This book is not my usual choice of personal reading; it was chosen as one of my book group reads. I’m normally not too fond of historical fiction, as I like my fiction to be more…fictional! Having said that, I quite enjoyed this novel once I was able to get into the story.
Blurb: 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 Özkans, 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 façade 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.
It is quite a slow starter, with the first half of the book setting the scene, introducing the characters, and giving us the depiction of Famagusta in it’s glory days. I found this part a bit of a slog, as the narrative keeps an emotional distance from the characters that made it difficult to empathise with them, and therefore I found it hard to care much what happened to them.
This changed however, once the story found it’s feet in the desolation of the once-prosperous tourist spot, and the coming together of two very different, yet very similar families, once Turkish Cypriot and one Greek Cypriot, really touched me. The humanity came through in the slow awakening of friendship and erosion of long-held prejudices, and I finally began to root for the characters and their survival/happiness.
The ‘love story’ element is not a standard one, as I could find no trace of real love there: only the infatuation of a lonely, isolated woman and the manipulation of a greedy, selfish man. The true love in this story is familial love and the love between friends: the love that sends a man out into danger to save a babies life for the sake of family, or that causes two women to cling together and take care of each other against the hatred they are surrounded with societally and even from their own husbands.
The history of Famagusta is one of sadness and waste. The story of The Sunrise is one of glamour and folly. The romance of Markos and Aphroditi is one of greed and need. None show humanity at it’s best, and all leave a taste of desolation in the reader’s mouth. But the tale of the Georgious and the Özkans pulling together as they lose everything is a dash of hope that sweetens that cocktail and reminds us that there is good to be found in people even in the darkest times.
For more about Victoria Hislop and her work, see here: https://www.victoriahislop.com/