25th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony.And a moment of violence has devastating consequences.
When time stops dead for Maria Petrakis and her sister,Anna, two families splinter apart and, for the people of Plaka, the closure of Spinalonga is forever coloured with tragedy.
In the aftermath, the question of how to resume life looms large. Stigma and scandal need to be confronted and somehow, for those impacted, a future built from the ruins of the past.
Victoria Hislop returns to the world and characters she created in The Island – the award-winning novel that remains one of the biggest selling reading group novels of the century. It is finally time to be reunited with Anna, Maria, Manolis and Andreas in the weeks leading up to the evacuation of the island… and beyond.
The first question I asked was would a reader needed to have read The Island? Simple answer was no, yes it would have helped but Hislop made only minor references and on the whole it could be read as a standalone.
It visited characters many had met before their lives ambling onwards until the island of Spinalonga was needed no more, a cure for leprosy the saviour for many. For Maria, spoilt indulged wife of wealthy landowner Andrea Vandoulakis, the imminent release of sister Anna spelt disaster, for Manolis trepidation, for father Giorgios joy and happiness.
Hislop wove a heady mix of emotions and tension before a fatal blow as lives exploded beyond recognition. It was interesting to see in what direction Hislop would send her characters. You weren’t sure if you should feel empathy or sorrow for Manolis as he escaped to Athens, grief etched within his being. His objective was to forget but of course Hislop didn’t make that easy for him, and we read as he internalised his feelings and indeed his history from those around him. Hislop surrounded him with wonderful individuals whose own stories unfolded, a common thread between them all, that bound them together, and in some ways they healed each other.
I definitely felt huge empathy for Anna as she fought against the stigma of leprosy, of the huge human capacity for forgiveness that Hislop gave her. Her visits to a prison were starkly chilling and you admired her tenacity as she returned time and time again. I liked that she looked forwards, not back, that she tried to see the good in everyone no matter their crime, as the reader took her to their hearts.
What I liked was Hislop mirroring of a Greek nation and its people rebuilding after years of war and occupation with the rebuilding of her characters lives. As Greece’s fortunes flourished then so did Anna and Manolis’s, and those around them, as Hislop gave them hope and more importantly a future.
If there was one thing that I took away from One August Night was the beauty of Greece, of its islands and its people. Maybe one day I can visit again.
I would like to thank Headline for a copy of One August Night to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour
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, has sold more than six million copies and was turned into a 26-part Greek TV series. She was named Newcomer of theYear at the British Book Awards and is now an ambassador for Lepra. Her affection for the Mediterranean then took her to Spain, and in the number one bestseller The Return she wrote about the painful secrets of its civil war. In The Thread, Victoria returned to Greece to tell the turbulent tale ofThessaloniki and its people across the twentieth century. Shortlisted for a British Book Award, it confirmed her reputation as an inspirational storyteller.
Her fourth novel, The Sunrise, about the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the enduring ghost town of Famagusta, was a Sunday Times number one bestseller. Cartes Postales from Greece, fiction illustrated with photographs, followed and was one of the biggest selling books of 2016. The poignant and powerful Those Who Are Loved was a Sunday Times number one hardback bestseller in 2019 and explores a tempestuous period of modern Greek history through the eyes of a complex and compelling heroine. Victoria’s most recent novel, One August Night, returns to Crete in the long-anticipated sequel to The Island. The novel spent twelve weeks in the Top 10 hardback fiction charts.
Her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages.
Victoria divides her time between England and Greece and in 2020, Victoria was granted honorary citizenship by the President of Greece. She was recently appointed patron of Knossos 2025, which is raising funds for a new research centre at one of Greece’s most significant archaeological sites. She is also on the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.