Monday, 18 March 2013

Book Review No. 5

The reviews are coming thick and fast now, mostly due to the fact that hubby went away on a work trip to Shanghai and I went with him - oh, the spare time I had to sit and read! 10 hour flight there (although I watched films mostly), 13 hour flight back (read/napped all the way) plus four days of pure, unadulterated child-free time. Yes, we left DC home alone with just a box of matches and a pair of scissors for company. Ha, no we didn't - he went to stay with his grandparents in Wigan and had a high old time playing with/annoying his ten-year-old cousin. A blog post about Shanghai will have to wait for another day as I took lots of photos that I'd like to share using an actual camera rather than my iPhone, and now it's going to take me forever and a day to work out how to get the photos off the camera and onto my computer. Hey ho.

So, let's get to the point and introduce book no.5 of the year: The Thread by Victoria Hislop.

This is a Book club choice and I'm not sure I would have read it otherwise (even though I have another Victoria Hislop book on my unread bookcase.) The blurb on the back probably wouldn't have appealed to me; it begins thusly: Thessaloniki, 1917. As Dimitri Komninos is born, fire devastates the thriving Greek city where Christians, Jews and Muslims live side by side.

And already I'm put off for several reasons.
1) The location. I have no interest in reading a book set in 'modern day' Greece. I studied Ancient History at university (right up to MA level because I enjoyed it so much and wanted to be a student for ever), and have a great love of all things Greek (Ancient) and Roman, but give me modern day Europe and I shudder in distaste.

2) The date. Ack, it's World War I territory and I have an aversion to reading anything war-related. Too heart-rendingly awful. For me, book reading is all about escaping and I read for pleasure, so the last thing I want to do is immerse myself in the trenches or concentration camps or war-torn villages and towns. Call me an ostrich, but that's the way it is in my little book-reading world.

3) Religion. Again, call it ostrich-itis, but any mention of religion tends to send me scurrying for the cozy crime bookcase.

Anyway, enough of why I wouldn't read it and onto what I (and other Book Club members) actually thought of it (because I did read it, of course, being the dutiful Book Club member that I am.)

So, the book is set in Thessaloniki and follows the stories of several families (Jewish, Christian and Muslim, but concentrating mostly on the first two) over the course of nearly 100 years, and is ultimately a love story. The city itself is as much a part of the story as the humans who inhabit it with great descriptions that enable the reader to picture what the city must have looked like at various times throughout its history.

I read the book while we were away on holiday, and I'm glad I did because it was the perfect holiday read, we all agreed this at our monthly Book Club meeting. While the history and locations are extremely well described, we all felt that the characters were a little flat and two-dimensional and some of them could have been developed so much more. The story is set over a long period and doesn't delve too deeply, rather than being a more in-depth study of a shorter time span; a bit like a long piece of string laid on a work surface versus a drainpipe on the side of a building, as it were. (Great imagery, don't you think?!) Come the end, the 'threads' of the story do all fit together rather neatly, which is a bit disappointing because sometimes we don't want an ending to be too nicey-nicey. But, having said that, we all agreed that we did enjoy the book and we all learnt something about an era in Greek history about which we knew nothing (or very little.)

I'm glad to have read this book and may well give the other Hislop book on my bookcase a try (when we next go on holiday...)

1 comment:

  1. Great review and I've learned a bit more about you in what you've written too. I'm not a great fan of Victoria Hislop, I've read a couple - both book club choices and wouldn't choose to read another.
    Our book this month is a cookery book?? What's that all about??


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