“Athens 1941. After decades of political uncertainty, Greece is polarised between Right- and Left-wing views when the Germans invade.
Fifteen-year-old Themis comes from a family divided by these political differences. The Nazi occupation deepens the fault-lines between those she loves just as it reduces Greece to destitution. She watches friends die in the ensuing famine and is moved to commit acts of resistance.
In the civil war that follows the end of the occupation, Themis joins the Communist army, where she experiences the extremes of love and hatred and the paradoxes presented by a war in which Greek fights Greek.
Eventually imprisoned on the infamous islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri, Themis encounters another prisoner whose life will entwine with her own in ways neither can foresee. And finds she must weigh her principles against her desire to escape and live.
As she looks back on her life, Themis realises how tightly the personal and political can become entangled. While some wounds heal, others deepen.”
A Greek Tragedy
Once again Hislop has highlighted a period of history I had no idea about. I knew a little about Greece during World War 2 but had no idea their problems continued for years afterwards. Reading about the Koralis family, divided in two politically and at breaking point, brilliantly mirrored the position of Greece a country on the verge of civil war.
Hislop’s writing (as ever) is just so evocative. The heat, the food, the tensions. You can really feel them all simmering away under the surface. It is with a sense of foreboding you read on, knowing that ‘this can’t end well’.
If tables could talk
I loved the opening chapters with the dilapidated house. The image Hislop created of Themis all alone amongst the rubble was something that stayed with me throughout the book. It would have been so easy to make Themis a hero, yet Hislop steered away from this and I’m so pleased she did. Themis made questionable decisions, I didn’t always like her actions, yet she experienced unimaginable horrors and always did what she thought was right.
My favourite character in the book however was……..the table! The secrets it could tell. The meagre meals placed on it when times were bad. All the arguments, a shoot out and even an earthquake! I would love to have a table like that in my house. Sans earthquake of course.
It was so interesting to see how the characters developed as the years moved on. Time really does change us and Hislop illustrated this perfectly with Thanasis. I did find myself changing my perspective of him which surprised me.
In a way, it’s similar to Hislop’s previous books, yet totally different. It spans generations, is beautifully told and has a strong sense of setting, sadness, triumph over adversity, and of course, love.
If you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, try All The Light We Cannot See, one of our recent Book’s Of The Month.