Sofia has never discussed her family background, but when Alexis plans a trip to Crete with her decreasingly appealing boyfriend Ed, Sofia gives her an introduction to old family friend, Fortini, in the village of Plaka, across from Spinalonga Island, for years a leper colony, but now deserted. Fortini, with Sofia's permission, begins to narrate the Petrakis family story, starting with Alexis's grandmother Eleni in 1939, a saintly, married schoolteacher who developed leprosy, moved to Spinalonga and died there, leaving behind her husband and two daughters, Anna and Maria. Willful Anna marries rich Andreas but flirts with his sexier cousin Manoli, who falls in love with good-natured Maria. Their wedding plans are shattered when Maria realizes she too is infected with leprosy and must go to the island. Under the treatment of kind Dr. Kyritsis, Maria is given drugs, and eventually she and the other sufferers are healed and the colony is closed. Anna, meanwhile, has had an affair with Manoli and given birth to Sofia. On the night of Maria's return to Plaka, Andreas discovers the affair and shoots Anna. Eventually, Maria marries Kyritsis and they bring up Sofia, not revealing until very late her true parentage. Sofia takes the news badly, moves away and lives a life of shame and guilt for the pain she caused. Now she and Alexis are reunited in Plaka and Ed is given his marching orders. Mediocre fiction is redeemed by considerable empathy in this serious but patchy summer read. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Review quote

'Adding depth and colour to the story is the description of Cretan life... in particular, the vividly detailed account of life on Spinalonga... It is one of the achievements of this thoughtful novel that it presents the lives of the island's inhabitants with such empathy. The result is a fascinating work that combines a moving love story witha plea for more understanding about this most cruel of diseases' -- The Times 20060417 'This is a vivid, moving and absorbing tale, with its sensitive, realistic engagement with all the consequences of, and stigma attached to leprosy, elevating it beyond holiday literature' -- Observer 20060416 'Gently gripping tale' -- Scotsman on Sunday 20060416 'Brings dignity and tenderness to her novel' -- Telegraph 20060430 'Hislop's deep research, imagination and patent love of Crete creates a convincing portrait of times on the island... A moving and absorbing holiday read' -- Evening Standard 20060430 'Passionately engaged with its subject...the author has meticulously researched her fascinating background and medical facts' -- The Sunday Times 20060430 'Wonderful descriptions, strong characters and an intimate portrait of island existence' -- Woman & Home 20060430 'A page-turning tale...reminds us that love and life continue in even the most extraordinary of circumstances' -- Sunday Express 20060430
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About Victoria Hislop

Victoria Hislop read English at Oxford, and worked in publishing, PR and as a journalist before becoming a novelist. She is married with two children. Her first novel, THE ISLAND, held the Number One slot in the Sunday Times paperback chart for eight consecutive weeks and has sold over two million copies worldwide. Victoria acted as script consultant on a 26-part TV adaptation in Greece, which achieved record ratings for Greek television. Victoria was the Newcomer of the Year at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2007, and her second novel, THE RETURN, was also a Number One bestseller. THE THREAD spent nine weeks in the Sunday Times hardback chart, and was widely acclaimed. Her books have been translated into more than 25 languages. Victoria also writes short stories and her first collection, ONE CRETAN EVENING, is available as an ebook.
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Rating details

36,237 ratings
4.04 out of 5 stars
5 38% (13,742)
4 37% (13,273)
3 19% (6,784)
2 5% (1,825)
1 2% (613)

Our customer reviews

Read this on holidays recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. Considering the story is about a lepor colony you'd imagine it could be depressing. Its not at all. The story is told in a beautiful way and its easy to connect with the more
by bobdel
Couldn't put this book down. I didn't personally choose it; it was the book of the month for my reading group. Characters are lovely and the story/plot ebbs and flows like the up and downs in everyday life. Heartbreaking one moment joyful the next. Enjoy - I more
by a Book Depository customer
"A truely wonderful book that embodies the best of all attributes that combine to ensure a read that transports you through time and place, gifted with descriptions that leave you feeling you really know the characters and island and having been on the "story" journey first-hand with the central characters and not through the printed page. I can highly recommend this book."show more
by a Book Depository customer
"This book was a gift from a friend who had vivited me in Greece. She wrote "enjoy the read" and I did, except for the number of mistakes I found concerning the non-medical background. The name should be Fotini. On page 106 (of this edition), the greeting with the baker Kyritsis is the wrong way round. In Crete it is the stranger in the village who makes the first greeting, traditionally. Graveyards in Grece are outside the town or village, although they may get engulfed with later development (page 240). The Kazantzakis novel is "Freedom or Death" (page 303), an entirely different meaning than the title the author gives. But most glaring is the mistake, basic to much of the plot (pages 149-153). Saints Helen and Constantine are mother and son, definitely not husband and wife, ...lovers as Victoria Hislop presumes! And in the Greek orthodox Church, with the exception of Christ Himself (Christmas) it is not the birthday which is celebrated as the Saint Day, but the date of death, the joyful entering into heaven. Clearly the author just presumed that what she or others observed was the true social and religious system in Crete, and made no effort to get informed advice. What a pity. and the lapse in historical accuracy is most regrettable. "show more
by a Book Depository customer
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