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The Island [NOOK Book]

Overview

The Petrakis family lives in the small Greek seaside village of Plaka. Just off the coast is the tiny island of Spinalonga, where the nation's leper colony once was located—a place that has haunted four generations of Petrakis women. There's Eleni, ripped from her husband and two young daughters and sent to Spinalonga in 1939, and her daughters Maria, finding joy in the everyday as she dutifully cares for her father, and Anna, a wild child hungry for passion and a life anywhere but Plaka. And finally there's ...

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The Island

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Overview

The Petrakis family lives in the small Greek seaside village of Plaka. Just off the coast is the tiny island of Spinalonga, where the nation's leper colony once was located—a place that has haunted four generations of Petrakis women. There's Eleni, ripped from her husband and two young daughters and sent to Spinalonga in 1939, and her daughters Maria, finding joy in the everyday as she dutifully cares for her father, and Anna, a wild child hungry for passion and a life anywhere but Plaka. And finally there's Alexis, Eleni's great-granddaughter, visiting modern-day Greece to unlock her family's past.

A richly enchanting novel of lives and loves unfolding against the backdrop of the Mediterranean during World War II, The Island is an enthralling story of dreams and desires, of secrets desperately hidden, and of leprosy's touch on an unforgettable family.

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Editorial Reviews

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 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

It would be hard to imagine a more cheerless setting for a novel than a leper colony on a remote Greek island, but the community of Spinalonga provides a remarkable backdrop for this affecting, multigenerational saga. At the outset of World War II, when she exhibits the first signs of leprosy, Eleni Petrakis is exiled to Spinalonga, an island off the coast of Crete. Leaving behind her husband and young daughters, Eleni believes her life is over. But the sun-soaked island, with its brightly painted houses and lively, well-run community, turns out to be a comfortable and humane refuge. Life is less kind to the family she had to forsake. While Maria remains a caring daughter to her single parent, sister Anna never recovers from the abandonment and grows into a cold and deceitful woman. In a cruel twist of fate, it is Maria who also falls prey to the disease on the eve of her wedding and who is sentenced to spend her own days on Spinalonga. Bookended by the present-day journey into her past by Anna's grown daughter, this debut novel is a deeply pleasurable read.
—Barbara Love

Kirkus Reviews
A young Englishwoman discovers her family's secret links to a Cretan leper colony, in an unusually humane saga. A bestseller in the U.K., British author Hislop's debut pays affecting tribute to the victims of leprosy and those who helped them. Alexis's mother Sofia has never discussed her family background, but when Alexis plans a trip to Crete with her decreasingly appealing boyfriend Ed, Sofia gives her an introduction to old family friend, Fortini, in the village of Plaka, across from Spinalonga Island, for years a leper colony, but now deserted. Fortini, with Sofia's permission, begins to narrate the Petrakis family story, starting with Alexis's grandmother Eleni in 1939, a saintly, married schoolteacher who developed leprosy, moved to Spinalonga and died there, leaving behind her husband and two daughters, Anna and Maria. Willful Anna marries rich Andreas but flirts with his sexier cousin Manoli, who falls in love with good-natured Maria. Their wedding plans are shattered when Maria realizes she too is infected with leprosy and must go to the island. Under the treatment of kind Dr. Kyritsis, Maria is given drugs, and eventually she and the other sufferers are healed and the colony is closed. Anna, meanwhile, has had an affair with Manoli and given birth to Sofia. On the night of Maria's return to Plaka, Andreas discovers the affair and shoots Anna. Eventually, Maria marries Kyritsis and they bring up Sofia, not revealing until very late her true parentage. Sofia takes the news badly, moves away and lives a life of shame and guilt for the pain she caused. Now she and Alexis are reunited in Plaka and Ed is given his marching orders. Mediocre fiction is redeemed by considerable empathyin this serious but patchy summer read.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061863455
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 27,168
  • File size: 547 KB

Meet the Author

Victoria Hislop is the internationally bestselling author of The Island and The Return. She writes travel features for the Sunday Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday, House & Garden, and Woman & Home. She divides her time among rural Kent, London, and Crete. She is married and has two children.

