I so wanted to like this novel after enjoying, especially, The Island and The Sunrise by the same author. To my horror I nearly ditched the book on reaching forty percent of the way through, on my Kindle. Up until then I felt as claustrophobic as the characters (who hated each other) seemed to be, locked up in a small apartment with the only escape seeming to be the main character visiting a friend to do homework together. The story up until then seemed to be that they had different politics (as did most of Greece) and were continually arguing (as was most of Greece). I got the fact that Greece was in turmoil and was being represented by the family but, forty percent of a book to get that point across seemed excessive.
My wife, who’d already read the book, persuaded me to keep going, informing me that a story did actually start, after the point I’d reached. I found it a hard slog though to get to the end. Whereas in the two novels of Victoria Hislop’s mentioned above, there was an interesting and dramatic story with some historical facts added to keep the reader’s interest, this novel seemed to me to be a history lesson with the small parts of a story added to try and make it less dry. Perhaps the author took too much of a bite out of the timeline, researched masses of historical facts and had little space left for a story.
The premise is that the lead character, an Athens, Greek grandmother, is visited by grandchildren and offloads her personal history onto them as she has always been seen as just a normal grandmother, but she feels there are things they need to know. She then takes up the rest of the novel recounting her story, or recounting the history of Greece if, like me, that is the way you see the book.
Strangely, and amazingly, as Themis recounts her story, we sometimes get the story from other people’s point of view. Which is, of course, impossible.
I guess, if you are looking for an understanding of the history of Greece, through occupation, dictatorship and civil war then this would be a good way to learn and the story might not get in the way. However, if you have enjoyed, for instance The Sunrise, enjoyed the action of the story, and the fact that you learned something of the history of Cyprus along the way, then this novel would, in my opinion, not be for you.