The Kite Runner- Khaled Hosseini [Review]

“For you, a thousand times over.”

The Kite Runner. What a heartbreaking story.

It tells the story of Hassan and Amir, two friends who are as close as brothers and great at flying a kite. The two young boys live in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. The book starts with Amir, a grown man, living in America and through him we go back to when he and Hassan were 12 years old in Kabul. We get to know the way of life in Afghanistan, the local kite-tournament (a popular Afghan pastime) and how everything changes when war comes to Afghanistan and the country becomes a dangerous place. the kite runner

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant whereas Hassan is the son of their servant. Despite this, the boys are as close as brothers, both lost their mothers when babies and were nurtured by the same woman. Their fathers also grew up together and were as close as brothers. Hassan is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste, and usually gets a lot of abuse from other Afghan children especially Assef, a known bully amongst the children. Amir during this story commits an act of betrayal towards his friend Hassan, which will haunt him for the rest of his life and have to live with that guilt. During the war, Amir and his father are forced to flee Afghanistan for America. Thus The Kite Runner becomes the story of Amir’s journey for redemption and a way to ‘set things right’. He has to return to Afghanistan to make ‘things right’ as it were. On this journey Amir makes new friends, reunites with old friends but also with old enemies.

The story is fast paced and never dull. When I started reading this story I could not put it down. I needed to know what will happen and will Amir ever find peace. I feel for Amir, love Hassan’s loyalty towards Amir and the sacrifices he makes for the family. I hate Assef and his horribleness. I want to shake Amir’s father and tell him that he needs to accept his son for who he is and to show him that he loves him. You get so much invested in the characters that you can’t do anything but read, read and read. We are introduced to the world of Afghan life, strange and fascinating and devastating when war breaks out.

The Kite Runner tells the unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant. It is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country torn by violence and war. A gripping and emotional story of betrayal, forgiveness and redemption. The Times have accurately stated that ”Khaled Hosseini  is a truly gifted teller of tales. He’s not afraid to pull every string in your heart to make it sing”. It is a powerful novel that has become one of my treasured books, one-of-a-kind classic as others have described it. Definitely give it a read and see for yourself. I won’t lie, you will be heartbroken by the end and it will stay with you for a few days/weeks BUT it is so worth it. I even cried while reading it. Do put it on your ‘To Read’ list!

‘The shattering first novel by Khaled Hosseini… a rich and soul-searching narrative … a sharp, unforgettable taste of the trauma and tumult experienced by Afghanis as their country buckled’ (Observer)

‘A gripping read and a haunting story of love, loss and betrayal. Guaranteed to move even the hardest heart’ (Independent)


Trade Wind- M.M Kaye [Review]

”An enthralling blend of history, adventure and romance”

Not so long ago, I wrote a review about M.M. Kaye’s Shadow of the Moon. I did love that book, still do. After reading that my mum suggested Trade Wind. She guaranteed that I would love it also. By god she was right. Now I don’t know which one is better, Shadow of the Moon or Trade Wind? I cannot decide, they are both equally as good.

Whereas Shadow of the Moon was based in India during the Indian Revolution in 1856-7, Trade Wind is based in Zanzibar in 1859. Zanzibar was the last and largest centre of the slave trade. Hero Hollis, our main protagonist, is the niece of the American consul in Zanzibar and a passionate opponent of slavery. Her main mission is to travel from America to Zanzibar and try and stop the slave trade. Soon she involves herself in a revolt that sweeps the island, and then cholera breaks out.Trade Wind

A story full of action and drama. A book that I could not put down. Hero Athena Hollis is a handsome, courageous, wealthy American who travels to Zanzibar after her father’s death. Her journey to Zanzibar was anything but smooth. She finds herself caught in a storm and soon is thrown overboard, thought to be  dead by her fellow companions. She is then fished out from the harsh sea by a Captain Emory Frost. Rory Frost is scandalous, gun-runner and slave trader; everything Hero stands against. You want to hate him but you can’t. Rory delivers Hero to Zanzibar without realising what a beauty he has had on his ship, as Hero was battered, bruised and sick from her fall in the ocean. Probably for the best really! Once in Zanzibar, Hero finds herself joining a plot against the Sultan (with the best intentions as far as she is concerned)in order to throw him off the throne and his younger brother, Yabid Bargash, to take over.

