The Island by Victoria Hislop
This is the second novel by Victoria Hislop that I've read - I loved The Thread (see my bookworm post here) which told the story of the Nazi occupation of Greek island Thessaloniki. The Island is of a similar tone to The Thread - this time focusing on the Greek island of Spinalonga.
Spinlonga is an island just off Crete, and today is known as Kalydon. The novel, however, tells the story of Spinalonga in the 1940s and 50s when it was a leper colony - in fact, Spinalonga was one of the last leper colonies in Europe, which is told in this novel. It was where lepers would go to live out their days in isolation, so as to prevent the spread of the disease. Although now we know leprosy not to be highly contagious, it was often a hugely stigmatising condition which allowed many to separate lepers from the mainstream population, for fear of contamination and spreading a disease there was no treatment for until the late 1940s.
Anyway, The Island tells the story of Alexis who is (in the modern-day) venturing to Greece to discover her mother's past. Alexis meets a friend of her mother, Fotini, who tells her all about her ancestors and how she herself is linked to Spinalonga. Just like with The Thread, Hislop is seamless in weaving together the past with the present to tell a story that will get you hooked from the off. Even the descriptions of Greek islands make you feel warm and relaxed! It's a great beach book, but also a great one to read in these miserable months to warm your heart.
Have you read The Island? What did you think?