Saturday, 27 September 2014

Review: The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop

**** 4 Stars

Victoria Hislop is one of my favourite authors. I love the research that goes into all of her books and her ability to make me feel as though I am there. She writes the perfect mix of fiction and history all wrapped up in one. I loved The Island and was left totally in awe but The Thread so I was ecstatic when I received a copy of Hislop's latest offering from Headline, The Sunrise

The Blurb

In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple are about to open the island's most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the Özkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city's façade of glamour and success, tension is building.

When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.

My Thoughts

This book is set in the resort of Famagusta, Cyprus in 1972 before the invasion when the island was changed for good. At the centre of the book are hotel owner and businessman, Savvas Papacosta and his beautiful wife, Aphroditi. The couple own the Paradise Beach Hotel and Savvas is keen to extend his empire and build bigger and better hotels. Famagusta, is a go to holiday destination, it is where the wealth and glamorous go to relax and soak up the sun on the beautiful beaches. The Papacosta's are living the high life, wrapped up in their own little world largely unaware of the political unrest rumbling around the island.

Their newest hotel The Sunrise is something to be awed, a hotel only the very wealthy can afford, a hotel that was a head of it's time and a hotel that put Savvas Papacosta firmly on the map. Working at the Sunrise are employees from all over the world including Greek & Turkish Cypriots working side by side these employees include, Markos Georgiou, nightclub manager who quickly becomes Savvas's right hand man. There is a hatred and a tension between Markos and Aphroditi that leads to a passionate affair that is only halted by the Turkish invasion of the island.

Until the Turkish response to the Greek coup, Famagusta remained largely untouched by the violence and unrest that had begun to impact on the rest of island. The invasion changes that causing people to flee their homes, many taking nothing with them and never knowing when they will be able to return. The Papacosta's lock the Sunrise down tight and flee to their apartment in Nicosia but not everyone is lucky enough to be able to flee.

The Ozkan's and the Georgiou's are families living in the same street and some of them work at the Sunrise, one family is Turkish Cypriot and the other is Greek Cypriot. Unfortunately for both families they are unable to leave Famagusta so end up being left behind enemy lines as Famagusta is sectioned off with barbed wire from the rest of the island. Together the two families have to overcome the differences between them and fight for survival, scavenging for food, avoiding soldiers etc.

The Sunrise is a book about betrayal and loss at it's very worse. It is a book that explores the rising tensions between the Greek & Turkish Cypriots focusing on a recent history of an island that was devastated by civil unrest. Even to this day, 40 years later a section of Famagusta remains fenced off from the rest of the island. Unbelievable in this day an age particularly with Cyprus once again being a popular holiday destination.

I found myself thoroughly absorbed by the storyline and the turmoil that the Cypriot people lived through. Hislop writes with such authority and passion, transporting you right into the heart of the lives of those she is writing about. For me those people were the Ozkan's and the Georgiou's, I was captivated by the families, willing them to survive.

Hislop took the story in a very different direction to what I had been expecting especially the relationship between Markos & Aphroditi. The Sunrise, was a wonderful read and I was swept along with the history and the characters, however the little bit of magic that I felt at the end of both The Island and The Thread was missing. I can't quite put my finger on it but regardless The Sunrise was still a captivating and absorbing read.

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