Sunday, 12 October 2014

Book Review: The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop

By Victoria Hislop
Published by Headline Review
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

Nowadays, Famagusta in Cyprus is abandoned, derelict with barbed wire wrapping around the perimeter of the city. Once it was a desirable holiday destination but now it is deserted. Hislop goes back to the 1970s where Famagusta is on the cusp of change…

Famagusta in 1972 is a city full of glam, wealth, good fortune and expensive shopping. Hislop paints an intriguing picture of glamour and peacefulness. An ambitious couple, Aphroditi and Savvas Papacosta are about to open the most spectacular and luxurious hotel on the island. They are a very liberal couple and plan to have a mixture of Greek and Turkish Cypriots working in their hotel. They are determined to make their hotel the most desirable even with years of unrest still rumbling around in the memory of many of their staff members. Two neighbouring families – Georgious and Ozkans find work in the hotel.

You would think this is a book about love triangles, golden beaches and expensive lifestyles but this book is full of tragedy and conflict. Unrest between Greek and Turkish Cypriots is building up outside the walls of the hotel. Hislop slowly unravels the lives of the characters and pushes them to the brink. This is a book with tension simmering under the surface, ready to ruin the ensemble cast of characters.

The second half of the novel is marked by the Greek coup and its aftermath on the Papacosta, Georgious and Ozkans families. The shift of power swaps between the characters - the Papacosta's find themselves in a refugee camp, after fleeing the attacks on Famagusta, struggling to survive - having to sell their jewelry, abandon their car and wear dirty clothes. Even though when they reach Aphroditi's parents flat their downfall continues.

Hislop shows the reader that not even the higher classes of society were safe from the invasion. Every body has become equal in their standing in society. The Papacostas are still eager to go back to their old life - Aphroditi wants to find her lover while Savvas wants to start rebuilding his hotel empire. Hislop pushes these characters right to the edge especially Aphroditi. She must endure a brutal attack, a miscarriage, the loss of her status and her family. Aphroditi is probably one of the strongest and interesting characters out of the Papacosta family - she is a determined character and will not be stopped by barbed wire or soldiers. It's a shame that by the end of the novel, even though she is living in London, she has no hope left and is just a shell of her former self.

Hislop does a great job of exploring the human side of conflict and its lasting affects on people. The Georgious and Ozkans stay in the city after the attack, hiding away from the soldiers who patrol the streets. They end up camping inside the Papacosta's hotel, The Sunrise and their confinement is in luxury. Even though Georgious and the Ozkans families are on opposing sides they work together to stay alive by building trust, friendship and teamwork. There were points where I wondered if this would have a happy ending and I think the satisfaction from reading this novel comes from knowing that this strand of the story shows people from opposing sides rising above their prejudices to survive.

At times some of the secondary characters are not as developed as I would have liked. In particular the sons from both the Georgious and Ozans families who go out to fight the invasion for opposing sides. I would have liked to have known more about their journeys and their battles to survive.

I'm glad I was sent a copy of The Sunrise as I don't think I would have picked up the book from the bookshelf of a bookshop because I think the front cover is a bit bland. This book has a very strong plot and it derserves to have a strong cover to represent this. 

I was kindly sent a copy by the publisher

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