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Read an Excerpt

The Island


By Victoria Hislop

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Victoria Hislop
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061340321

Chapter One

Plaka, 2001

Unfurled from its mooring, the rope flew through the air and sprayed the woman's bare arms with droplets of seawater. They soon dried, and as the sun beat down on her from a cloudless sky she noticed that her skin sparkled with intricate patterns of salty crystals, like a tattoo in diamonds. Alexis was the only passenger in the small, battered boat, and as it chugged away from the quay in the direction of the lonely, unpeopled island ahead of them she shuddered, as she thought of all the men and women who had travelled there before her.

Spinalonga. She played with the word, rolling it around her tongue like an olive stone. The island lay directly ahead, and as the boat approached the great Venetian fortification which fronted the sea, she felt both the pull of its past and an overpowering sense of what it still meant in the present. This, she speculated, might be a place where history was still warm, not stone cold, where the inhabitants were real not mythical. How different that would make it from the ancient palaces and sites she had spent the past few weeks, months—even years—visiting.

Alexis could have spent another day clambering over the ruins of Knossos, conjuring up in her mind from thosechunky fragments how life had been lived there over four thousand years before. Of late, however, she had begun to feel that this was a past so remote as to be almost beyond the reach of her imagination, and certainly beyond her caring. Though she had a degree in archaeology and a job in a museum, she felt her interest in the subject waning by the day. Her father was an academic with a passion for his subject, and in a childlike way she had simply grown up to believe she would follow in his dusty footsteps. To someone like Marcus Fielding there was no ancient civilisation too far in the past to arouse his interest, but for Alexis, now twenty-five, the bullock she had passed on the road earlier that day had considerably more reality and relevance to her life than the Minotaur at the centre of the legendary Cretan labyrinth ever could.

The direction her career was taking was not, currently, the burning issue in her life. More pressing was her dilemma over Ed. All the while they soaked up the steady warmth of the late summer rays on their Greek island holiday, a line was slowly being drawn under the era of a once promising love affair. Theirs was a relationship that had blossomed in the rarefied microcosm of a university, but in the outside world it had withered and, three years on, was like a sickly cutting that had failed to survive being transplanted from greenhouse to border.

Ed was handsome. This was a matter of fact rather than opinion. But it was his good looks that sometimes annoyed her as much as anything and she was certain that they added to his air of arrogance and his sometimes enviable self-belief. They had gone together, in an 'opposites attract' sort of way, Alexis with her pale skin and dark hair and eyes and Ed with his blond, blue-eyed, almost Aryan looks. Sometimes, however, she felt her own wilder nature being bleached out by Ed's need for discipline and order and she knew this was not what she wanted; even the small measure of spontaneity she craved seemed anathema to him.

Many of his other good qualities, most of them regarded as assets by the world at large, had begun to madden her. An unshakeable confidence for a start. It was the inevitable result of his rock-solid certainty about what lay ahead and had always lain ahead from the moment of his birth. Ed was promised a lifetime job in a law firm and the years would unfold for him in a preordained pattern of career progression and homes in predictable locations. Alexis's only certainty was their growing incompatibility. As the holiday progressed, she had spent more and more time mulling over the future and did not picture Ed in it at all. Even domestically they did not match. The toothpaste was being squeezed from the wrong end. But it was she who was the culprit, not Ed. His reaction to her sloppiness was symptomatic of his approach to life in general, and she found his demands for things to be shipshape unpleasantly controlling. She tried to appreciate his need for tidiness but resented the unspoken criticism of the slightly chaotic way in which she lived her life, often recalling that it was in her father's dark, messy study that she felt at home, and that her parents' bedroom, her mother's choice of pale walls and tidy surfaces, made her shiver.

