Those Who Are Loved

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 13 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

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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Those Who Are Loved is an incredibly deep and emotive novel. It is quite lengthy at 496 pages and you do become immersed in the story of Themis Stavridus. We follow her from a young girl full of hope and optimism, to a young woman forced to make and stand by difficult choices. Eventually we return to Themis as an elderly lady reflecting to on her life and the repercussions of the war on their lives as a family.
Whilst I do see this as a ‘holiday read’ I would urge readers to prepare themselves for deep research, ww2 history and the fight between the far-left & far-right in 1940s Greece.
The novel opens in Athens 2016 as the family of four generations, gather for the birthday of Themis Stavridis. As Themis reflects on the current political climate in Greece. Of Homelessness/poverty, the rise of fascism and the anti-immigrant rhetoric. She is consumed with her own past, that she has never previously spoken of…
‘Her life story was not an heirloom, but it was all she had’
‘Once they were seated, Themis began to talk’
We are then rapidly transported to 1930’s Athens and the home of Themis’s childhood. Here we are introduced to her mother Eleftheria and her three siblings Thanasis, Panos and Margarita. Their father Pavlos is a merchant shipping worker and spends large periods away from the family home. They live in a simple and yet modest home on Antigoris Street. But for Themis and her siblings, this will also prove to be a time of great change as they end up being raised by their grandmother Kyria Koralis.
Kyria does her best to raise the children, but she is fighting a tough battle due to the economic depression hitting Greece. The children however, grow up surrounded by maternal love from her.
The novel jumps ahead 10yrs to Oct 1940. Greece is now vulnerable to the German and Italian army’s and potential invasion. The political and wartime climate is explained within the novel. It is done through the characters experiences, and therefore I did not feel like I was sat in a history lesson. Despite taking on a through amount of historical information. When it comes to far-left and far-right sympathies, the siblings are very divided. With Thanasis and Margarita able to accept the far-rights values. Whilst brother Panos sympathises with the far-left of the Soviets.
Themis is unsure to which side she feels a political alliance. That is until she meets school friend and refugee Fotini. Who has been raised in a different way of life, with a different set of politics.
‘Hitler doesn’t respect this country anymore than Mussolini does’
9th April 1941 – Greece becomes an occupied territory of the German Reich. The Nazi top brass blame the British Whilst Thanasis and Margarita are willing to accept this. It is not them who will truly pay the price for Nazi ideology. For Fotini’s mother loses her job, the family begin to starve and before long Fotini is wasting away.
‘Germany was a friend of Greece, not a foe’
Themis’s coming of age in occupied Greece, see her deal with a wide-range of emotional problems. Panos joins the resistance and before long it is Greek vs Greek, occupier vs communist. There are protests and violence. A  resulting massacre at the village of Kalavryta, showing the full horror of the Nazi regime.
The novel continues to tell the story of Themis’s family through the Nazi occupation, to the arrival of the British and eventually to the new government, bringing new hope.
It was easy to put yourself in the teenage siblings situations and walk in their shoes. Destruction of their home town, uncertainty and political divisions between the citizens.
When Themis vows to join the communists. her membership opens her eyes to the full extent of life in the far-left.
‘This is the harmony I want to restore to our country’
we continue on our journey with Themis, through her imprisonment at the most brutal island prison. We also see 1954, 1967, 1976, 1985 and ultimately back to the present day of 2016. With the long drawn out story told, Themis’s family is now fully aware of her past. When I finished the title, I suddenly felt bereft without the attachment to the novel and Themis’s story. I felt as though I had been with the family through their ups and downs. Their hardships and rare moments they had known  peace. It is funny sometimes how you can finish a near 500 page book and still want more.
This my first title read by the author and will definitely not be my last! 4*
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Another Victoria Hislop, Greek family historical saga. Lots of detail , takes place during WW2 and the communist uprising in Greece, not a topic I knew much about, detailing the divides between families as politics take over emotions.
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The story follows Themis,  and her life, loves, losses spanning from WW2 and the occupation of their country, through to the civil war and military junta.   It is a well researched novel, which helped me understand more about what is still a very difficult and recent history for Greece, with people who lived through all the impossible times,  some still alive and able to tell their stories.  I felt it was a bit slow to start, but the pace picked up and I was totally absorbed in the book right to the last page.  It did seem to gallop towards the end of the story a bit quickly and I would have enjoyed finding out a bit more about the recent years. But all in all, a good well written novel that has plenty of story, but also plenty to read and learn.
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Thanks to Netgalley the author and publishers for a copy of this book.  Great holiday read, I read her first “The Island” whilst on holiday and have struggled with others she has written. I was gripped by the historical aspect,initially set during the Nazi occupation during WW2 and the divisions brought to one family fiercely passionate about their individual politics and the freedoms they bring. The story that develops, follows Themis and her grandmother as they seek to keep the peace in this family, whilst suffering hardships, lack of food, separation from the rest of the family and the distress it causes.
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Hislop is very much back on form with this novel - it is a deep, complex family tale spanning just under 100 years of Greek family life.
I knew a lot of what happened to the Greeks during WW2 but the brutality of the country between 1945 and 1970ish was  mainly new to me and really eye opening. I had no idea how the partisans/Communists were treated post war, nor how repressive the later junta was.

