A story about the loves, lives and losses of four generations of Greeks; from the fishing village Plaka to London; and the devastating effect of the island off the coast of Plaka: Spinalonga.
Alexis Fielding, a Londoner, is holidaying on Crete and is in a turmoil of indecisiveness. She has knows there are deep dark family secrets on the side of her mother, Sophia, who came from Crete but has always refused to mention anything about her past. She also doesn’t think she loves her long-term boyfriend, Ed, but she doesn’t really understand love and passion. So she is astounded when her mother agrees that she should visit Sophia’s home town, and some of her friends, to finally discover the secrets in her mother’s past.
Alexis leaves Ed sulking in Hania while she makes the long journey to the tiny fishing village of Plaka; her mother’s home town. She is surprised to find that just out to sea from Plaka sits Spinalonga—once the enforced colony for all of Crete’s lepers. Alexis seeks out Fontini, the woman to whom her mother has entrusted with telling their family history. Alexis not only discovers her deep connection to Plaka, but also her equally deep connection to Spinalonga. As Fontini’s tale unfolds, Alexis is drawn into the story of her family, and the passionate loves, hates, and lives of the villagers. And of course, their silent neighbours across the water.
Victoria Hislop has tried to create a four generation family saga, as is the popular and done thing in some circles. She’s got the correct elements in play; secrets, lies, betrayal, deceit, scandal, love, leprosy (okay, maybe leprosy isn’t an essential element of the genre, but you get the drift). She has the exotic setting (for all those non-Creteans out there). She has a cast of characters who are flung across the spectrum from saintly to evil. She even has the obligatory war-disrupts-lives vibe. It’s all there. I have read some really amazing examples of the genre that have absolutely blown me away and The Island, unfortunately, is not going to be added to that list. It left me luke-warm, at best. And the worst part is that it had so much promise!
The Island is divided into four parts, and the whole thing is told from the third person limited perspective. Part one, in the present, is mainly told with Alexis. Part two and three make up the bulk of the story, and flick back to the past. This bit of the story is being told by Fontini, but obviously for ease of telling it is told third person narrative from various points of view, although mainly that of Maria, Sophia’s aunt. The fourth and final part is back to the present with Alexis and Sophia.