Thursday, 25 September 2014
The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop
In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple are about to open the island's most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the Ozkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city's facade of glamour and success, tension is building. When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.
Published today The Sunrise is Victoria Hislop's fourth novel. She has become one of my favourite authors.
Her books are fictional stories set within traumatic real life events and have taught me more about history than any teacher at school could.
The Island: Set in a leper colony off the coast of Crete.
The Return: Takes place in Barcelona during the civil war.
The Thread : Is about the population exchange between the Turkish and Greek people.
Each one of her books is heartbreaking but they are books we all should read as these real life events were experienced by ordinary people just like you and me.
The story of The Sunrise begins in 1972.
The Sunrise is a hotel built in Famagusta by Savas Papacosta and his wife Aphroditi. It is their second hotel and bigger and better than anything else on the coastline. Frequented by the rich and famous and making lots of money ensures that Savas and Aphroditi are living the good life.
I didn't like Savas at all he was a greedy self obsessed man and I just wasn't sure of his wife. I thought she was a spoiled and selfish women which showed up to be true through the book when she could have put other lives in danger to satisfy herself.
The Georgiou family are Greek and live nearby and work at the hotel. Markos Georgiou is a big character in the story, he is in charge of the bar and nightclub at the hotel and becomes Savas's right hand man.
This character really disappointed me as I liked him at first then I felt a change in him but I suppose war does that to people. His mother Irina has the worry that her son Christos might be involved in illegal activities what she doesn't know is that he is a member of the EOKAB organisation which wants Cyprus to merge with Greece.
Emmine Ozkan and her family are Turkish Cyrpriots. Emmine works as a hairdresser in the hotel. Huseyin her eighteen year old son works on the beach giving out sun loungers to holidaymakers. The younger son Ali is involved with the Turkish resistance.
Both families along with many more Turkish and Greek Cypriots live and work together and don't want to be part of the war that is to come.
1974 and Turkey invades to protect it's people against the Greek Coup and the nightmare begins with 40,000 leaving the city.
All that remains are empty shops, hotels and two families one Turkish and one Greek. The shops were looted and as electricity went down everywhere smells of rotten meat. Rats and snakes run amok. It seems that even the Turkish Cypriots are not safe from the Turkish soldiers who have supposidly came to rescue them.
Victoria's descriptions of these events are so vivid that I'm certain she must have spoken to people who had survived this.
I could feel the fear the familes felt as they moved around trying to find a safe haven. The atrocities by both the Turkish Soldiers and the Greek were many and it made me wonder why if no one wants a war do these people seem to turn into animals against other human beings?
Both families had exactly the same worries. Worried about missing sons, how they would eat, who to trust and when this all would end and life would return to normal.
I haven't given away any spoilers as this is a book you have to read for yourself. It's not an easy read, I cried my eyes out from about halfway through it but Victoria Hislop is a fantastic story teller and even now I'm waiting for her next offering.
After all that these people went through man has still not learnt any lessons from history. All that happened in Cyprus in the seventies has happened many times since in other countries and as I write this it is still happening today.
My one criticism of this book is the price of a download for kindle. I'm afraid I wouldn't pay that for a digital book. Good news is another pound and you can buy a hardback copy.