About The Book
Those Who Are Loved is set against the backdrop of the German occupation of Greece in World War II, the subsequent civil war and a military dictatorship, all of which left deep scars.
Athens 1941. After decades of political uncertainty, Greece is polarised between Right- and Left-wing views when the Germans invade. Fifteen-year-old Themis comes from a family divided by these political differences. The Nazi occupation deepens the fault-lines between those she loves just as it reduces Greece to destitution. She watches friends die in the ensuing famine and is moved to commit acts of resistance.
In the civil war that follows the end of the occupation, Themis joins the Communist army, where she experiences the extremes of love and hatred and the paradoxes presented by a war in which Greek fights Greek.
Eventually imprisoned on the infamous islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri, Themis encounters another prisoner whose life will entwine with her own in ways neither can foresee. And finds she must weigh her principles against her desire to escape and live. As she looks back on her life, Themis realises how tightly the personal and political can becom entangled. While some wounds heal, others deepen.
This powerful new novel from Number One bestseller Victoria Hislop sheds light on the complexity and trauma of Greece’s past and weaves it into the epic tale of an ordinary woman compelled to live an extraordinary life.
I love historical fiction, especially when it is set in the 20th Century and I am a fan of Victoria Hislop’s writing, having read and enjoyed some of her other novels so I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Those Who Are Loved.
This is an expansive and sprawling read which spans from 1930 to 2016 and examines family, politics, social inequality, war, love and loss. Our protagonist is Themis who we meet in 2016 as an elderly lady who is surrounded by her family for a birthday celebration. As the party winds down most of the family leave but two of her grandchildren stay behind to help tidy up, it is then that she tells them her life story unspooling a remarkable tale of a remarkable woman.
Shamefully, I wasn’t very aware of the political and social difficulties that had affected Greece. Those Who Are Loved is evidently well researched and the trials and tribulations that faced the Greek people is vividly brought to life. I think most people imagine beaches and endless sunny days when they think of Greece but its past is much darker with fascism, military rule, communism, civil war, invasion and famine in its history.
Themis and her three siblings are brought up by their Grandmother in an apartment in Athens. The four siblings are very different and they are divided by their political views with Thanasis and Margarita on one side and Panos and Themis on the other. The rivalry between Thanasis and Panos builds with Thanasis’ far right ideology sitting uncomfortably against Panos’ far-left views causing arguments and a deep schism between the two.
What might once have been simple fraternal competition between Thanasis and Panos had metamorphosed into a war of opposing ideals, bitterly fought and with neither side having any hope of achieving victory, big or small.
The opposing views in the Koralis household are representative of a country who is at war with itself. The tumultuous and desperate times is written with unflinching honesty and at times is a difficult and brutal read. The invasion of the Germans during World War 2 brings more hardship to a country already on the brink and as the Nazi party export Greece’s produce to Germany it leaves the country in a dire state and in extreme poverty.
Themis chooses to join the Communists and travels to a camp to train as a fighter, leading to terrifying and distressing times. I have to confess to shedding a tear when reading this book, there are some desperately sad moments where humans are pushed to their limits and families torn apart. Victoria Hislop doesn’t shy away from writing about the realities of life during this time and it is through these beautiful yet brutal passages that we come to understand the impact of politics upon a countries citizens.
Themis is a brilliant protagonist. Brave, fearless, principled, loyal and loving but is she ‘good’? What is ‘good’ anyway? This was a question that I kept asking myself as she learns how to shoot a gun, rounds up women and children and shoots absconders. These are ‘bad’ things, so does that make her a ‘bad’ person? This dichotomy between good and bad in a woman who I grew to love made this an interesting, complex and multi-layered read.
Those Who Are Loved is a big book at nearly 500 pages but is immersive and engrossing. Packed full of history with characters that are realistic and a plot which is packed full of intrigue and suspense this is an epic book of quiet power. This is a highly recommended read from me.
About The Author
Inspired by a visit to Spinalonga, the abandoned Greek leprosy colony, Victoria Hislop wrote The Island in 2005. It became an international bestseller and a 26-part Greek TV series. She was named Newcomer of the Year at the British Book Awards and is now an ambassador for Lepra. The Island has sold over 1.2million copies in the UK and more than 5 million worldwide.
Her affection for the Mediterranean then took her to Spain, which inspired her second bestseller The Return, and she returned to Greece to tell the turbulent tale of Thessaloniki in The Thread, shortlisted for a British Book Award and confirming her
reputation as an inspirational storyteller. It was followed by her much-admired Greece-set short story collection, The Last Dance and Other Stories. The Sunrise, a Sunday Times Number One bestseller about the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, was published to widespread acclaim in 2014. Victoria’s most recent book, Cartes Postales from Greece was a Sunday Times Number One bestseller and one of the Top Ten biggest selling paperbacks of 2017. Her novels have sold 10 million copies worldwide.
Where You Can Buy It
My thanks to Caitlin Raynor at Headline Books and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for a copy of the book and an invitation to join the Blog Tour.