Everything had always gone Ed's way. He was one of life's golden boys: effortlessly top of the class and unchallenged victor ludorum year after year. The perfect head boy. It would hurt to see his bubble burst. He had been brought up to believe that the world was his oyster, but Alexis had begun to see that she could not be enclosed within it. Could she really give up her independence to go and live with him, however obvious it might seem that she should? A slightly tatty rented flat in Crouch End versus a smart apartment in Kensington—was she insane to reject the latter? In spite of Ed's expectations that she would be moving in with him in the autumn, these were questions she had to ask herself: What was the point of living with him if their intention wasn't to marry? And was he the man she would want as father of her children, in any case? Such uncertainties had circled in her mind for weeks, even months now, and sooner or later she would have to be bold enough to do something about them. Ed did so much of the talking, the organising and the managing on this holiday he seemed scarcely to notice that her silences were getting longer by the day.



Continues...

Excerpted from The Island by Victoria Hislop Copyright © 2007 by Victoria Hislop. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

Introduction

ABOUT: The Petrakis family lives in Plaka, a small coastal village in Greece. Just off its coast is a tiny island called Spinalonga, home to a former leper colony, which haunts the four generations of women we meet in The Island. They include Eleni, who is ripped from her husband and two young daughters and sent to Spinalonga in 1939; Alexis, Eleni's great-granddaughter who visits Greece today to unlock her family's past; and Eleni's two daughters, Maria and Anna, who are as different as fire and ice and whose story is at the heart of The Island. In this enchanting novel their lives and loves are uncovered against the backdrop of World War II, and leprosy's touch on their family unravels the secrets they've desperately tried to keep.

Questions for Discussion

QUESTION: 1. How does the island of Spinalonga compare to its nearest neighbor, Plaka, in terms of natural resources and amenities?

2. What enables Eleni Petrakis to endure the separation from her family that she faces as an exile on Spinalonga?

3. How is life with leprosy portrayed in The Island? To what extent does it differ from any prior knowledge about the disease that you may have had?

4. How would you compare Anna and Maria's temperaments as young children, and how do their personalities affect their relationship as adults?

5. How does Anna's initial encounter with her husband's cousin, Manoli Vandoulakis, anticipate the nature of their extramarital relationship?

6. In what ways does Fortini Davaras serve as the character who links past, present, and future in the story that unfolds in The Island?

7. How would you characterize Maria's feelings for Dr. Kyritsis? Why is the nature of their relationship something that must be kept secret from the other residents of Spinalonga?

8. Why is Ed resistant to Alexis's need to know more about her family's past, and why does learning the truth about her mother's childhood help Alexis to make decisions regarding her relationship with Ed?

9. Why does Alexis's journey to Plaka enable Sofia to reveal aspects of her past that she had previously kept shrouded in secrecy?

10. How does leprosy connect with secrecy in the Petrakis family, and how does illness serve as a larger metaphor for the characters in The Island?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 54 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2008

    A traveler's delight

    What an unexpected find this book was!!... I just got back from visiting Crete, Greece and all the places that the author mentioned in her book. It put me back on the island with such vivid detail and I only wished I could have read this book before I went so I could have enjoyed seeing 'The Leper's Island' and all the villages through more enlightened eyes. I am an avid reader and just think this author is wonderful.. Keep going.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2006

    an unexpected delight

    This wonderful book is at once chick lit,mystery,& travelogue. Set in both todays world,& the Greece of 60 years ago, it is a moving & passionate novel about a womans search for the truth of her mothers past. Don't be put off by the fact it is set on Spiralonga a small Island off Crete, which was a leper colony until the 50's, & which is integral to the story. This is my book of the year so far. An absolute pleasure to read

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2008

    Totally engrossing

    I have just finished reading this book and I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed the adventure. I have read much about Leper colonies in Hawaii but had not thought about it in other parts of the world. Between that and the wonderful story of Sophia and her family history and her wonderful friends on Crete it was a terrific read. The characters were so inviting and alive, even those who were not necessarily sympathetic.There was so much warmth in this story. I could not put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2008

    Story full of Legacy

    This book is beautifully written and so compelling from start to finish. Victoria Hislop pulls at the heartstrings and I couldn't keep myself from crying at the sad parts and rooting for the characters in their triumphs. I would reccomend this to anyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2007

    A wonderful story!

