The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop
Published in 2014 by Review
My copy: Library
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.
This book was chosen by my book club to read in November. I can’t say I was very keen as I just didn’t think it would be my sort of thing. I hoped to be proved wrong but sadly that wasn’t to be the case!
Set in Cyprus during the 1970s, the setting is idyllic – the climate is glorious, people are well off, holiday-makers are happy and life is good. The main characters we are introduced to are Savvas and Aphroditi, a well-off couple who run a hotel, and are just about to open their new premises, which is bigger, better and more opulent than all the other hotels on the stretch. We also meet Markos, Savvas’s right-hand man who helps run his hotels. Much of this section reads like as soap opera – we get detailed descriptions of everything Aphroditi is wearing, with special attention given to her jewellery, as well as every detail of the new hotel’s décor. We also find out all about her luscious locks, which she gets styled every day. There is lots of gossip between the women of the town, while the men discuss politics. Many of the younger males in the novel are caught up in some way in the tensions between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots who live on the island, and this causes great worry for the families – mainly the mothers.
A lot of characters are introduced early on in this novel, which was at times confusing, and I often wasn’t sure which characters we were supposed to be focusing on. I also found the contrasts between the glamorous descriptions of life on the island didn’t always sit well with the political backdrop, and both sides of the story seemed quite shallow.
I also found the characters quite one-dimensional and didn’t particularly take to any of them. The women often seemed weak and pathetic, and spent their lives worrying about their sons, who meanwhile were single-minded and generally pretty unpleasant. I found myself not really caring about any of them, and my main aim was to get the book over and done with as soon as possible!
Obviously I didn’t enjoy this book; however I think it’s important to stress that it isn’t really my kind of book so maybe I have been a bit unfair! Also, others in my book club did enjoy it. It was well written and had an interesting plot, and the author had obviously done a lot of research about the tensions in that area at the time, but personally the novel didn’t do it for me and I wouldn’t read any more of Hislop’s books.