Cover Image: Those Who Are Loved

Those Who Are Loved

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Member Reviews

Once again this author presents us with a novel rich in history, character and the incredible strength of the human spirit. I have adore all the previous books of hers that I have read and this latest offering, although almost verging on too much political content for me (I stress the almost), is yet another triumph.

In Those Who Are Loved we follow the story of Themis and her family through World War II and beyond. As with some of Hislop’s previous books we find ourselves once again in Greece, this time in Athens. I had never realised the political turmoil that Greece has been through before reading any of her novels. My bad I know, but I never studied much history. What I always find astounding in her books is how much research must take place to be able to tell such wonderful stories whilst also providing such a deep level of historical detail that you almost feel you are there with the characters at times.

The political focus of this novel surrounds the rise of communism in Greece during truly unsettled times both nationally and internationally. It looks at how politics can tear families apart and how people can take their beliefs to extremes and levels of sacrifice that few of us can begin to imagine. 

The character of Themis is incredibly strong and she faces unhappiness and adversity in quantities it is hard to see how anyone can bear. Yet her strength, conviction and ultimately her love for those in her life pull her through the hardest of times. I cannot claim to always understand her, but without doubt I absolutely admire her!

I shan’t reveal anything else plot wise, there is too much to explain and all you need to know is that you will be taken on a journey through generations. Written in Hislop’s talented and gently provocative style, you will feel you know more about a nation and have experienced someone else’s unbelievable story and that you are a little richer for it. This is most definitely recommended.

My thanks to #Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of #ThoseWhoAreLoved in return for an honest review.
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I love Victoria Hislop books and this one didn't disappoint. The story was full of action and history. It was a real eye-opener on the life of Greeks during the war and effects after the war. A must-read. Recommended.
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Really enjoyable read. Good characters and a Good story. Well worth a read. Think others will enjoy.
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Hislop is an artist on the pages - painting beautiful countryside scenes and weaving in likable and even lovable characters from start to finish.
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This book follows the story of Themis and her family's past as she now tells it to her Grandchildren . How they fought to survive through separation and lack of food etc through WW2 living in Athens under Nazi occupation and then through the communist regime. The arrival of the British and the changes they made to the Country and it's people. The story was fascinating as it is a part of history I wasn't familiar with. Hislop remains one of my favourite authors for taking historical events and re-telling them through fictional characters in a educational way that you don't realise.
As with her others this was thought provoking, harrowing, heart breaking but enjoyable.
A book I would most highly recommend.
My thanks go to the author, publisher and Netgalley in providing this arc in return for a honest review.
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There is no doubt that Hislop is a master of the sweeping storyline and her depth of knowledge and ability to share this with us all is wonderful. Having been aware that the Nazis occupied Greece in WW2 and knowing of their reputation for atrocities committed in those islands, i knew nothing more than these bare bones. Hislop brings it beautifully to life. Her decision to place family members on opposing sides is genius. It is possible, through the words and actions of characters to understand why this would happen; why the Nazi ideology might appeal, in those days and in the circumstances of Greece at that time.  Equally, we are given insight into the mindset of the communists - often equally rigid, equally prepared to dismiss and destroy those with differing beliefs.  Our heroine walks a steady path, sticking to her beliefs and maintaining her honour and integrity even under the most horrific of circumstances.  It's a fascinating read with wonderful characters set against a time and a place we can barely imagine now, and beautifully brought to life in this novel.
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It took me a while to get into this book but after a few chapters I honestly couldn’t put it down. It was one of those books that made me realise just how little I know about history! Set in Greece in the 1940s after World War II, it follows the life of Themis through German occupation, civil war and military dictatorship. I truly had no idea about the events in Greece following the war – it’s a really eye-opening read.
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Those Who Are Loved turned out to be one of the best books I’ve read this year and probably the most moving.  The novel opens in Greece in 2016 and introduces us to an elderly woman called Themis, whose family have gathered in her Athens apartment to celebrate her birthday. Aware of how little the younger generations know about their country’s history, she decides to share her life story with her two favourite grandchildren, Nikos and Popi. It seems as though almost every book I pick up recently is set in multiple time periods and, to be honest, I’m getting a bit bored with that format, but in this case the framing story only forms the beginning and end of the book – the bulk of the novel is set in the past, which makes it easier to become fully immersed in the story Themis is telling.

