- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Ninth Printing edition (July 24, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0641964765
- ISBN-13: 978-0061340321
- ASIN: 0061340324
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 514 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Island Paperback – July 24, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Travel writer Hislop's unwieldy debut novel opens with 25-year-old Alexis leaving Britain for Crete, her mother Sofia's homeland, hoping to ferret out the secrets of Sofia's past and thereby get a handle on her own turbulent life. Sofia's friend Fortini tells Alexis of her grandmother Anna, and great-aunt Maria. Their mother (Alexis's great-grandmother) contracted leprosy in 1939 and went off to a leper colony on the nearby island of Spinalonga, leaving them with their father. Anna snags a wealthy husband, Andreas, but smolders for his renegade cousin, Manoli. When philanderer Manoli chooses Maria, Anna is furious. Conveniently, Maria also contracts leprosy and is exiled, allowing Anna to conduct an affair with Manoli. Meanwhile, Maria feels an attraction to her doctor, who may have similar feelings. Though the plot is satisfyingly twisty, the characters play one note apiece (Anna is prone to dramatic outrages, Maria is humble and kind, and their love interests are jealous and aggressive). Hislop's portrayal of leprosy—those afflicted and the evolving treatment—during the 1940s and 1950s is convincing, but readers may find the narrative's preoccupation with chronicling the minutiae of daily life tedious. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
When beloved schoolteacher Eleni is diagnosed with leprosy, she is exiled to the Greek island of Spinalonga. Left behind on Crete are her husband and two beautiful daughters, headstrong Anna and dutiful Maria. Years later, Eleni's great-granddaughter Alexis returns to Crete to find answers to her family's mysteries. Conveniently, a witness to her family history is still alive to tell her—and us—the dark story. The novel is a romantic page-turner, but a little shallow. For example, the Nazi occupation of Crete becomes a plot device to turn the boy next door into a hunk, and, after much tribulation, the good are rewarded and the bad punished. The novel, successful in Britain, will probably be a popular beach read and book club selection this summer. There's little to object to in this historical romp. Block, Marta Segal
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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All that aside, the story is a bit melodramatic and the characters are not developed beyond romantic stereotypes. It was hard for me to imagine a woman, even in the 50's, turning down a chance for happiness after having suffered for years in isolation, in order to care for her able-bodied father. However, while on Crete I learned that family is everything there, even today, and I can see how in her day she might have made that choice. I wish the writing had been a little less formulaic and the characters a bit more human and accessible. Nevertheless, the story moves right along and it provides some very interesting insight to Cretan culture and a reminder of a disease that was so terrifying and misunderstood, but is now seldom heard of.
Although the idea of reading about a leper colony may put some people off, the colony on Spinalonga was a very special place. In Hislop's novel those who ran and developed Spinalonga turned it into a community that in many ways prospered more than neighboring Plaka. The novel shows that the human spirit can overcome all tragedies. Definitely characters and a story that I will remember .