Those Who are Loved by Victoria Hislop

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller's fifth novel set during the German occupation of Greece

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In her gripping sixth novel Sunday Times Number One bestseller Victoria Hislop - her first novel was The Island - returns to Greece. Those Who Are Loved is set during the German occupation of Greece, the civil war that followed and a military dictatorship.

The novel opens in Athens in 2016 as Themis, an old woman, is visited by her large family to celebrate her birthday. When they have all left the party apart from two grandchildren who are in their twenties, Themis decides to tell them the story of her life as her legacy to them. She begins in the 1930s when she was a child being brought up by her grandmother together with her two brothers and her sister. 

Themis describes the political differences which always caused arguments in her family and which intensified during the Nazi occupation of Athens in 1941.  Polarised between right and left wing views when the Germans invade, many of the Greek people suffer greatly and Themis, now age 15, sees friends die during the famine.

When civil war follows the end of the occupation Themis carries out acts of resistance and outraged by those who have collaborated with the Nazis she joins the Communist army. She learns how to use a gun, experiences both love and hate and tries to comprehend the paradox of a war where Greeks fight against Greeks.

Eventually imprisoned on the infamous islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri, Themis suffers extreme physical violence and endures hard labour.

This painstakingly researched novel takes the complexity and tragedy of Greece's past and intermingles its history with the fictional story of an ordinary woman compelled to live an extraordinary life.

This review was written by Roz Masters and first appeared in the AugSep 2019 edition of OVL Magazine.

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