This summer’s HOTTEST beach read…
Still looking for your summer holiday books? This month we’re speaking to 10-million-copy selling Victoria Hislop about her latest bestseller, Those Who Are Loved. Set against the stunning backdrop of Greece, it’s the perfect book to lose yourself in this summer. It has also spent two weeks at no.1 in the bestseller chart and with 5* reviews across the board. One not to miss from your suitcase this holiday!
What’s the book about?
This powerful new novel from Victoria Hislop (author of The Island) sheds light on the complexity and trauma of Greece’s past and weaves it into the epic tale of an ordinary woman compelled to live an extraordinary life. Let’s find out a bit more…
Victoria Hislop meets Thomas Cook! Find out what she has to say…
What inspired you to write Those Who Are Loved?
About a decade ago, I was taken to see the Temple of Poseidon just south of Athens and from a distance I saw an island – the island of Makronisos – and was intrigued by it. It turned out to be a former island prison – where communist prisoners were sent after the civil war – and I knew immediately that this would be the focal point of my next novel. I discovered that women were also sent there, which cemented my resolve to bring this place more into the open with my writing.
Why did you choose the German occupation of Greece as the destination for Those Who Are Loved?
The novel covers the period from the 1930s right through the Nazi occupation of Greece (1941-44) and into the civil war (which took place from 1946-49) and beyond, almost to the present day. This is a very unknown part of modern Greek history and most of my readers have been surprised by the depth of suffering in Greece during that time (particularly 1941-49), and what people had to do in order to survive. As often happens in my novels, characters are confronted by real decisions and conflict – and many of them are women (who are the least written about people in non-fiction history books).
What’s your favourite summer holiday destination?
Crete – I love Crete because, although it is an island, it is like a small country with so much variety and richness of landscape. It has mountains, plateaux, beaches and clear blue sea! And the food is fantastic too –fresh ingredients, lots of modern and imaginative cuisine and some really adventurous chefs now. There are masses of fresh fish but, more importantly for me as a vegetarian, extensive uses of beans and pulses – so I always eat too much!
Who has had the biggest influence on you as a writer?
If there is one writer, it has to be Emily Brontë who of course only wrote one novel – but what a hugely influential novel it was! I first read Wuthering Heights when I was thirteen and it was one of the first adult books I really enjoyed and it marked a break for me from children’s/young adult literature. Its significance for me was that place, environment and even weather can play a really important role in a story – certainly the houses (Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange) are like characters in the novel. And this has influenced me a lot – to show how a place influences behaviour and creates atmosphere.
Which of your novels have you most enjoyed writing?
I enjoyed writing Those Who Are Loved hugely – mostly because I was learning so much about Greek history as I went along. This made it an immensely satisfying book to write and I am almost a different person as a result.
What’s your favourite book of all time?
One of them is definitely Wuthering Heights (as above), but another is Nutshell by Ian McEwan – it’s a work of genius.
What type of books do you like to read on a relaxing beach holiday?
I love to read books that are relevant to the country I am in. I was on the beach recently in Colombia and the only author that seemed right at that moment was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the time of Cholera – it was set only a few kilometres from where I was lying on the sand and was totally page-turning, too.
If you were to write a book based abroad again, where would you choose?
Definitely Greece! It’s an unending source of inspiration for me. And I am already planning the next story.
What book is currently at the top of your must-read list?
I am a judge for the Sunday Times Young Writers Award (famously won by Sally Rooney a couple of years ago) so I have forty books to read this summer, and they are all at the top of my list! I am excited to read them all.