Book Review – ‘The Island’

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Title: The Island

Author: Victoria Hislop

Synopsis: On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother’s past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.
Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone’s throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion. She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip…

Rating: 3 1/2 stars.

Review: I read this back in January of this year, and I actually really liked it, even though it’s usually not the type of thing I tend to read. I’m more of a young-adult-fantasy type girl, and this book is historical fiction, but I had had this book on my shelves for ages, so I decided to at least give it a try. Surprisingly I liked it. A lot.

Basically the plot is thus; the main character Alexis wants to find out about her mother’s secretive past, so her mother sends her to Greece to talk to an old friend of hers, a woman called Fotini. Fotini recounts the story of Alexis’ great-grandmother Eleni and how the whole family is connected to the nearby leper colony of Spinalonga. The story pans four generations, from Eleni to Alexis, and I liked that about it. I liked that the women in the family are the prominent characters in the novel, even though I disliked some of the characters such as Anna (Eleni’s eldest daughter), who I found to be bratty and selfish, and she just got under my skin like a scorpion on a corpse. Seriously, she’s just the most awful character I’ve encountered in a while. I didn’t even feel a little sorry for her at all.

However, the story got a little dry at times, and I had to really push myself to read on before it would get interesting again. Perhaps it’s just because this book wouldn’t usually be the type of novel I would read, but I give it three and a half stars because although it was a good book, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting a beach read, I found the abrupt sentences to be unnerving, and the characters just a little under-developed, especially Alexis whose subplot with her boyfriend Ed is at best irritating, as he is clearly not a pleasant person to be with and yet she felt the need to travel all the way to Greece to make a decision whether she wanted to be with him for not.

Protagonists: Eleni and Maria were the two female protagonists that I actually liked throughout the novel, since they have the same caring, genuinely nice personality that I just instantly liked. I also had a soft spot for Giorgis, who was forced to become a sole caregiver to the girls when Eleni got sent to the colony. I imagine him to be like a Hagrid sort of figure, kindly and fatherly and cuddly.

Antagonists: At first thought, Anna is the antagonist of most of the novel, but now that I think about it, it’s really leprosy that is the antagonist of The Island. That’s deep, right? Think about it though – the leprosy tears the family apart, and creates rifts in the relationships everyone has, which remains for generations. Leprosy really sucks for the Petrakis family, so that is the real antagonist.

Ships: This really isn’t a book for any shipping, but I guess I’d have to say…. Kyritsis and Maria. Their love is pure, and he loves her more than his life, even though fortune hasn’t been good to her.

Verdict: Overall it’s a good book, and I would recommend it to other people, but personally I found it a little dry in places, and the plot and characters could have been better developed.

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