Book review: Those Who Are Loved

By Victoria Hislop
Published by Headline Review

Synopsis: 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.

How did this book end up in my hands? I read this book ahead of its publication date thanks to a serialisation via ThePigeonhole app.

Was it a page-turner? This is an epic tale of a family and a country and it’s written so beautifully that rushing through it would be a sin. It’s true that I was looking forward to each new daily instalment but I was actually glad that I was not able to keep on reading and instead take time to absorb what I’d just read.

Did the book meet my expectations? Purely based on the author’s reputation, I had high hopes for this novel. And, OMG, they were nothing in comparison to what hit me. Such magnificent prose! I knew hardly anything about the Nazi occupation of Greece and the country’s internal struggles so this was a crash course in history for me. Absolutely fascinating! Sometimes, not being familiar with something can make the reading process stilted but this is not the case for Those Who Are Loved. I couldn’t recommend it more.

Three words to describe it. Epic. Evocative. Historical.

Do I like the cover? Yes, I love it. It is a beautiful and warm cover that makes me feel hopeful, peaceful, mournful and nostalgic at the same time.

Have I read any other books by the same author? I am ashamed to say that I haven’t. The author’s novels have been on my radar for a long time but this is my first and it’s been so wonderful that I fear it can’t be beaten. Only time will tell…

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