I read this in Greece and found myself looking around with new eyes.
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I haven't read any of Hislop's books before, but wanted to give this a try because it piqued my interest.  The historical context was handled well, and I really enjoyed the story.
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Based on the war between the government army and the Democratic army in Greece we follow Themis and her family as they try to survive.
This is a beautiful, tender read and I loved the fact that the story is told in a way where Themis is relaying her story to her Grandkids. I love historical fiction and this seemed so original.
Ultimately a story about love and family and forgiveness this wonderful book really touched me.
I feel like the Greek War isn't really covered a lot and this provided great insight where I felt connected to the characters.
It's rather a heavy read and does take a little concentration to keep up with the plot but I found this a really enjoyable read!
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This is one of the most moving novels I’ve read for a long time. But it begins slowly and it was only at about the halfway stage that it really took off for me. And now I’ve come to write about it I’m finding it difficult to put into words just how exceptional I think it is. Whatever I write will not do it justice – it really is ‘an epic tale of an ordinary woman compelled to live an extraordinary life‘.

It is historical fiction ‘set against the backdrop of the German occupation of Greece, the subsequent civil war and a military dictatorship, all of which left deep scars.’

The main character is Themis Koralis/Stravidis (in Greek mythology Themis is the personification of fairness and natural law). In 2016 she is a great grandmother and realising that her grandchildren knew very little about Greek history she decided to tell them her life story, beginning from when she was a small child in the 1930s, through the German occupation of Greece during the Second World War, the civil war that followed, then the oppressive rule of the military junta and the abolition of the Greek monarchy, up to the present day.

As she grew up she and her brothers and sister had many disagreements, holding differing political opinions, which came to a head when the Germans invaded Athens in 1941.  Themis and her brother Panos joined the communist party in their fight against the Germans, whilst her other brother Thanasis and her sister Margarita opposed them, hating the communists’ views and believing that Germany was a friend of Greece, not a foe.

During the civil war Themis was imprisoned on the islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri. Her experiences were horrific, but only strengthened her determination to survive. On Makronisos she met Aliki, also a member of the communist party, and when Aliki is condemned to death, Themis promises to find and raise Aliki’s son, Nikos as her own.

During the early part of the book I felt it was rather like reading a history book. But then, the book sprang to life, the pace increased, and I was totally gripped and moved as history and fiction came together dramatically in glorious technicolor, telling the story of the characters personal lives and their parts in the action.

There is so much more to the story than I can mention here. And after the slow start I loved it, even though it is not a book I can say I ‘enjoyed’. It is a powerful and shocking story of remarkable characters faced with brutal and traumatic events. It has a completely convincing and vivid sense of location. I knew next to nothing about this period in Greek history before and I was astounded by what I learnt. 

Many thanks to the publishers, Headline Review, for my review copy via NetGalley.
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Victoria Hislop’s books have been a bit hit and miss for me in the past but I really enjoyed this epic saga of 20th century Greek history, politics and family life.

The story centres around Themis Koralis, the youngest daughter of an Athenian family, and it opens in the present day with Themis celebrating her birthday with her extended family. As she chats to her granddaughter and visiting American grandson, the story of her early life in pre-WW2 Athens emerges and carries on through the years spanning that war and the civil war that followed, which had an even more devastating effect on Themis and her family.