M.M. Kaye’s story is rich in historical detail and background, the storylines have depth and scope. Kaye’s description of Zanzibar is just magical and so colourful. Images of an exotic paradise  of shimmering sand beaches, crystal waters, and perfumed with the scents of blooms and trees. But, there is also the horrible side of Zanzibar, that of squalor, filth and disease. When Hero arrives to Zanzibar she comes across with the sight of slaves being thrown overboard , being sold or just transported. She is horrified, and cannot believe a place as beautiful as this can be at the same time horrible and barbaric. The contrast between the eastern and western cultures is interesting and thought provoking. Hero soon comes to the conclusion that her noble mission to stop slavery might not be as simple as she hoped.

Hero can be seen as naive and spoilt. She thinks that she can change the world despite Rory Frost telling her it is not that easy. She soon realises that everything is not black and white as she originally thought and you get to see Hero mature throughout the book and gain a perspective that is more realistic. She becomes more open and warm. We also get to know Rory Frost’s background and the reasons that led him to be who he is and do what he does. Hero and Rory’s relationship is intriguing, and despite the fact that when you began reading the book, you could see their differences, slowly but steady you understand their attraction for each other and can see it developing into something more.

There is a particular scene in the book that a lot of readers were appalled by and in a way ruined the book for them. I am not going to say what the scene was in case I spoil it for anyone who wants to read this book but I will say this. I will acknowledge that this particular incident is very controversial, but for myself, I can see why M.M. Kaye put it in the story. If you think the context of the plotline, the time period  and maybe the motivation of the lead male character, I believe the action was well justified. I will be honest and say that when I first read this particular scene I was angry, frustrated and shocked. I did not know whether it would make me change my appreciation for the main male character. After thinking about it and when I read his reasons for doing so I could see the importance of ‘building of character’ and the necessity of it later in the story. However, I do understand if other readers will not agree with me.

The characters in Trade Wind are well drawn and some you hate and some you love. From the beginning of the book you know there is something strange with Hero’s fiancé, her uncle’s stepson, Clayton Mayo. He turns out to be exactly what you think and in some certain circumstances he will surprise you. Like in Shadow of the Moon there is always another female character who you dislike at the beginning but in the end turns out to be a respectable woman and a great friend to the main female character. After Rory Frost and Hero I think my favourite character would be Batty, a sailor on Captain Rory’s ship, who was a rogue through and through, but also has a heart. He is the loving uncle who would protect Rory as best as he could and tell him when he is being a scoundrel and wrong. The Sultan is also an interesting character. Rory Frost is his confidant and great friend and can manage to get away with a lot because of his connection with the Sultan.

M.M. Kaye has a beautiful way with words. Her knowledge of the far East shines throughout the book. She stays as historically accurate as she can and she does not hold back when it comes to the customs of Zanzibar, the slave trade and the cholera epidemic. Once again, just as she did in Shadow of the Moon, M.M. Kaye shows us how different the west and east are. How they both have completely different cultures and traditions and will probably never see things the same way. Trade Wind is a beautiful tale that will get you hooked from the first page. I would recommend to any historical fiction lovers, any M.M. Kaye lovers or to anyone who wants to try something new.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard [Review]

‘Red Queen is a clever blend of The Hunger Games, The Selection, Graceling and Divergent.” – Starbust

Taken from the back cover of the book:
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite isbn9781409155843warriors with god-like powers. To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change. Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.
But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

This is Reds against Silvers,  prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart….

If you enjoyed reading The Hunger Games, Graceling and I guess the Divergent series [have not read Divergent yet] you will like/love this book. My reason for picking up this copy was due to my love of both the Hunger Games series and the Graceling series.

Red Queen opens with a Roman style amphitheatre battle between two Silvers. Full of plot twists and betrayals, soon you don’t know who to trust. The world that Victoria Aveyard has created is wonderful and capturing. Red blooded slum dwellers are ruled by the silver blooded nobility; who each have different powers and those with the strongest powers hold the higher chairs of nobility.Sound familiar?

 Due to the fact that Mare, a Red, discovers that she has an ability of her own, the King forces her to play the role of a long-lost Silver princess. She is soon betrothed to the second prince, Maven, and she is watched constantly by the Queen. Mare is drawn further  into the Silver world and uses her position to help the Scarlet Guard (Red rebellion group) hence risking everything. Mare is a great main character; she is fearless, rebellious, headstrong and very brave. She would do anything for her family and friends. In that sense, she reminds us of Katniss Everdeen and Katsa.  As far as the Princes go, you do not know who to root for. Maven, the youngest, who constantly lives in the shadow of his older brother or Cal, the Prince who is next in line for the throne and a soldier. You can guess from the beginning of the novel there will be a love triangle or should a say a love square? If there is such a thing as Mare acquires three male admirers.

