This is well-researched history spoiled by its fiction. Sadly, the main characters – Sunrise Hotel owner, Savvas, his shallow wife Aphroditi, and Markos, the manager who becomes her lover – were unsympathetic, cardboard characters.
Why spend half a novel on their cliché-ridden relationships? I almost gave up at that point, but rather more human characters caught my attention. The hotel’s hairdressers, Greek Cypriot Irini, and Emine, a Turkish Cypriot, had families – and their stories comprised the second half of the novel.
Although these people were no more substantial, they became more interesting once I had managed to fix who was who. And that was the trouble – the author, Victoria Hislop, was so concerned to present the similarities on both sides of the political and racial divide, the family members were hard to distinguish. The author’s habit of switching between points of view in the midst of a chapter did not help.
We had only their actions to keep us following the plot – and none of their emotions to engage our sympathies. So, what could have been a powerful tale about the tragedy and pointlessness of civil war ended up as a poor novel with an ending so rushed I had to read it twice to understand what had gone on. But in a novel covering fifty years, perhaps that was inevitable. I can’t help feeling that much of the first half of the novel could have been sacrificed in favour of making a more engaging tale. On the plus side, I learned something of the modern history of Cyprus.