Monday, October 1, 2007

The Island

Island
By Victoria Hislop
HarperCollins
Reviewed by April D. Boland

The Island is a novel about family, adversity and facing one's past. It is set briefly in England, where Alexis, the daughter of a Greek immigrant, struggles to learn about herself despite her mother's obstinate silence, and mainly on Plaka, a Greek town that Alexis' mother Sophie came from. When Alexis decides to visit Plaka and meet one of her mother's oldest friends, Fortini, she learns much more than she ever could have dreamed of. Not all of it is pleasant - yes, like everyone else's, this family has a few skeletons in the closet. There are some painful moments and the reader may become frustrated, not with the story but with the cruelties of life, which are all too real. But there are also beautiful portraits and happy times, and the novel has enough of both to sustain hope.

An important motif in this novel is that of the past, or one's own personal history. It is practically a ringing endorsement of genealogy research, and an effective one, because by the end of it I was ready to run out and look up everything about my own family. Alexis learns so much about the precedents that women had set before she was even born, the choices they'd made, the consequences.

The Island is a fairly quick read because it captivates you, and you will want to know what happens next, again and again. Highly recommended to people who like happy endings but do not expect a sugar-coated road there.