 You are immediately hooked from the first page. You feel for the Reds and hate the Silvers, apart from maybe the Princes. 😉 Soon you do not know who to trust, the King’s second son Maven or his first born and heir Cal or maybe neither! One thing you do know, is that you hate Queen Elara. I can see how Red Queen is being compared with the Hunger Games, with its corrupt ‘government’ and rebellious groups.  You can even argue that you see a bit of Game of Thrones in this series especially when it comes to Queen Elara, who you could say was modelled of Cersei Lannister? Maybe.

It is well-written, fast-faced and in certain points predictable. However, I am willing to give it a chance because I feel like it will be a series that I will love and I could not put it down once reading it. It is the first book in a trilogy, so there is plenty of room left for Victoria Aveyard to ”spread her wings” and create a really good series. I might not love it as much as The Hunger Games and Graceling, but close enough. It is worth reading if you get a chance and I feel it will become a favourite amongst young-adults… even to a some extent adults. 😛

 ‘Power is a dangerous game.’

Lost Horizon- James Hilton [Review]

What a fantastic little story. The first time I ever came across ‘Lost Horizon’ was when I 71lMxC8oPCLwas looking at my mother’s books. This wee book caught my attention and I asked her about it. She told me that it is a lovely wee story set in Shangri-La and it involves a small group of people who after a plane crash find themselves in Shangri-La. She then stopped and just told me that I should read it and I will love it. Of course she was right. I am going to be honest, that it took me awhile before I could pick up ‘Lost Horizon’, I think I needed to be in a certain mood. I am glad that I finally picked it up. After finishing it I wondered why it took me so long to read it! Now that I have, I am happy.

It’s a magical story and a well-loved classic. Following a plane crash, Conway, a British consul; Millison,  his deputy;  Miss Brinklow, a missionary; and Bernard, an American financier find themselves in the enigmatic snow-capped mountains of uncharted Tibet. They soon discover a seemingly perfect hidden community where they are welcome with gracious hospitality. Soon though, our travellers set out to discover the secret which seems to be hidden in the heart of Shangri-La.

The book opens with our lead character, Conway, who is found in a hospital by a friend and has no memory of anything before he came to be there. His friend takes him out and puts him on a boat back to England. During their voyage, Conway happens to listen a man playing Chopin on a piano and after playing himself an unknown piece of music (which is clearly Chopin’s), remembers what happens to him. He then tells his friend and soon after we, the readers, get to hear Conway’s story through his own written manuscript.

Conway’s story is a wondrous tale, a tale that goes past any reason and it’s up to you whether you believe him or not. The story of what happened to Conway and his fellow companions is an extraordinary one. James HIlton’s ability to transport the reader into the magical world of Shangri-La is nothing less than beautiful.  Throughout this adventure we are introduced to interesting and well-crafted characters such as Chang; a postulant at the lamasery, who welcomes our travellers to Shangri-La, and the ‘all-mighty’ High Lama who Conway eventually meets (an un-heard honour) and is told the history of Shangri-La.

Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley. Janelle uses this because Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, it’s seen as a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. This is the refuge that Cindi Mayweather needs to escape from Metropolis

A beautiful story set deep within the Himalayans, sits a mysterious place known only to a few as Shangri-La.

‘Lost Horizon’ is a story well written, thought-provoking and a pleasure to read. An enchanting little book that I think everyone should read if they get the chance. I have read various different reviews concerning this book and one statement has stuck with me. It was remarked that ‘Lost Horizon’ is ”the type of book written to make the reader to think”. I have to agree; even after finishing this book James Hilton made me wonder about this ‘lost’ world.  The ending is left open (in my view) letting the reader decide whether Conway’s memories were real or not, and what happened to him after the end of the book.

It is a lovely wee story and I will end this post but saying this; James Hilton put a smile on my face with ‘Lost Horizon’ and I was still smiling even after finishing the last page.