And what a fascinating story it is, beginning in the 1930s and taking us through the Axis occupation of Greece during the Second World War, the rise of communism and the Civil War that followed, the political crisis that led to a military junta taking control of the country and then the abolition of the monarchy and establishment of a more democratic society, bringing us right up to the present day. As I probably knew even less about 20th century Greek history than Nikos and Popi at the start of the novel, I found that I was learning a lot from the book, as well as being gripped by the personal stories of Themis and her family.

After their father leaves for America and their mother suffers a nervous breakdown, Themis and her three siblings are raised by their beloved grandmother. As they each grow up to hold different political opinions, a heated discussion takes place every evening when the family sit down around their large mahogany dining table. Themis and her brother Panos want to free Greece from German occupation and later, as their views move further to the left, they both decide to join the Communist army. Meanwhile, her eldest brother Thanasis and sister Margarita are much more right wing, believing that Nazi Germany is Greece’s friend and that the Communists are the dangerous ones.

One of the things I liked about the novel is that, although we naturally find ourselves siding with Themis as the main protagonist, the whole subject of political division and difference is treated with balance and sensitivity. We see that Thanasis and Margarita, despite standing for everything Themis dislikes, do still have some good qualities, while Panos and Themis find themselves doing some questionable things in the name of their own beliefs. The message I took away from the book is that violence, destruction and killing can never be justified, no matter how much someone may try to tell themselves they’re doing it for the right reasons.

I was struck by this quote which I think feels very relevant to today’s world as well as to 1940s Athens:

    " People seemed to be losing their humanity. The schism that existed between left and right had been allowed to widen, the polarisation to deepen, and now the city was paying the consequences. "

Those Who Are Loved is a powerful, emotional story. So far the only other Victoria Hislop book I’ve read is The Sunrise, which I enjoyed, but found quite uneven. This one is a much stronger book, in my opinion, and held my interest from beginning to end.
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Greece, a country many of us have visited on holidays, enjoyed its hot sunny days, the people and the culture, but what do we know of its history? Yes, we might know about the Greek myths and legends but what about its role in World War 2 and afterwards. Hislop’s novel, Those Who Are Loved took us back to those times and through the eyes and ears of her main character, Themis, she wove a story that was not only eye opening, but horrifying and extremely interesting.

From Themis’s life as a young girl to old age there was nothing she did not see, do or indeed suffer. Her fractured family, an absentee father, a mother who left them all behind, unable to cope with the stresses of life, the only constant in her life her Grandmother. What a woman she was, strong, resilient, reliable, the peacemaker, the person they all loved and respected more than anyone else. She looked after a family divided down the middle, politics forever a topic argued over the dinner table, and indeed the politics of Greek history was never faraway, a device cleverly used by Hislop to divide the family and showcase their characters.

Themis and brother Panos took the side of the opposition, the communists, Thanasis and Margarita, the government, the ruling power. Were any of them right, were their views the right ones for Greece, for the Greek people? It was a question Hislop never answered, instead she gave a measured and balanced view, used her characters to show the passion and ferociousness of the political divides.

If Those Who Are Loved had its basis in politics, it also clearly showed what the consequences of fighting for your political ideals would be. Hislop chose to highlight the women, their role, their passion and most of all their suffering. Whilst some women stayed at home, there were many, Themis included, who chose to fight on the frontline, to train as the men did, to be treated as equals, and it was here that Hislop truly excelled.

Hislop’s narrative was wonderfully stark and vivid and you could not help but be moved and indeed horrified by the atrocities inflicted on Themis and her fellow women, it certainly opened my eyes on periods of history I knew nothing about. Themis, herself was brave, courageous, resilient and some may say foolhardy. Her will and determination was made of iron but she wasn’t cold and distant, but full of love, of trying to do what she thought was the right thing for her family, even if that meant she compromised and suppressed some of her beliefs and actions.

