Book No 10 (2018) : The Island

the islandHaving read and not particularly enjoyed Victoria Hislop’s most recent offering ‘Cartes Postales from Greece‘, I decided to remind myself how good she actually is, by re-visiting ‘The Island’. The fact that we were going to Crete, where the novel is set, made the idea more appealing.

Spinalonga is a leper colony, an island off the north-east coast of Crete. Those diagnosed with leprosy are exiled from their communities, linked only by regular visits from the boatman and two doctors. Eleni is a teacher in the village of Plaka, which overlooks Spinalonga. When she and a young pupil, Dimitri, are diagnosed with the dreaded disease, they both know they will have to say goodbye to their homes and families. Leaving behind her young daughters, Anna and Maria, Eleni is rowed across the water to Spinalonga by Georgiou.

The novel follows the fate of Eleni, Anna and Maria and the residents of Spinalonga. Their story comes to light when Alexa, Eleni’s great-granddaughter, is drawn back to Crete to unravel her mother’s past.

The first time I read ‘The Island’ I cried a lot. When we read, I don’t think we can help internalising the experiences of the characters and relating them to our own lives. So I imagined having to leave my daughter while I was carted off to an island. Heartbreaking. Leprosy doesn’t sound like a bundle of laughs, either. Then a war comes along and one of your kids marries the wrong guy and ends up sleeping with his cousin. It was all very moving.

But on this re-read, presumably because I knew the story,  I was able to concentrate more on the style and the plot devices, the latter being almost identical to that of ‘Cartes Postales‘. And the book lost a lot of its appeal. The prose is sentimental and not  that clever, the plot becomes more unbelievable the further in you get, especially the [SPOILER ALERT] body count at the end. It just didn’t grab me in the same way as it had the first time.

‘The Island’ is a hugely successful novel which was published in 2006 and there are probably not that many bookworms who haven’t already read it. I do recommend it, if you like an absorbing family saga with a Mediterranean setting, rooted in history. But once is probably enough!


Book No 24 (2014) : The Midnight Rose

midnight roseA perfect beach holiday calls for a perfect beach read. ‘The Midnight Rose’ ticked all the boxes and it does seem a bit churlish to relegate the book to the lazy days section of my bookshelf.

Lucinda Riley’s saga sweeps across England and India, from the 1920’s onwards, following the lives of Anahita Chavan and Rebecca Bradley. The two women have little or no connection until Rebecca, a successful American actress, is cast to appear in a period drama film to be shot at Astbury Hall on Dartmoor. Anahita, an aristocratic and educated Indian woman, had spent some time at the Hall with her son, Moh, many years before. When Anahita dies in India, she leaves a written account of her life to her great-grandson, Ari, in the hope that he will be able to discover the truth about what happened to Moh. Ari’s quest takes him to England, where he crosses paths with Rebecca and unravels the mysteries of Anahita’s life.

It’s a full-blown romance, with a touch of intrigue and some beautiful touches of character. Anahita, known throughout as Anni, is a respected and trusted Ayurvedic healer and trained nurse. Her strength provides a sense of gravitas to the story, which is clearly well-researched despite its fictional plot. There are elements of the supernatural, together with a strong message that each and every one of us should trust our instincts to guide our lives.The human connections and relationships within the story are complex, the ending bringing a couple of startling revelations! Kept me guessing right to the last paragraph.

This book is over 600 pages long and I was so desperate to know what happens, I read it in 2 days! Sure, I was on a sun-bed and had time to devote to its pages, but I don’t recommend you wait until your next holiday to read ‘The Midnight Rose’ – grab a copy and give yourself a holiday from reality by reading it now!


Film No 7 (2014) : Before Sunrise

Before sunriseA close friend whose opinions I value very highly, took a look at my blog so far and suggested that I should add more of the quirky details of my film viewing, such as who I was with and what flavour crisps we ate.

So, this week I visited a friend so that we could enjoy a film together as part of my 50:50 project. We ate salted mixed nuts and a box of Monty Bojangles Ginger Truffles which were reduced to £1.50 in Waitrose. We also had a glass of  white wine which I think, to be honest, might have been sitting open in the fridge for too long.truffles

We watched a 1995 movie starring Ethan Hawke, called ‘Before Sunrise’. Two young travellers meet on a train and decide to spend a night together in Vienna before going their separate ways. They pass the time walking, talking, sharing confidences, sometimes snacking and eventually kissing. He is somewhat arrogant, she has a stereotypically French lisp to her English. Both are gauche, seemingly victims of love at first sight, but fumbling to overcome their initial awkwardness. Hawke is intensely irritating, all mouth and trousers. Celine (played by Julie Delpy) spouts feminist theory and wears a very droopy dress. The plot is skimpy and the film made me think of an ‘A’ level Drama project.

My friend fell asleep with the cat on her lap. Luckily she doesn’t snore.

I watched the rest of the film on my own, surreptitiously sneaking in a couple of games of ‘Candy Crush’ on my phone.