The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop
|The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Victoria takes us to Cyprus and fictionalises the bloody conflict in the 1970s between Greece and Turkey played out on the island. In an eye-opener of a novel she treats both sides even-handedly even if, perhaps, sometimes events take priority over people; but what events!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: September 2014|
|Publisher: Headline Review|
|External links: Author's website|
Savvas has everything he needs here in Cyprus: money, a beautiful wife from a rich Greek Cypriot family and a hotel to develop into beacon accommodation for the well-heeled. It's not everything he wants though. There's always another hotel to buy and deals to be done while Aphroditi, his intelligent wife, becomes more aware of her position as an ornament rather than a partner. On the other hand, the Turkish Ozkans and Greek Georgious have less materially but are, on the whole, happy. Traditionally they should be enemies but Famagusta is a tolerant town and a good place to live. All this changes in 1974: Turkish soldiers land on the island and slowly move down through the north, an underground resistance emerges and life becomes dangerously cheap. The citizens of Famagusta flee to the south, but two families can’t get out in time: the Ozkans and the Georgious.
British author Victoria Hislop has concentrated her talent on the exploration of the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. To date we've been entranced by such settings as a leper colony in the post-war Greek islands (The Island) and the Spanish Civil War in The Return. Now for this, Victoria's fifth novel, she returns to a Greek theme, but in more recent living memory.
The Turkish and Greek Cypriots have had a history of unrest. In 1960 concessions in government were made to the Turkish Cypriots which provoked fighting between the two factions and the need for UN peace-keeping troops to take up temporary residence. In 1974 Greek Cypriots staged a military coup with the support of mainland Greece. Mainland Turkey retaliated/defended by sending in troops and between this rock and this hard place Victoria has placed her cast.
The Sunset is named after the hotel and perhaps also resonant of the last days of the island as the locals would recognise it. It includes both Turkish and Greek Cypriot families in a way that recognises that each side became a victim of the fighting that led to partition. By including both rich and poor families, Victoria has the opportunity to demonstrate that war is a leveller; something that we all realise, but hits home harder when we witness it in a novel like this.
Not all the characters are as well fleshed out as those of us who loved The Island would like. For instance, Savvas feels a bit of a pantomime baddie. Making money is his reason for breathing and unfortunately it seems to have divested him of any humane trait along the way. His nightclub manager Markos Georgiou, on the other hand, may know how to manipulate business (and his boss) to his advantage but he has a heart for his family and the burgeoning cause that forces him to take sides. He may not want to take part in the fighting but he still finds a way to help that's just as dangerous.
Aphroditi is the poor little rich girl somewhere in the middle, marrying for love and a future as an equal partner but having to settle for far less.
The Ozkans are on the same wrung of the ladder and have a lot in common with the Georgious, a factor that comes in handy when they're both marooned in a no-man's-land as the Turkish advance, leading to some extraordinarily tense moments and an explosive climax.
I was in my early teens in 1974 and had no idea of the severity and barbarity being played out in my home continent. However, Victoria fills the gaps in my knowledge, evoking the dark, everyday battle for survival as well as she ups the political and military ante. Indeed, as always, Victoria's research is impeccable and deftly utilised; as the government falls we're right there living in the moment.
Those of us who fondly remember the characterisation in The Island, perhaps that sort of depth is missing from some of the players this time out. However, The Sunset makes the history the star and, as poignant and shocking as events turn out to be, Victoria has indeed made them shine. In the end that's what turns this into a must read for anyone who, like me, was inadvertently looking the other way at the time.
(Thank you, Headline Review, for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals and you'd like to read more of Victoria's Greek novels, try [The Thread by Victoria Hislop|The Thread]]. If you'd prefer to learn more about Cyprus, we recommend Small Wars by Sadie Jones taking us back to the 1950s and the British involvement.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.