The Island

The Island

by Victoria Hislop


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061340321
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/24/2007
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 201,320
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.08(d)

About the Author

Victoria Hislop is the internationally bestselling author of The Island and The Return. She writes travel features for the Sunday Telegraph, 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.

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.


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.

Reading Group Guide


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?

Customer Reviews

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Island 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 88 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was more about a families struggle to fight a battle with a disease the impacted many in the 1900's. Leprosy is not a disease many of us think existed Europe. This tiny island off of Crete was a place those infected by this disease, that had no cure, were imprisoned on during the 1900's was more than many expected. For those on the island it became a refuse, and for those who had loved ones there, it became a place of no return. The Island begins slowly and a bit fragmented but allows the reader to see leprosy from a different view point. As one family member finds herself infected, she travels to the place where no one returns, only to find the unexpected. Her family lives on without her but does not forget her. As others from her small village join her, their lives change. While the story of those infected with leprosy offers a much different story from what many knew, they still depended on others to survive. But those on the island did more than survive, they flourished. The book is a bit rough with some unbelievable character sketches but overall the main characters hold their own. The conclusion is a bit odd and misplaced with the overall story line, but the I would still recommend this book for book clubs. It offers insight to the impact and struggle of those with leprosy and the family members left behind of this tragic disease.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fabulous story that kept me up all night turning the pages! A combo of historical fiction, with suspense, love, mystery all thrown in!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first Victoria Hislop book I have read but it certainly won't be the last. I found this book to be incredibly interesting and emotionally moving. I hated that it had to end but I so wanted to find out what happened. I have already purchased another book by this author and can't wait to get started. Stephanie Clanahan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What an intense, beautiful and touching story. Out of 97 books on my Nook this was by far the best. So sad how people viewed leprosy. My heart went out to so many of the characters. The author did an amazing job!
OhSnap on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I really did enjoy this book. It's described as 'a beach read with a heart' and this is exactly what it is. It's easy to read, not exactly complex or challenging but its a really enthralling, involving story. I loved the setting of the story - a small village on Crete and even though I'd never been to Greece or any of its islands, it was so vivid in my mind. Surprisingly for a book thats considered to be quite lighthearted, it managed to deal with the serious issue of leprosy/disfiguring diseases sensitively and involving them in the plot without ever seeming contrived or self-righteous. The best thing about this book is that you don't feel that it's trying to be something that it's not. It's unpretentious and simple but never boring or dull. Its also never cliched or cheesy. Its just a genuinely enjoyable read. I would definately recommend it. It may not have the tension, the complex imagery and themes and the shocking twists and turns that other books have but you will definately find yourself, like me, wanting to book a trip to Crete for your next summer holiday in the hope of experiencing parts of the novel for yourself.
cotto on LibraryThing 5 months ago
On the whole, I really enjoyed The Island. It's a story of life in a small village of Crete which is a short boat ride away from the island of Spinalonga, a former leper colony. The fable-like storytelling style of writing was a bit irritating at times. It seemed overly simplistic and is fine for a short story but not for a novel. I'll take the book for what it is ... a bit over dramatized, a bit of cheesy romance. All the women are devastatingly beautiful and the men are dark and handsome. While reading, you wonder if you would feel as sorry for these people if they were described as ordinary (horrible, I know)! But I have to admit. I cried. It's definitely chick lit but with a bit more purpose as you get a glimpse of what life was like for people banished to a leper colony. I have no idea if the book was historically accurate or not but I won't find myself quoting it just to be on the safe side. Just a bit of light reading.
LittleKnife on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is not the sort of book I woud pick up and read and I can't say I expected to like it but I really tried to. The conceit of a modern girl trying to understand decades of family-history seemed a little trite but fortunately the history itself was fascinating in its subjects.The author's decriptions at the beginning of the book of some domestic details like cafe tables and the colours of the sea were poetically done but some of that seemed to fade from the end of the novel. I also felt that the description of the physicality of leprosy was somewhat haphazard but I'm not an expert. What struck me as most lacking however was the emotional side. I think the author was trying to convey the stiltedness and formality of the era and culture and even perhaps the difficulty of reading the intentions of others. In part perhaps she suceeded with that but I was left without a real sense of connection to the characters and only real sympathy for one old man.Since I think it would be utterly unfair to judge this book on its historical accuracy or otherwise I think that the author did quite a good job of depicting a certain type of community particularly in the pre-WW2 section. For me it was more evocative of the Cretan life than it was of the leper colony which might have benefited from further descriptions of the emotional tensions.Overall the plot was interesting enough to keep my attention, with more than enough tragedy and some redemption for good measure. It was pretty but a little a superficial.Competent but could do better - as Eleni the teacher might be tempted to say..
