Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop
|Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A different type of fiction from the expert purveyor of Greek-set romantic fiction and yet just as enjoyably readable as usual. Not only that, it's beautiful to look at too.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 448||Date: September 2016|
|Publisher: Headline Review|
|External links: Author's website|
Postcards from Greece keep arriving at Ellie's flat addressed to former occupant Sarah Ibbotsen by a man signing himself as 'A'. They may not be for Ellie but she keeps them anyway and displays the pictures of blue sea, beaches and countryside until she can't resist it any longer; Ellie's off to Greece for a break. Just before she leaves home a package arrives from A. Something very different from the fragmented comments on the cards. This is a journal full of the stories told by people he's met while travelling and coming to terms with a love affair that ended almost before it began. So for Ellie the journal becomes her guide book and the journey begins.
British romantic fiction author and national treasure Victoria Hislop lives in Greece for part of each year, allowing us to share the results on a regular basis. Over the years Victoria has introduced us to her world through novels covering such varied Greek-based topics as a leper's island and struggling hotel magnates. Each story has been a rich vein of Hellenic life but, so far, none quite like this one.
This is a wonderful different, hybrid sort of book. It's a series of short stories narrated by 'A' – Anthony – the man to whom they were told. Between each tale is a journal entry; a first person interlude written to Sarah, sharing his experiences as he travels through the Greek mainland and islands. It's not just this that smacks of originality though: we see it's different even before we read a single word.
Generally due to lack of space at home, if I love a book I'll buy an e-reader version rather than hang onto physical copies. This time I'm keeping the hardback. Not only are Anthony's diary pages given a nice touch (that photocopied bits of paper look), the book's pages in general are graced with amazing photographs by the talented Alexandros Kakolyris. Thanks to these photographs we not only see the post cards but also illustrations that highlight and adorn each story. Any author has to go some to line up their writing with such a high graphics/aesthetics bar, but Victoria rises effortlessly to the challenge.
All life is here: stories of revenge, tales of lost love, misunderstandings that lead to tragedy or criminal accusations or both, even a tale from the poet Byron's final visit to Greece. Each tale acquaints us with people and moments we won't forget as well as some surprising and fascinating cultural insights.
For instance we learn of how Greek religion, history and politics interplay with customs such as their Independence Day. The stand out point for me was the discovery that Byron (Vyronas to the Greeks) may have been deemed 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' over here but to his day he's venerated to a huge degree in Greece for a reason other than his poetry. (I'll leave you to discover that.) In different stories we also understand why it's not a good idea to jilt a Greek chap at the altar or the creepy end results of remaining in a small town when they clearly don't want you to stay.
As each story finishes we're brought back to Anthony, his lost romance and, from time to time, Ellie's reaction surrounding what we discover. Gradually as we travel around the country through this special blue book, we learn more about him. The odd phrase in the diary may seem melodramatic, but even in these, the early stages of pain and loss, Anthony isn't a wallower. The overall impression is one of a knowledgeable adventurer relaying his discoveries while trying to recapture his badly dented sense of romance and joy in the world around him.
Will Anthony and Ellie meet? No spoilers, I promise. I'll just say that Victoria evades the easy ending, giving us one that feels authentic instead.
Whether we read Cartes Postales… from cover to cover or dip into the stories from time to time as we would dip into the warmth and familiarity of friendships, this is special. Indeed, for me this is Victoria Hislop's best yet.
Thank you so much to Headline Review for providing us with a copy for review.
Further Reading: If you've enjoyed this and want to delve further into Victoria's world, try The Thread or The Sunrise. If you're already a fan and would like to sample some more great current women's fiction, we heartily recommend Playing FTSE by Penelope Jacobs and/or The Regulars by Georgia Clark.
You can read more book reviews or buy Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop at Amazon.com.
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