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I don't normally read books like this, but I happened to see it in my local Marie Curie, where I volunteer every week, after finding out it was the product of the week here on Ciao. I love getting books from Marie Curie as they're only £1 each and they've usually got really good ones in. This is a recent release, having been published in 2011 and only just released in paperback this year. It's the paperback I've got (hardbacks are £1.50 in Marie Curie, and I'm not made of money!) so it is relatively new.
My first impressions when reading the blurb on the back was this might be a book I'll enjoy but probably not. I wrote this paragraph before reading the book, as I think first impressions are important when it comes to books - if your first impressions are that you'll hate it, you're unlikely to pick up a book! I normally don't like romance novels but there are some exceptions. The introduction drew me in as it sounds as though this will retell the history of Thessaloniki which sounds quite interesting:"This story is about Thessaloniki, Greece's second city. In 1917, the population comprised an even mixture of Christians, Muslims and Jews. Within three decades, only Christians remained."
There's more in the into about how this is a story about two people, but we are also told "the historical events all took place" so this is what interested me. The writer has made up the story between the two characters but the events that surround them are historically accurate and I love good historically accurate fiction.
Were my impressions right?
I think they were. The romance was more subtle than I had expected and the historical plot line was very interesting.
Would you read it again?
I think I would wait a while before picking it up again as the story was very memorable and I like to go back into a book I've read before not remembering the plot. It's better that way, I find, as if the story is still vivid in your mind you won't get as much out of it.
The prologue sets the scene for the story. It's set in 2007, ninety years after the events of the main story begins. A British student of Greek descent is in Greece studying for a year. He joins
Pictures of The Thread - Victoria Hislop
his grandparents during a day of general strikes. He finds it strange that they've stayed in Thessaloniki all there lives rather than going to Britain or America as their children did, where their lives would be much easier. The prologue ends with them beginning to tell their story.The epilogue also takes place in the modern day and neatly ties up the story.
The story begins in 1917 Thessaloniki with an expectant mother, Olga, and her career-driven husband, Konstantinos. We learn some back story on these two characters but not much interesting happens at the beginning. Soon, however, the baby is born and not long after a series of unfortunate events result in a fire which engulfs the whole of the city. Konstantinos, a fabric dealer, tries to save some of his merchandise with his brother, Leonidas, before the fire reaches the store. They succeed in moving much of the stock to a safer place. Everyone is evacuated from the city and days later when the brothers return, they find their efforts were in vain as the entire city, including all of their stock, was destroyed.
Those events take place over the first three chapters and set the scene for the rest of the book. I don't want to reveal too much here, otherwise I'd spoil your enjoyment of the book. What I will say is these events and characters are important to the story but so much more happens in the book, this is only a tiny fragment.
I rather enjoyed this book. I found the story line to be enticing and the characters to be engaging. I really don't read that often, and if I do it's usually science magazines like National Geographic and New Scientist, but there was something about this that made me want to keep reading. Probably the fact I was learning some history.
I haven't checked whether the historical events that happened were accurate but I'm sure they were. I really enjoyed the "history lesson" aspect of the book but I found at times it was completely obvious the author was giving you historical background and at other times it was woven subtly into the main plot. My favourite part of the book was actually quite early on when we're given a lot of information about the war between the Greek and the Turks.
The characters were all well developed. I was able to picture them perfectly in my mind. They were woven seamlessly into the plot and Hislop clearly spent a lot of time developing them. I especially liked how the characters were central to the book - unlike some others I've read where the events are what the writer focuses on and everything else is just incidental. Going back to the snippet I included early, right there in those first three chapters there is a major disaster but it's not the fire we focus on but the characters of Leonidas and Konstantinos as they battle to save their stock. The romance between the two main characters is clear but it doesn't overpower the story. Again, I've read other books where once a love interest develops the author writes about nothing else, but Hislop wove it into the story very well, I feel. All in all, the characters were brilliant and integral to the story.
I found it quite easy to read. I have been suffering with insomnia recently and prefer to read in bed rather than lie there doing nothing all night but usually when I get quite tired I can't be bothered with it and the words all jumble together in my head and I can't remember the story the following night. This was, of course, true for this novel as tiredness is a b*tch but I was enjoying the story enough that I wanted to power through the urge to sleep (knowing that when I put the book down I would only have laid there sleepless anyway).
How does it compare to similar books?
I really don't read romance novels but this one has encouraged me to jump into the genre - the stacks Sci Fi and Crime books in my possession had to come to an end at some point and it seems they have. When I worked at Oxfam we had lots of historical romances from Mills and Boons which were quite cheap. I don't imagine they'll be of the same quality as "The Thread", as I've heard Mills and Boons isn't exactly the best publisher around, but I'll give them a read anyway.
So, I can't compare this novel to others in the genre but it has encouraged me to read more like it.
How does it compare to other works by the same author?
I have never read any of the other works by this author so I cannot comment. Victoria Hislop has also written "The Island" (2005) and "The Return" (2008). They have also received a lot of critical acclaim, with "The Island" being the number one best seller for 8 weeks and being made into a 26-part television series for Greek TV so the bar has been set pretty high.As I'm unable to personally compare this book to books in the same genre or by the same author, I've went by its critical acclaim when rating it, as Ciao won't let me pick "Not applicable" for the above two ratings.
Would you recommend this to a friend?
Yes. I've already given my copy to my gran, who will no doubt share it with her friends. When I was working in Oxfam, we had little cards we could attach to books to let customers know why we felt they were worth reading. I'm tempted to bring that to Marie Curie, where I now volunteer, as I'd like to encourage others to read this title.
This was a heart-warming story and, while I don't generally like the genre, I can thoroughly recommend this book. 5 stars :D
"The Thread" is widely available in shops and online. I got my copy in Marie Curie but you might find it difficult to find it in a charity shop given how recent it is. It is available from both Amazon and the Amazon Marketplace. Prices on 10 June 2012 are as follows:
Paperback (New) - £2.99 (free postage and packing)
Paperback (Used) - £2.09 (free postage and packing)
Hardback (New) - £9.87 (free postage and packing)
Hardback (Used) - £3.37 (+£2.80 postage and packing = £6.17)
Kindle (Digital) Edition - £4.99
I'd definitely recommend buying a new paperback copy rather than a used one as the difference is only 90p. I much prefer paperbacks to hardbacks and don't understand why people still buy hardbacks with the huge difference in price (£6.88 in this case for a new copy). The RRP of this book is £7.99 (paperback) so you're getting a great deal on Amazon just now.
About the Author
I had never heard of Victoria Hislop before picking up this book but it turns out she's married to one of my favourite TV personalities, Ian Hislop of "Have I Got News for You". They have two kids together, Emily Helen and William David.
Victoria Hislop does an amazing amount of research into her books. I couldn't be bothered doing a great deal of research into her - as her Wikipedia page was barren I assume the rest of the internet is too - but from her complexion I would assume she is of Greek heritage. I was able to discover she was born in Britain, in Kent, and went to Oxford to study English. I tend to find people who have degrees in English make the worst writers but this is not true in this case as this was quite a well written novel and perhaps it was studying at Oxford that led to the incredible historical accuracy.
Title:The Thread Author: Victoria Hislop Publisher: Headline Review, an imprint of the Headline Publishing Group Pages: 465 Chapters: 30 + a prologue and epilogue ISBN: 9780755377756 RRP: £7.99