Having never read any of Victoria Hislop’s other novels, I really didn’t know what to expect when I was gifted a copy of The Thread. I had heard murmurings of her other books and had always considered picking up a copy of The Island because I was intrigued to find out more surrounding the history of Crete, but I will have to hold my hands up and say I had not even heard of The Thread before.
Such an eloquent writer, Victoria Hislop kept me trapped between the pages of her novel from start to finish.
Initially, I thought it would be a story solely about lost loves and broken families, however, within minutes of leafing through the chapters, I realised that this novel represented far more.
Being brought up in the UK our history classes were limited to how both the world wars of the 20th century affected our small Island. We learnt about how Hitler decided to start a war he ultimately was never going to win, and we heard about how our little country played a major part in keeping the enemy at bay. We also learnt about the horrendous atrocities that bestowed on the Jewish race. However, it all seemed a little more too far removed for me. It was a war that affected my grandparents, and while I will always be grateful to them for my freedom, I could not quite fathom the impact this had on the world.
At no point, did I ever think about how other countries were crushed by the actions of one dictator. That is until I read The Thread.
Stretching back in time to 1917, Dimitri and Katerina Komninos reflect on their life together in Thessaloniki. Through their eyes, we are drawn into a world of pain and suffering; love and lost.
As a young girl, Katerina was separated from her mum and sister during the evacuation of Smyrna (modern day Izmir). This devastating event would ultimately go on to impact her total life. While her mother and sibling ended up in Athens, Katerina was placed on a boat heading instead for Mytilini and then Thessaloniki and it was here, after a great fire spread through the streets destroying the town that she met a young Dimitri.
Dimitri is the son of one of the wealthiest men in Thessaloniki but rather than living in one of the seafront mansions he found himself living in one of the poorer streets of the city because of the great fire. It was during this time that he came to mix with Muslims, Jews and other Christians without any prejudice.
Unfortunately, life is never that simple and the lives of those that grow up closely knit are soon torn upon by uncontrollable circumstances. Muslims friends are ferried off to Turkey to start a new life, Jewish friends are victimised and then sent on train transportation to the concentration camps in Poland and his other friends were either packed off to fight for the war efforts or decided to support what became known as the communist movement, ELAS.
It is through the telling of their own tale that the reader gets to find out more about the turbulent times that hindered the growth of this wonderful city.
Through this persecution however, the bond between Dimitri and Katerina could not be broken. It is a love story that survives all odds. They were not born into the same world – one was the heir of a fortune, the other literally owned the dress they fell off the boat wearing. One held idealistic views that took them off to war, the other kept their head down in the hope that they would simply survive. One went into hiding while the other had to start planning for their future. Regardless of the lies told and the decisions made, it seems destiny decided to take over and now as octogenarians they reflect back, retelling their poignant stories.
The Thread encompasses the moving history of this Greek nation in such minutiae detail that it is easy to be transported back in time to a world that was once, for many, very unknown. Victoria Hislop has written an epic novel in such a caring, detail fashion that you become completely overwrought with concern for those featured in this magnificent masterpiece.
The Thread is one of those novels that you want to finish to find out what happens but end up feeling complete bereft afterwards because it has come to an end. Very few books have left a mark on me like this one and it is one I know I will reflect on time and time again.
Have you read any of Victoria Hislop’s novels? Which one would you recommend to others? Looking for other books on Greece, the check out our other book reviews here.
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