For all its brutality and harshness, the core theme of Those Who Are Loved was one of love and hope, of forgiveness, each character had some redeeming feature, some lightness that you, and they could cling onto. The historical detail was well researched and brilliantly done, never taking over the narrative nor Hislops characters. It was storytelling at its best and I for one was captivated.
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I have long been a fan of Victoria Hislop, and this book did not disappoint. The story is set in Greece, a favourite backdrop for Victoria’s books, and opens in Athens in 2016, where we are introduced to Themis Stavridis and her husband Giorgos. The family has gathered for Themis’s 90th birthday and the old lady decides it’s time to share her story with Nikos, one of her visiting grandchildren. We then jump back to 1930 where we learn that Themis is the youngest of four children of the Koralis family living in a large, once fine, but now decaying house, also in Athens. The story then leads us through the difficult years following the invasion by both Italy and then Germany during WWII. Members of the Koralis family had already taken different paths with the two elder children favouring the right wing and becoming supporters of the occupation and the younger two being vehemently opposed to this, to the extent that they both leave to join the left wing/communist factions that had been set up in opposition to the government. The book also helpfully provides quite a bit of background to the earlier history of Greece, from the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, through to the rebellion against the Ottomans from 1821 onwards, following which over 1 million Greeks fled from Smyrna (now part of modern day Turkey) to settle in Athens; it also briefly covers what was in effect a civil war in Greece between the left and right wing factions which broke out after the end of WWII.  Themis’s story takes her into the world of an outlawed communist group and, following her capture, into various very unpleasant prison camps. In one of the camps she meets up again and falls for Makris, whom she had been with in a training camp, and she becomes pregnant.  Eventually Makris disappears and Themis discovers that he has changed sides, in his own interest, has become the “enemy” and has also fathered a further child.  Disillusioned and after a further long period in prison camps (the book perhaps spends a bit too much time on this particular aspect) Themis is released and returns to what is left of her family in Athens. Here she eventually meets up with Giorgos, who accepts her and her child, Angelos. Although she and Giorgios marry and have more children, the troubles in Greece still come back to haunt them as one of her other children joins a student protest and is shot and killed. A nice touch is that when Thanis learns that Makris has been killed, she takes the time to track down his second child whom she brings back and adopts as her own and as a step brother to Angelos.  The loop of the story is completed once Angelos leaves and goes to America where he marries and has children and it is his child Nikos to whom Thanis has related her story. If you have enjoyed previous Victoria Hislop books you will love this one; if you have any interest in knowing a bit more about Greece’s history, you will find this of great interest. Many thanks go to Netgalley for providing me a copy of this book for review. This was Victoria Hislop at her very best and I really enjoyed it.
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I've read some of the older books by Victoria Hislop such as The Island, The Thread and The Return and really enjoyed them.  Such believable characters and well written tales they are all a good read, but unfortunately I couldn't get lost in this one.  It just didn't work for me.  I couldn't engage with the characters and found myself drifting away from the story.  However I'm sure this is just my personal preference and others have loved it..
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This is the best book I have read in a long time, beautifully written and thought provoking. I was up late into the night to find out what happened next. Anyone who has read Victoria Hislop knows how well she draws you in to her tale and she doesn't let you down with this novel. I loved it!
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I really wanted to like Victoria Hislop's new book. The premise seemed promising and so the beginning of the book when an unexpected event sets things in motion. At this moment I gasped and I was very excited about what may follow.
The novel gives the impression that it has been thoroughly researched and I need to congratulate the author for getting many aspects of the modern Greek culture and mentality right. Her intentions are good but, unfortunately, the execution seems to have slightly failed.
I felt that somewhere between the desire to talk about the conflicts and tribulations of the Greek nation and tell a story at the same time, the author prioritised the history over the substance. Most of the characters were one-dimensional and even the main character seemed a bit flat. Knowing the Greek history I also felt that the plot was built to serve the reported history and not the other way around. As a result, I'm afraid it was full of cliches and there were no surprises.
Funnily enough, the most interesting characters were the ones missing, e.g. the figures of the mother and father of the Koralis family. How could their mother disappear like that and none of her children ever cared about her? And how no one questioned or even got angry with the absence and later abandonment by their father? Things like these gave me the impression that the characters were not well-rounded but merely built to serve the plot.
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‘Those Who Are Loved’ by Victoria Hislop is the story of Themis Koralis from 1930 to 2016. Set in Greece it tells the troubled history of the country through the Second World War, occupation, Civil War and military dictatorship. They are harsh years; the country, its people and families are divided by beliefs, poverty and wealth. It is a long book, 496 pages, and a lot of history is covered.
Themis has two brothers – Panos and Thanasis – and a sister, Margarita; they live with their grandmother in the Athens district of Patissia. Their father is a merchant seaman and hardly comes home, their mother Eleftheria is in a psychiatric hospital; both appear briefly. Central to the home is Kyría Koralis. I enjoyed the descriptions of these early years in the apartment, the meals, the squabbling teenagers, Themis and her friendship with Fotini. But political beliefs are dividing the country and as the arguments grow in the Koralis apartment, they also divide the siblings. The divisions only get worse under German occupation, leading Panos and Themis to support the communists in the fight against the Nazis. Thanasis however becomes a policeman. Margarita, working in a dress shop, is secretly in love. Their political views, forged as teenagers, impact on the rest of their lives.
At times I struggled with this book, other sections I enjoyed. Perhaps this is because the linear narrative is driven by historical events which Hislop felt bound to include, and is not dynamic or character-driven. There are many peripheral characters who disappear without another mention and I found the middle section particularly slow, as if Themis is treading water before reaching the next phase of her life. The novel is effectively the life story of Themis, the history of Greece during her lifetime and its effect on her, and it includes a fascinating account of the post-WW2 communist rebellion in Greece, my knowledge of which was rather hazy. At times it is difficult reading and it is certainly thought-provoking; extreme views with two uncompromising sides unable to meet in the middle, quickly deteriorating to violence, cruelty and abhorrent behaviour. 
Hislop is my go-to author for novels set in Greece. I finished ‘Those Who Are Loved’ wishing she had chosen a specific phase of Themis’s life to concentrate on rather than the full 86 years. For me though, her subsequent novels cannot rival her debut ‘The Island’ which I really must re-read again.
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My first book by Victoria Hislop and I was not disappointed. I felt the start was slightly clumsy to introduce the story but from there I was hooked. I had no idea just how turbulent life was for the Greeks during and the years following WW2. It was quite disturbing to learn that peace and safety is only a recent experience. The history was fascinating and the life of Thermis and her family was absorbing with well-drawn characters portrayed where the family members were important and lesser information about the minor characters.
Many thanks to Netgalley/Victoria Hislop/Headline for a digital copy of this title. All opinions expressed are my own.
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It is many years since I read one of Victoria Hislop's novels. I certainly won't leave it for so long again in the future. 