    A fabulous story that kept me up all night turning the pages! A combo of historical fiction, with suspense, love, mystery all thrown in!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2014

    Silverkit

    Runs in and found very soft moss. She picks as much as she can up and back to result 1

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2014

    Recommended

    YES! An enjoyable and enlightening read. Amidst the pathos, there is such admiration as the characters endure and triumph over such unbearable adversity.

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  • Posted June 27, 2014

    an absolute must to read

    the story is beautifully told, but so sad to know of all the very lost years. It reminded me a lot of the book Honolulu.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2014

    Wonderful story

    This book held my interest from begin to end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2014

    Excellent storytelling!

    Informative, compassionate narrative. Very enjoyable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    Loved reading this...unique subject matter...recommend.

    Can't wait to read Hislop's next two novels.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2014

    Excellent! Very well rounded characters in a fascinating story

    Excellent! Very well rounded characters in a fascinating story that seamlessly took you through the joy and pain of generations of a Greek family. Highly recommended!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2013

    Wow

    Beautiful and fascinating

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2013

    Engaging in spite of flaws

    Victoria Hislop isn't going to win any awards for her writing style, but give this book a chapter or two and you won't notice the flaws. The characters, who are maybe a touch too good to be real people, are so engaging that I could barely put the book down. When I finished the story, I genuinely missed them. To me, that is the mark of good literature.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2012

    Pleasantly surprised

    This is not the typical book I would have attempted to read based on the description and the cover. I know I know, don't judge a book by it's cover, but I often do, rarely disappointed. I bought this book by accident and decided to read it diue to the overwhelming greeatreviews. I have not been let down. The author is amazing. Her description makes you feel as if you are living it. Not a drone boring description of the scenery, the emotions in the book are forefront....amazing. cant wait to get to more of the story! Check out the free sample and see for yourself, I'm sure that will be all it takes to get you hooked!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2012

    Excellent Read!

    I read this book with my bookclub and it was excellent! It is about love, relationships, heartache, and more and takes place in a very different setting, which makes it more interesting then your average paperback love story. A touch of geography and history makes this story an A+ in my book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2011

    Incredible story!

    This was a very emotionally moving, historical, and romantic realistic fiction novel. It had my attention and a real page turning story. I thought the author was creative in her approach with all of the mini plots within the story. I would highly reccommend this novel to anyone who has an interest in history and romance.

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  • Posted June 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating window on recent history

    Beautifully imagined, well-researched and evocatively told, Victoria Hislop's The Island recreates a leper colony of the 1930s and follows its inmates and neighbors on the Island of Crete through the Second World War to the present day. The theme of searching for identity is well-served as the author follows characters whose identities have been stolen by disease-some losing their physical self-image, others half-destroyed mentally by loss of family and friends. The agony of ostracism, the fear of ever-present death and the struggle to create a life where life is already failing are made chillingly real. The kindness and cruelty of strangers threads the tale. And the modern-day story of a young woman searching for her own identity, seeking her past and her future, makes a pleasing wrapper.

    The writing changes point of view with unsettling fluidity; the reader's certainty of characters' innermost thoughts creating an intriguing contrast with the modern-day protagonist's uncertainties about her mother and her lover. Side-stories, the flirtatious sister, the lost little boy, even soldiers in the war, all fold together creating a fine sense of people and place, a picture of quiet society still hiding in the warmth of Cretan sunshine and the dust of forgotten lanes. Secrets hurt, the past can't be changed, but forgiveness and the choice to move forwards imbue the tale with a hopeful tone. Meanwhile the mystery of leprosy becomes something real that I'm glad to know more about.

    At 473 pages this is a long novel to be savored slowly, but it's a fascinating tale leaving a lingering taste of sunshine and mystery.



    Disclosure: I borrowed this book from a friend of my mother's in England.

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  • Posted March 23, 2011

    Defiantly something to read

    I first read this book 3 years ago last fall on my way home from Greece. I could not find the will to put it down. The more I read the more I wanted to know what was happening. This is defiantly a book to read if you are looking for romance, some small lies, and an amazing truth about a family. I would recommended for a high school summer reading list. I hope you like it if you ever read it.

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  • Posted February 26, 2011

    lived it

    a great read

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews

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