”We rule with moderate strictness and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience. And I think I can claim that our people are moderately sober, moderately chaste and moderately honest.” – Chang from Lost Horizon

Timeline – Michael Crichton [Review]

The purpose of history is to explain the present–to say why the world around us is the way it is. History tells us what is important in our world, and how it came to be.
— Michael Crichton, Timeline

Michael Crichton was a brilliant man. He was a writer and a filmmaker, best known as the author of Jurassic Park and the creator of ER, which became the best-rated programme on US television.  I have to admit that I never realised that the creator of ER was the same person who wrote Jurassic Park, The Great Train Robbery, the 13th Warrior and Timeline. The day I realised he was the same person I loved him even more.  I love ER and re-watch it all the time. I love his books as well.

I recently finished ‘Timeline’ and I loved it. I had seen awhile ago a film adaptation of thistimeline1 book and it was an alright film. If I remember correct it starred Gerald Butler, Billy Connolly and Paul Walker. A watchable film but nothing special. When I started the book I could not put it down. I loved it and it was a million times better than the film as it is often the case with books and film adaptations. This can be one of the many examples to prove the long-time argument of what is better, books or films? BOOKS is always the correct answer!

Timeline tells the story of a group of historians in 1999 who are employed by a tech billionaire genius. His plan is to build a theme park featuring artefacts from a lost world revived via cutting- edge science.  Whenan old man wearing a brown robe is found wandering disoriented in the Arizona desert. He is miles from any human habitation and has no memory of how he got to be there, or who he is. The only clue to his identity is the plan of a medieval monastery in his pocket. So begins the mystery of Timeline, a story that will catapult a group of young scientists back to the Middle Ages and into the heart of the Hundred Years’ War.”

His writing is inviting, enticing, tempting, addictive and just brilliant. I was captured from the first page of ‘Timeline’. Michael Crichton is a great storyteller and manages to explain the science behind the story. This helps anyone who does not understand or gets physics and manages to grasp a basic idea behind the science of the whole scheme of the book.  ‘Timeline’  is not your average time-travel story. It’s very detail-oriented, and you find out soon enough that some of the characters have an agenda deeper than just wanting to go back and visit the medieval times.

The characters are rock solid and believable.  The good guys were likeable and the bad guys were really bad — and I know how that sounds but it is true. You don’t know who to trust once you’ve travelled back in the 14th century. You are hoping that you manage to find Professor Johnson before time is up. I cannot choose a character that stood out for me, as all of them have their little quirks, from Andre Marek with his love of archaeology and the 14th century to Chris Hughes who started out as the ‘weak bookish graduate student’ and turned into the robust, confident hero who comes in to save the day.

You know that Michael Crichton had done lots of research before writing ‘Timeline’ as his brilliant account of the world of 1357 takes you back to a ”time which seems thousands of years in regression of civilisation. ‘The suspense throughout the book is unpredictable, well-narrated and interesting”. You are always on your toes for the next disaster or mishap. From the in-depth descriptions of the ”war lords, the customs, the castles, the fortresses, the soldiers, the knights, the languages (from Occitan to Latin to old English and very old French)”, and the endless adventures which came upon our time travellers, you felt as though you were part of that world.

The premise was appealing, the action was gripping, the plot thickens as you read and the ending was dramatically satisfying. I loved ‘Timeline’ from start to finish. I would recommend the book to any science-fiction lovers as well as historical fiction fans. It is worth a read and you never know, you might even like Michael Crichton’s style of writing and get hooked with his writing like I did.

When I started reading this book I knew a little bit about physics, and the history of 14th century France. After ‘Timeline’ I am confident in telling you more about quantum foam, particles and various historical trivia about 14th century France. Crichton combines history(medieval) and science(quantum technology) in a heart-stopping adventure that you will never forget.

“If you [don’t] know history, then [you don’t] know anything. You [are] a leaf that [doesn’t] know it [is] part of a tree.”
― Michael Crichton, Timeline

Have also a look at : Michael Crichton: “Timeline”

— K.J. Koukas

Frenchman’s Creek- Daphne Du Maurier [Review]

”a storyteller of cunning and genius” – Sally Beauman

frenchman's creekFrenchman’s Creek, set in 17th century England, is a tale of danger, mystery,  and passion. A pure, exhilarating adventure story, a novel of suspense set during the Restoration.

The central character in Frenchman’s Creek is Lady Dona St Columb who lives with her husband Harry and their two small children Henrietta and James, at the court of Charles II. Dona is beautiful, headstrong and most importantly–  bored. She is desperate to escape her London life,  leaving her husband behind she retreats with her children, and their governess, to the hidden creeks and secret woods of the family estate at Navron, in Cornwall. The house is beautiful and the grounds have a tranquillity that is soothing and restful. Dona spends many hours sitting in the sunshine and wandering the grounds. At the edge of the estate there is a woodland and being springtime the ‘woods are carpeted with bluebells’. Soon after she arrives at Navron, Dona is warned by a local landowner, Lord Godolphin, that a French pirate is in the area and that everyone living along the coast is in danger of being robbed or worse.

