Author: Victoria Hislop
Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1910s / Greece / Cultural Confusion / WWI / 1930s / WWII / Family Saga)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Paperbacks (7/10/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Did I finish?: I did -- I savored this one over a week.
One-sentence summary: The story of a Greek city and one couple's love for each other and their hometown, spanning nearly a century.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction
Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's bold and eye-catching, although I wish there would have been a historical image of Thessaloniki used (I'm presuming the city on the cover is Thessaloniki; my ARC doesn't give credit info for the cover.).
I'm reminded of...: Meira Chand, Tan Twan Eng, James A. Michener
First line: What I would like you to do, my dear, is to imagine you are a child again.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you like saga-ish fiction -- historical or otherwise -- with a strong sense of place.
Why did I get this book?: The setting, the family saga, the pretty cover!
Review: I love reading novels for the armchair escape and the free history lesson. In this case, the Greek city of Thessaloniki is the setting of The Thread, and one couple's lifelong relationship the columns for holding up this saga-ish look at love, family, national identity, belonging, loss, and war.
Starting in 2007, a beloved grandson finally learns just how his grandparents met and what their lives were like. Normally I hate this frame -- why not just start with the meat of the story? -- but in this case, it worked for me. Hislop is skilled at conveying a foreign world in a way that resonates and feels ... not familiar so much as seen -- as if in a film or photo series. I've never been to Thessaloniki (hadn't heard of it, actually!) but in her story, this was a city I fell in love with, broke my heart over, and dreamed of visiting. Once a vibrant multi-religious setting of culture and commerce, a fire in 1917 razes much of the city, and the armies of World War I and II finish the job. The story doesn't end there, though; through our couple, we follow Greece through another forty years or so of change and their own responses to that.
There's romance, obviously, but as we know from the start of the novel that the couple stays together, the meat of the story for me wasn't the will-they-won't-they but how would they weather such violence and striking change. Their love of place influenced me and I loved Thessaloniki, and had my own complicated feelings about how the city evolved over the nearly one hundred years the novel covers.
If you're a fan of WWI or WWII fic, grab this one -- the Greek setting was interesting for me -- and anyone who likes a good family saga should give this one a try. I immediately thought of book clubs for this one -- at 400 pages it is a bit chunky but I raced through the story (although I made myself slow down to savor) and there's a wealth of themes for discussion.
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I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Thread to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 7/27.