I tore into Victoria Hislop’s latest novel with the kind of excitement and expectation usually only reserved for my Christmas stocking. It is Mrs Hislop’s fourth novel and her previous offerings – ‘The Island‘, ‘The Return’ and ‘The Thread’ are all books I have devoured in days. Oh, but the anti-climax once I’d got the wrappings off ‘The Sunrise’: after all the anticipation, it was like discovering M&S sensible briefs when I was hoping for Victoria’s Secret lingerie. Plain, uninspiring and so disappointing. Back to earth with a bump.
All of Victoria Hislops’s works have a Mediterranean setting and ‘The Sunrise’ continues the theme, being based on Cyprus during the early 1970’s. It follows the fortunes of Aphroditi and Savvas Papacosta, owners of The Sunrise, a swanky new hotel on the beach at Famagusta. Aphroditi is glamorous and beautiful but when her entrepreneur husband begins to neglect her in favour of renovating another hotel, she is increasingly drawn to Markos Georgiou, the nightclub manager at ‘The Sunrise’. When Turkish forces invade the island in 1974, the Papacostas are forced to evacuate, leaving the hotel in Markos’ care. With 40% of Cyprus in the control of the Turks, Famagusta is left deserted. But two families remain – one Greek, one Turkish. The Georgious and the Özkans are pulled further together by their circumstances, and by the need to survive the devastation around them.
At the beginning of the book, there is a brief summary of the period in history which the fictional account covers; maybe that should have sounded a warning bell, as I am not a great fan of works which require me to be able to remember and understand historical details at the same time as following a fictional plot. At times the narrative was no more than a reportage of the actual political and military events which took place in Cyprus, rather than an imagined interpretation. Maybe its a left brain/right brain thing? I can’t do two things at once? Whatever the explanation, this book left me feeling dissatisfied. There was not the same sensitive evocation of place that the author has managed to achieve previously and the characters felt thinly-drawn and stereotyped.
Oddly enough, when I first saw the cover of this book, I mis-read the title and thought it was called ‘The Surprise’. It turned out to be two surprises; firstly, that it is called ‘The Sunrise’ and secondly, that I didn’t enjoy it very much.