The Thread by Victoria Hislop

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The Thread by Victoria Hislop

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: A young man who is Anglo-Greek is told the fascinating story of his grandparents' lives, who despite everything decided to remain in their beloved city. He is so deeply affected by what he hears that he makes a momentous decision of his own.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2011
Publisher: Headline Review
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0755377732

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I read and enjoyed Hislop's The Island so I was looking forward to reading this book. The Prologue is May 2007 and readers are treated to a vivid coastal description of the area which is to play such a big part in the novel. Lines such as With the lifting haze, Mount Olympus gradually emerged far away across the Thermaic Gulf and the restful blues of sea and sky shrugged off their pale shroud.

The grandson, Dimitri is taking his annual trip to Greece to visit his elderly grandparents. Although Thessaloniki is their home things have changed. The rumbling traffic, the noise of a city, even the uneven pavements all are taking their toll on frail bodies and delicate bones. Practical Dimitri has the perfect solution, however. Why don't they up sticks and move to London where they have family? They take up the rest of the book explaining to him in the minutest of detail why that won't happen. I got the strong sense that it would have been a case of - over their dead bodies. But why?

In order to answer that we go back in time to the year 1917 and here Hislop paints a picture of a bustling, cosmopolitan, multi-cultural and lively city: the city called Thessaloniki. There's a charming line which describes the hotchpotch of nationalities beautifully - ... where an almost evenly balanced population of Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted and complemented each other like the interwoven threads of an oriental rug.

Hislop's style is fluid and very reader-friendly. She doesn't give her readers too much history (there's an author's note at the beginning telling us that the historical events all took place) in one serving and perhaps risk being 'heavy'. It's spaced out nicely and effectively. There are plenty of diverse characters in this novel. For example, there's an uptight cloth merchant who worships money. His poor wife and young son are barely acknowledged. It's as if they are imprisoned in a palatial home. It's all about status for the workaholic husband. But disaster is not far off ...

Grandfather and grandson share the same first name, Dimitri. The former's childhood was largely one of comfort, luxury even. He adored his mother but his relationship with his father was strained. The grandmother, Katerina has an altogether sadder story to relate. Although she eventually calls Thessaloniki her home, that wasn't always the case. And the thread of their stories is told in Hislop's engaging style. Personally, I was really interested in the historical element (I didn't expect to be) but also got involved and cared about the grandparents. All the pieces of the jigsaw fall neatly into place by the end.

As the story develops I remembered the earlier peace of this multi-cultural city. But it soon falls apart and lives are ruined, some beyond repair. An intricate tale centred around the second city of Greece and of the problems some of its residents faced during the first half of the twentieth century. Recommended.

If this book appeals then you might like to try The Infinities by John Banville. You might also enjoy Ariadne's Thread by Gavin James. We have more from Hislop in Greece.

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Buy The Thread by Victoria Hislop at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Thread by Victoria Hislop at


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