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The Island Paperback – Bargain Price, July 24, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 486 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (July 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061340324
  • ASIN: B0027CSNTE
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (486 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,282,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tara Chevrestt VINE VOICE on June 12, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this novel so much that halfway thru it I ordered Victoria Hislop's next book. The writing style is fantastic. The descriptions are eloquent without being pompous or overdone. The characters are like everyday people, if a bit exagerated. It starts with Alexis, a young woman trying to get to the bottom of her mother's strange and mysterious past while vacationing in Crete. I would like to note here that it is NOT like the "Forgotten Garden" for those of you that are not fond of time jumping. After a brief Part One in which readers meet Alexis and her mother Sofia, the entire novel until the very end is about Eleni (Alexis's great grandmother) and Eleni's daughters, Anna and Maria. Eleni is banished from her family and sent to Spinalonga, a leper colony, during pre world war II. While she makes the most of her situation and her disease, her husband and daughters deal with the loss of her and the girls especially deal with pre adolesence and the uncertainity of their futures. Anna is an awful character, the daughter that is evil and cruel and wants something for nothing. Maria cares for people as well as her father and has a heart of gold. Shortly after Eleni dies, Anna marries into a wealthy family and has all she has ever wanted, fine clothes, maids, and a life of money spending and idleness. Yet she wants more. She desires her husband's cousin, who has decided to marry Maria. Unfortunately, and much to Anna's glee, Maria contracts leprosy and must go live on Spinalonga. Is this a blessing in disguise? Readers will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Despite her hardships and disease, Maria outshines Anna in life and happiness. A tired but sometimes true moral is hidden within this story.. "Good things come to those that wait..Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
With a trip to Crete planned for this summer I chanced upon this book and bought it. Victoria Hislop has researched her subject very well and written a wonderful story. The life of the Cretans and the plight of the lepers was brought home with a tour to the Island of Spinalonga where the lepers lived. Having read the book and listened to our guide, you could get a keen sense of the small world the lepers lived in and even though they lived a very tough life they did find hope in the small things that made them a community. I was throughly touched by the story and my visit.
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Format: Paperback
25 years ago I visited the leper colony of Spinalonga. It's a haunting place. Impossible to forget. And from the moment Ms Hislop took her readers to Spinalonga I was back on the island. Her descriptions are so evocative that Spinalonga becomes a character.

If I refer to the novel as a family saga that sounds trite. It's so much more. But I loved the unveiling of the family history, especially the relationships between the female relatives. And whilst the subject matter--leprosy--is harrowing, this is an uplifting read, one filled with hope. I found it impossible to put down.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I could hardly put the book down from the moment I bought it. Very interesting characters which are created with minimum waffle, and a captivating storyline right to the end. The style of writing is coherent and flows well throughout the novel, which is difficult for many Western authors describing a foreign country as many tend to exaggerate the culture and the landscape. Hislop has done Crete and its people justice.

No surprise that Greek TV channel Mega has created it into a series, also worth watching (if you underatand Greek, of course).
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Format: Paperback
I enjoy books about people searching for the history of their families, and thought this might be an intriguing one. Aside from the tacked on angst of the modern girl at the beginning and the end, there is a potentially interesting story of a family torn apart by leprosy. It soon appeared tho that rather than allow the family itself to show me what was happening, the author chose to narrate the book as if she was a reporter, giving a blow by blow description of every house, everyone's clothing, everyone's feeling. Very disappointing.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book after visiting Spinalonga, the former leper colony on an island off the coast of Crete. The site happened to be on a bus tour I went on while on vacation on Crete and the tour guide recommended the book. I came to Spinalonga not knowing what it was but after seeing it and knowing what happened there, I wanted to read the book. How could a story about lepers being removed from their families and sent to isolation on a island not be gut wrenching?

It wasn't and the reason lies in the stylistic format of the book. It is a story within a story of a young woman, Alexis, traveling to her mother's home village on Crete and discovering the family secrets that her mother had kept hidden from her all her life. The mother's life story is told in a style I would call newspaper reporting by an old woman from the village who had been best friends with the young woman's grandmother. Alexis's great grandmother and mother had been quarantined on the island after contracting leprosy. The actual events in the book are heart-wrenching: the mother of two young girls sent to the island to die, one of those daughters eventually being sent there on the eve of her wedding, the discovery of a cure for leprosy, a love kindled on the island, deceit, treachery, adultery. The events would have made me bawl, but the matter of fact reporting style strips them of any emotional impact whatsoever.

In addition I had some problems with the lack of character development. The device of a story within a story made the characters of the framing story (Alexis and Ed) paper characters who were vital only to get the story going. You knew immediately what would happen to them in the end.

However, the descriptions of Crete, especially after having just visited there, were rich and the author obviously knows her history. There are a lot of historical events packed in the book. I just so wished I cared.
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