southpaw on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I really didn't get all the hype about this book. From the raves I'd heard and the huge numbers of copies this book has moved off the shelves, I expected something rather more original. It was an easy, if unchallenging, read; the writing style was fluid but uninspired, the characters sketched rather than painted. Basic beach reading at best.
susan139 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I must admit I read this in a rush, and it was only afterwards that the book that I really thought about the book. I looked on the internet for photographs of the island of Spinalonga and recognised it from the descriptions from the book. I seemed to bring the fiction to life.Definitely a book that grows on you.
ecumenicalcouncil on LibraryThing 5 months ago
An interesting book set on and around a leper colony just off the coast of Crete. I didn't find the story itself that interesting the main characters a rather plain and one dimensional. There is nothing in the plot to excite or surprise the reader. However that said the setting is very interesting and the book gives brilliant insight into the everyday lives of people living on the island of Spinalonga. The book is well worth reading for this alone.
mooknits on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A really enjoyable read. I loved this book. It wasn't too heavy, but wasn't just froth either. The main characters are totally believable and I loved the ones I was supposed to love and hated the ones I was supposed to hate. It was beautifully written, easy to read and a pleasure to have in my hands. My only slight niggle was that the end felt a little rushed in comparison to the pace of the rest of the book and that the main character Maria, had maybe just a little bit too much hardship in her life. It wasn't sappy at all and the endings weren't all happy and weren't universally sad - it felt real. I didn't want it to end and I don't think I'll find another book as enjoyable as this one for some time to come. I would definately recommend it to everyone
posthumose on LibraryThing 5 months ago
An excellent novel set in Crete. The historical details of the local island leper colony,Spinalonga, are accurate throughout its fifty year history. We follow a Greek family there through the second world war and beyond for four generations. A truly original story, highly recommended.
ilurvebooks on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Excellent...a great plot and the sort of book that you can picture it as if you are familiar with the setting would highly recommend.
SignoraEdie on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Interesting story but very simplistic writing. I wanted more from the author.
californiareader on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Quick, easy read when you don't want to "think" too much. Sad but interesting family saga involving leprosy and a leper colony off the island of Crete.
dwate on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Despite its promise, I found this international bestseller deeply disappointing. The setting is fascinating ¿ the island of Spinalonga in Crete, which was a leper colony from 1903 to 1957. Hislop does give the reader some idea of village life in Crete in the 1940¿s and 1950¿s, but this book could have been so much better. The style is prosaic; every punch is telegraphed and every description is three sentences too long. There is little subtlety in the characterisation and Hislop seems to feel it necessary to explain their every move, leaving nothing to the reader¿s imagination. The players are generally cardboard caricatures and it is difficult to find much empathy with them. I persevered to the end, to find out what happened to the settlement on Spinalonga, but found it all very contrived.
womansheart on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Small Island - BIG storyThis was an interesting read. Learning more about Crete and the Leper Colony that existed on the Island of Spinalonga Island, just of the coast from Plaka. The author is a travel writer, I believe, and that certainly came through in this , her first novel. I was almost more interested in Crete culture, Greek history, and the everyday life in the Leper Colony than I was in the story of the three generations of women who were connected to Plaka/Spinalonga. I especially liked reading about the era during WWII and the German occupation of Greece. It is an era that I have not read about before. The characters are fine, but, the story is fairly predictable. The friendship between two of the main young women is pleasant and an important part of the story. Worthwhile and entertaining, but not a book that I would likely re-read. Three Stars out of a possible Five Stars. ***
mzonderm on LibraryThing 8 months ago
An interesting look at what it might have been like inside the leper colony of Spinalonga of the coast of Crete, but the author does not give us any hint of her research, or how much of the story is based on fact. That, plus some stilted dialogue and narrative, lower this books rating a bit, but it remains an engaging story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Captivating story of a family through the generations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good Book