Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop (2014)

This was a pick by a member of my book club.  I hadn't heard of the author, so a new discovery for me.    The story takes place in 1974 in Cyprus.

Aphroditi and her husband, Savvas, are the proud owners of the most luxurious hotel in the resort town of Famagusta, The Sunrise.   All of their time and money is invested in making the hotel profitable and successful, which puts a heavy burden on their marriage.   Savvas' right hand man, Markos, is essential to the business, and yet Savvas takes him for granted, just as he does his wife.  This leads to the inevitable and somewhat predictable affair between the two.

What is not predictable, however, but historically accurate, is the unstable political situation that leads to an armed conflict and the flight of 40,000 people out of the city.  I always knew that Cyprus was divided into two parts, Greek and Turkish, but never really knew the details; this book was an opportunity to discover the sad history behind this recent conflict.

What is unique about the book is that the story stays behind in Famagusta after most everyone has fled, following two families, one Greek and one Turkish, who initially hide and stay behind in their homes, and then move into The Sunrise, keeping out of sight of the occupying Turkish soldiers and somehow managing to survive for a time.  They also have to manage their initial distrust of each other, coming from opposite sides of the cultural divide.  They soon find they have much more in common than they they thought.  Their experiences are fascinating and frightening, the characters are given more depth than in the beginning of the book, and this is by far the best part of the novel.

Eventually the situation becomes too precarious for the families and they have to find a way to get out.  The novel follows the cast of characters through 2014, which is a nice treat, as I often finish a book wishing I knew what happened to the characters during the rest of their lives.  Getting through the more predictable beginning of the book was worth it for the second half, but I don't think I would have chosen to read this if it hadn't been for book club.  Nevertheless I am glad I did.

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