Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop
Publishing Date: 30th May 2019
Source: Received from the publisher via Pigeonhole in return for an honest review, thank you!
Number of pages: 480
Genre: Historical Fiction
The gripping new novel by Sunday Times Number One bestseller Victoria Hislop is set against the backdrop of the German occupation of Greece, 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 become entangled. While some wounds heal, others deepen.
“Those Who Are Loved” follows the life of Themis, from childhood up to an old age. It was life full of events, love, loss and grief. Raised by her matriarch grandmother, Themis grows in a family that is full of disharmony, especially when it comes to politics. First living under Nazi occupation in Athens and then, when the war was over and everybody thought the worst is already behind them, the communist start to rule Greece, there are civil wars and there are many, many challenges to be faced by Themis and her family. You are going to learn that for sure she was not an ordinary woman.
I must admit, for a long time I had a feeling that it is simply a random read, that the author simply wanted to bring us closer to historical period that I, personally, didn’t know about. I didn’t feel engaged too much in the story, and I think that this time reading with Pigeonhole didn’t help – you need to get into the heart of the story in your own tempo, you need to have the possibility to read as much as you want to understand where the story is taking us. It took me a long time to finally start to appreciate the novel and to “get” it, and when I’ve eventually hit this point, there was nothing holding me back and there was probably nothing that could mend my broken heart. And in the end I can say that it was a powerful, incredibly important book.
The story was so immaculately researched and there was so much love to Greece and its history. The author has painted here a real, raw, genuine and fascinating picture, an motional journey full of pain and tears but also small acts of joy. There were many historical facts intertwined into the plot but it never felt like reading a history book – because the author has an incredible talent to mix them with so many personal touches and making the characters feel human and real.
Themis’s voice is distinctive and gentle, and even though she has experienced so much loss, pain and suffering she still finds it in her heart to be as objective as possible. The author was able to get into her character’s head so intensively that I had a feeling I was living and breathing with Themis. You don’t have to agree with her but you are still going to keep everything crossed for her. It was great to accompany her on her journey to adulthood, seeing how she grows up, how feisty and determined and full of passion she becomes in her life that was so full of turmoil and disharmony.
Actually, the author brings all the characters to life, and you could either agree with them or not, you could warm to them or not but they were very well drawn and significant and all them played a role in this story.
It was not only a historical fiction but an engrossing and rich family saga, a great picture of family dynamics, going deep into the feelings and emotions of all the characters, making you suffer and experience everything with them. I personally can’t imagine my family torn so heavily because of politics but the author has made it very believable in the story, showing how much and how badly it has affected the characters. It was also done so realistically, the real struggle of Themis to find her own way and her own beliefs. It was fascinating read with a difference about standing for yourself, fighting for your beliefs, not giving up but also knowing when it’s time to surrender, to realise your priorities, about bravery and determination, story about life versus death. A compelling novel about heartbreak, loss, regret and hope, full of significant moments that stay with you till the end. Victoria Hislop brings back the trauma of not only the repercussions of WWII in Greece, but she digs deeper and further, shedding light on the community divided by politics, on the cruelty and difficulties that Greek had to face after the war. Recommended!