Though renowned for her passionate engagement with life, privately she yearns for freedom, integrity and love as well as peace. This is one of the reasons she left her London life. However, the peace Dona craves eludes her from the moment she stumbled across the mooring place of a white-sailed ship that plunders the Cornish coast. Guess who it is? the French pirate! And as she becomes embroiled in a plot to steal another ship from under the nose of the English authorities, 1370969_8533cf13she realises that her heart is under siege from the French philosopher-pirate Jean Aubrey.  It is only a question of time before Jean Aubrey captures the heart of the lovely Dona.

Button Book Reviews states that Frenchman’s Creek is one of those books that wraps itself around you slowly and by the time you are halfway in you wonder if you’ll survive your sense of loss once you reach the end. I happen to agree. While you’re reading, you slowly discover the characters, learn why Dona seems like a loose cannon and soon enough you empathise with her. You fall in love with the drama, the setting, the conversations, the sense of adventure and let’s face it, you fall in love with Jean Aubrey despite the fact that he is a pirate and in some sense a criminal- scoundrel.

Jean Aubrey is not what you would expect at first. When Dona discovers Aubrey’s hiding place by chance  and is brought to him, we see him at his desk drawing. He utterly ignores her and continues to draw. This is when Dona inspects him and describes him thus:

How remote he was, how detached, like some student in college studying for an examination; he had not even bothered to raise his head when she came into his presence, and what was he scribbling there anyway that was so important?  She ventured to step forward closer to the table, so that she could see, and now she realised he was not writing at all, he was drawing, he was sketching, finely, with great care, a heron standing on the mud-flats, as she had seen a heron stand, ten minutes before.

Then she was baffled, then she was at a loss for words, for thought even, for pirates were not like this, at least not the pirates of her imagination, and why could he not play the part she had assigned to him, become an evil, leering fellow, full of strange oaths, dirty, greasy-handed, not this grave figure seated at the polished table, holding her in contempt?”

Another character, who I soon came to love and admire is Dona’s butler, William. We first meet William when Dona arrives at Navron with her children. He is the only one in the house, having fired all the staff. He is patient  and manages to convey a great deal of impertinence while still seeming obedient and non- committal. You instantly suspect that William knows more than he claims and that he has his reasons for firing all of the house staff. His conversations with Dona made me laugh and smile with his cheekiness and impertinence.   [SPOILER] We soon find out that he knows our lovely philosopher-pirate Jean Aubrey and during the book he helps both Dona and Jean Aubrey meet and cover for his mistress when need be. He is loyal to both Dona and Jean Aubrey and you cannot help but love him and worry for him throughout the book in the event of his involvement with the French pirate to be discovered.

One small mention about Harry St Columb. Harry, Dona’s buffoon of a husband, is another character that stays with you whether you realise or not. As already said, he is a buffoon but you cannot help but feel sorry for him. He will never be able to provide Dona with the adventurous and intellectual companionship that she needs, but you can tell that he really cares for her and he is trying to make their marriage work. His affection for Dona can be seen here:

‘”I want to see you well,” he [Harry] repeated.  “That’s all I care about, damn it, to see you well and happy.”  And he stared down at her, his blue eyes humble with adoration, and he reached clumsily for her hand.’

Other than the characters, you are captivated by the first page of Frenchman’s Creek. The opening of the novel is an evocative historical palimpsest, layering the homely present of Navron House and the nearby waters over the lingering traces of the past, filling the dreams of a contemporary yachtsman: “as the tide surges gently about his ship and the moon shines on the quiet river, soft murmurs come to him, and the past becomes the present”:

”All the whispers and echoes from a past that is gone seem into the sleeper’s brain, and he is with them, and part of them; part of the sea, the ship, the walls of Navron House, part of a carriage that rumbles and lurches in the rough roads of Cornwall, part even of that lost forgotten London, artificial, painted, where link-boys carried flares, and tipsy gallants laughed at the corner of a cobbled mud-splashed street. He sees Harry in his satin coat, his spaniels at his heels, blundering into Dona’s bedroom, as she places the rubies in her ears. He sees William with his button mouth, his small inscrutable face. And last he sees La Mouette at anchor in a narrow twisting stream, he sees the trees at the water’s edge, he hears the heron and the curlew cry, and lying on his back asleep he breathes and lives the lovely folly of that lost midsummer which first made the creek a refuge, and a symbol of escape.”

