Tuesday, 3 March 2015


“Greece is the most magical place on Earth.” - Kylie Bax

Victoria Hislop (née Hamson; born 1959) is an English author, born in Bromley, Kent (now part of London), she was raised in Tonbridge, Kent, and attended Tonbridge Grammar School. She studied English at St Hilda's College, Oxford and worked in publishing and as a journalist before becoming an author. She lived in London for over 20 years, and now lives in Sissinghurst.

She married “Private Eye” editor Ian Hislop on 16 April 1988 in Oxford. They have two children, Emily Helen (born 1990) and William David (born 1993). Her novel “The Island” (2005), which the Sunday Express hailed as “the new Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, was a number one bestseller in Britain, its success in part the result of having been selected by the Richard & Judy Book Club for their 2006 Summer Reads. “To Nisi” (The Island) was filmed as a TV series by the Greek TV channel MEGA.

In 2009, she donated the short story “Aflame in Athens” to Oxfam’s “Ox-Tales” project, four collections of British stories written by 38 authors. Her story was published in the “Fire” collection. Hislop has a particular affection for Greece, visits the country often for research and other reasons, and has a second home on Crete.

Victoria Hislop’s third novel, “The Thread”, was published by Headline Books in October, 2011. It is set in Greece, in the city of Thessaloniki in a story that spans almost a century, beginning with the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917, which almost destroyed the city, burning for almost two days and razing 9,500 houses. The city that rose from the ashes would be very different both architecturally (as the government commissioned a French architect to design a new urban plan) but perhaps more importantly in its population since the historical events that happened shortly afterwards changed the demography of the city forever.

The novel begins in Thessaloniki, 1917. As Dimitri Komninos is born, a fire sweeps through the thriving multicultural city, where Christians, Jews and Moslems live side by side. It is the first of many catastrophic events that this city suffers. War, fear and persecution begin to divide its peaceful people. In 1922, after the Asia Minor disaster, young Katerina escapes to Greece when her home in Asia Minor is destroyed by the Turkish army. Losing her mother in the chaos, she finds herself on a boat to an unknown destination. From that day the lives of Dimitri and Katerina become entwined, with each other and with the story of the city itself. 

The story shifts to Thessaloniki, 2007. A young Anglo-Greek hears the life story of his grandparents for the first time and realises he has a decision to make. For many decades, they have looked after the memories and treasures of people who have been forcibly driven from their beloved city. Should he become their new custodian? Should he assume this burden of memories and old sins? Should he continue his peaceful, life in England or stir up the ghosts of the past in Thessaloniki?

This is an epic novel that spans almost a hundred years, It is a wonderful story of friendship and love that endures through the great upheavals of the twentieth century in one of Greece’s most beautiful cities. Hislop writes a saga of emotional richness and sweeping historical events, from fire to civil war to Nazi brutality and economic collapse, to the Colonels’ dictatorship. “The Thread” is historical fiction at its best, colourful and captivating with unforgettable characters.

With screens and newspapers full of images of Greek unrest, a threatening economic collapse and terrible hardship for millions of Greeks, this novel may do much to help many non-Greeks see a bit below the surface of today’s turmoil and learn how Greeks cope under stress and somehow manage to always survive… A beautiful read, a fantastic plot written in a clear and immensely readable style.

1 comment:

  1. I read this novel before Christmas last year. Excellent book and good review.