Her ability to create a range of believable, not always likeable characters certainly comes to the fore in this book. 

I found myself drawn into this part of history, about which I knew so little. I really like the way the author combines real people and real historical events, beautifully interwoven into the lives of one family. 

This is a moving and at times tragic story, which is bought to life by the quality of the writing, which makes the events feel so real. 

I give my thanks to Netgalley and Headline for a copy in exchange for this review.
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Victoria Hislop returns to Greece with the story of a family ripped apart my mental illness, Ww2 and divided loyalties. From pre WW2 to the present day She really brings the hardships the Greek people went through to life. A triumph
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This is my favourite Victoria Hislop yet. The stories of Themis and her family are intertwined seamlessly with the period of occupation and the rise of communism and the civil war. I found the historical aspects fascinating and brutal, but never gratuitously so. I defy you not to get swept along by this epic tale and not be affected by the triumphs and tragedies. I felt emotionally drained by the end, but in a good way, and had used a substantial amount of tissues. I highly recommend you add this to your TBR pile immediately.
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Themis is celebrating her 90th birthday in Athens with her 8 grandchildren when she decides it is time to tell her life story before it is lost forever.   The story then goes back to the thirties and forties with Themis living in Athens with her grandmother and 3 siblings,  as the war approaches times start to get hard and tensions run high within the family as they have opposing views.   Themis is idealistic and eventually joins her brother Panos fighting for the communists but what will it mean for the family and how will she survive the hardships, torture and imprisonment once she becomes a mother. 

Another great book by this writer and after The Island probably my favourite.  It is a period of history that I knew little about, I did not realise that there was a civil war after the German occupation and so found the history aspect fascinating and although not an easy read one that I couldn't put down.
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This is a richly depicted story of the personal ramifications of political devisiveness during the German occupation of Greece. It is essentially the story of Themis and the impact this had on her life, and that of her family from 1930 through until near present day, when she is 90 years of age celebrating her birthday with her 8 grandchildren.
Brimming with Greek history and a vivid insight into the lives, and plight of what living in Greece through a dictatorship and civil war was like, it provides an historical family saga. The impoverished life,  the tension of living with the constant fear of torture or death because you expressed your political alliances to the wrong person is strongly captured.
Themis morphs from an overshadowed youngest sibling to a resolute communist, serving as a soldier against the Greek regime. She both carries out and endures attrocities before being required via the protective instinct of motherhood to be more concillatory and settle into a more unassuming life.
It covers a period of time and history that is unlikely to be known by many and so is incredibly interesting. The characters within the book are memorable and indelible as the book title suggests. The futility of the political angst against one another makes you feel angered and frustrated as such individuals were  so deeply attached to their views there was no reasoning with them despite the human cost. The emotional impact is unwaveringly hard. Some of how the characters lives fall into place is a bit too conveniently, but is easy to just let the story flow with and enjoy the journey nonetheless. Powerful, imposing, yet emotionally touching it offers an immersive read that reflects the importance in society of being tolerant and acting with clemency.
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