Full of adventure, excitement and romance. Frenchman’s Creek is a great read for all ages. I have to say though, I will never forgive Daphne Du Maurier for how she ended the story. I did not see that coming at all and I was so annoyed. Now that I have thought about it in detail and went through all the scenarios in my head, I can see why she ended it as she did. More realistic I guess as one of the book’s themes is the idea of choice and what choices you have to make in life. I still felt annoyed at the time, and I think one small part of me still feels annoyed. Deep down in my heart,  I wanted the unrealistic ending.  Despite this little thing, it was a great read. Great characters, great story, beautifully written. A good old fashion romance.

— K.J. Koukas

The Island – Victoria Hislop [Review]

The Island by Victoria Hislop is a moving and dramatic tale of four generations, rent by

the island

war, illicit love, violence and leprosy, from the thirties, through the war, to the present day. The book is located in Elounda, a small fishing island in Crete which back then belonged to the municipality of Agios Nikolaos. Opposite Elounda is Spinalonga (or officially known in Greece as Kalydon), the island which was used as a leper colony.

Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother’s past. But Sophia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decided to visit Crete, Sophia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend and promises that through her she will learn everything she wished to know. Upon arriving in Elounda, Alexis discovers that Spinalonga is right across and decides to visit the island before finding her mother’s friend. She soon finds a local old (mute) fisherman to take her over and come back for her in two hours.

After her visit to Spinalonga, Alexis finds Fotini (her mother’s friend) 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. We are then taken back to 1939 and we are told what really happened.

As Barbara Love from the Library Journal stated ‘It would be hard to imagine a more cheerless setting for a novel than a leper colony on a remote Greek island, but the community of Spinalonga provides a remarkable backdrop for this affecting, multigenerational saga.’ Hislop’s deep research, imagination and potent love of Crete creates a convincing portrait of times on the island. Coming from Greece myself I can tell you that all the traditions, religious festivals and way of life is spot on and when reading the book, I was transported back to Greece and its many festivals celebrating a saint’s name and their namedays. Hislop manages ‘to milk the dramatic potential of each unexpected twist and broken engagement’ (The Times review).

Despite the fact that each person who was diagnosed with leprosy will eventually die, Hislop shows us that for them life remains the same and will go on until the inevitable. Even though they are ostracised (as it were) on the island of Spinalonga, they still go about their daily chores and shopping as they would before they were diagnosed. Depth and colour is added to the description of Cretan life and in particular, the vividly detailed account of life on Spinalonga. Hislop gives us a way into a leper’s life and stresses the agonies, fears, loses and troubles that someone diagnosed with leprosy faces. We always thought leprosy as a disease and want to stay well clear from it, but we never stop to think what the person with leprosy feels like and what he or she will go through. The Island shows us both sides of the disease and the lives that it will affect.

Fortress of Spinalonga Island -Crete

One of my favourite parts of the book is when Alexis was left alone on the island of Spinalonga and describes of what she found and how is felt

her dependency suddenly felt like a millstone and she resolved to pull herself together. She would embrace this period of solitude- her few hours of isolation were a mere pinprick of time compared with the life sentence of loneliness that past inhabitants of Spinalonga must have faced….

When reading this particular passive I felt sad and my heart went for the lepers. No-one knows how lonely these people felt and as Alexis walked through the village where the lepers would have lived, we see through her eyes that they lived a normal way. There was a café with chairs and tables where the inhabitants would gossip and talk about the latest tales of the world. There was a school where the children would go and gain an education. Later on in the book we found out that they had their own mayor and through him they contacted the ‘outside world’ and bargained for supplies that might have made their life easier. There was a hospital where they were treated when the symptoms of leprosy took affect. It was a small community in itself, fair enough it was secluded from the rest of the world (as people from all around Greece came to Spinalonga), they were still people and a community that went on with their daily lives. ‘The story of life on Spinalonga, the lepers’ island, is gripping and carries real emotional impact. Victoria Hislop…brings dignity and tenderness to her novel about lives blighted by leprosy’ (Telegraph).

The Island is a page-turning tale that reminds us that love and life continue in even the most extraordinary of circumstances. The book is full of wonderful descriptions, strong characters and an intimate portrait of island existence. A must-read on any person’s book list.

— K.J. Koukas