Victoria Hislop is one of my favourite author’s. Her book “The Island” recently featured in my top ten books of all time. So I was eagerly awaiting her new book “The Sunrise.” I knew I should wait for it to come out in paper back but couldn’t resist and bought it in hardback. A Victoria Hislop book is a treat in itself but this one is set in Cyprus and is about the division of the Island into the Greek South and the Turkish North.
In 1999 my husband and I had a holiday in Cyprus first week of December. It was the first time we had visited the Island and we loved it. We also loved the winter break swimming in the sea while at home it was freezing. And as you do vowed that we would do this every year. But a year later we had moved from Edinburgh to the Borders and our daughter was on the way so although we do still get a short break in December thanks to my parents looking after the kids it tends to be as cheap as we can make it usually a house swap with my parents. But I would love to go back somewhere warmer and I would love to go back to Cyprus. And not just for the sun. I couldn’t believe when I went in 1999 that I was so ignorant of the political situation there. That overnight in 1972 people had to leave their homes and flee never to return and Greeks ended up living in the homes of Turk Cypriots and vice versa and across both North and South there were deserted villages. We came across one on a tour of the island. We strongly suspected at the time and having read “The Sunrise” I am sure we shouldn’t have been where we were. We had visited the Cyprus ski centre and on our descent took a different road which took us through this village which had just been abandoned with people’s belongings still in the houses (yes we got out and took a look mad I know as I am sure we could have got arrested). It was eerie and so sad.
I hadn’t realised that there was a city that had been abandoned in the same way Famagusta which is what “The Sunrise” is about. Famagusta was one of the most desirable destinations on the Mediterranean in 1972 but like the rest of the island when the civil war happened people had no choice but to abandon this resort. So today 40 years later it is behind barbed wire and inside the many hotels and apartments are the belongings of people who fled in terror all those years ago.
The book centres on two families the Georgious and the Ozkans one Greek Cypriots and one Turk Cypriots who don’t flee but stay in the city hidden from the Turkish soldiers. It is also about a couple who had become rich by building hotels in the city and lose everything.
I loved this book it brought a period of recent history alive. As this history is so recent I found it hard to believe that this was not just a story but had happened but Google Famagusta and you will see a town that looks like a resort even with sun loungers on the beach still waiting for the tourists that will never return. By focusing on families on both sides of the divide you see the arguments from both sides. But more than that this is about the power of money to corrupt and to carry out heinous crimes not for politics but for their own greed. It’s about the senseless in many ways of being rich and trying to be rich. When at the end that does not make you happy but the power of love and families. And the ignorance of the people in Famagusta to see disaster about to befall them with many of them planning expansion even as the civil war had started.
Often when I look forward to a book it can disappoint which if I am honest was the case in Victoria Hislop’s second book “The Return” it was good but didn’t live up to “The Island” for me. “The Sunrise” totally took me in and even ten days later the characters and the city of Famagusta is still haunting me.