I learned a lot about Greek and European history, as Themis and her family are torn apart by fascist and communist loyalties, but also came to care about the characters through whose lives the story is told. Themis’ strict and devoutly right-wing brother Thanasis is a particularly intriguing and well developed character, as is her redoubtable grandmother Kyria Koralis who holds the family together when both parents are unable, for very different reasons, to look after their children. But it’s Themis herself, complex and conflicted, who drives the narrative and leads us through this complex and chaotic period in modern Greek history.

It may be history-lite in some people’s eyes, but this book is much more than a summertime beach read. It’s a fascinating, accessible and very readable insight into a country which still has its troubles today and I’m very glad to have had the opportunity (thanks to Netgalley) to have read it.
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On finishing Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop my initial reaction was WOW! It felt like a history lesson brought vividly to life.

The book follows Themis's life in Athens from childhood right up to old age. And what a life she lived, full of political turmoil and family disharmony. Right from the very start I took to Themis, she exudes intelligence, courage, and passion and I loved how bravely she walked the walk as well as talked the talk for what she believed in.

I learnt so much about the history of Greece from 1930, through their occupation during World War 2, and the constant changing of the political powers which meant that you never know who you could trust. Themis believed firmly in communism, and following her journey and watching her adeptly survive and thrive in the Communist Army was eye opening. But then she was captured and paid a heavy price for chasing after her dream of building a better Greece.

With so much fighting and political upheaval, this book put me through the emotional wringer. I cared so much about Themis and her family, and they suffered and suffered, and the pain reached through the pages and hit me hard. It really made me reflect on what I would give up for my beliefs. And it also portrayed how conflicted Themis felt at times, by what she was doing, and why she was doing it.

While I did pick up a lot of history from this book, it was never in a boring way. It weaves the facts into this family saga. And that together with a main character who held me spellbound meant my attention never wavered. It felt like a rollercoaster that swung from emotional to scary and my heart was pounding with fear at times. 

If you are looking for a character driven book with an AMAZING setting, and you enjoy historical fiction, well then don't miss out on this one. I have a strong feeling that it will be one of my favourite books of 2019.
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I found this book a fascinating insight into Greece during the Second World War and the civil war. The story, harrowing at times was compulsive reading about a time in  Greek history I knew little about. I did feel that the latter part of the book was slightly rushed considering the detail given to earlier parts. Overall I enjoyed this and would recommend.
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Athens 1941. After decades of political uncertainty, Greece is polarised between Right- and Left-wing views when the Germans invade. Fifteen-year-old Themis comes from a family divided by these political differences. The Nazi occupation deepens the fault-lines between those she loves just as it reduces Greece to destitution. In the civil war that follows the end of the occupation, Themis joins the Communist army, where she experiences the extremes of love and hatred and the paradoxes presented by a war in which Greek fights Greek. Eventually imprisoned on the infamous islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri, Themis encounters another prisoner whose life will entwine with her own in ways neither can foresee. And finds she must weigh her principles against her desire to escape and live.

Hislop is the master at creating stories around her characters, these characters are pure, beautiful perfection. Themis and her family are so realistic, they are likeable and hateable, I loved them and I fell out with them, most of all I felt everything with them. Getting to know them was a delight and following them through this traumatic read meant everything. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book but I am going to miss these superb characters more. 

Anyway, enough of an ode to the characters, I have to mention the other aspects that I loved about this book. Of course, we have a sublime setting of Greece in this, discovering the country through fresh eyes and learning about its history was fascinating and kept me gripped throughout. Hislop ties the past to the present through Themis and her family, if I am honest we do not need the present day sections, they are few and far between and do not really add anything to the book, following Themis throughout the turbulent times is enough. 

Then of course we have the plot, and what a stunning yet traumatic read this is. The plot had my whole heart from near the beginning and I was engrossed in discovering Themis' role in history. Hislop captures war-torn Greece spectacularly, both the thoughts of the characters and the physical trauma to the country, I was immersed in the dangerous world that Hislop evokes. Being set during the war, there are some very difficult scenes to read, they are incredibly well written but I was crying throughout and felt the pain of everyone involved. Hislop perfectly captures the history and feelings of everyone involved and I could not help but feel every word, but then what else should I expect from Hislop.

'Those Who Are Loved' is another evocative, heart-breaking and emotional read from Hislop. The setting is perfect, the history powerful and the characters memorable. This is a must read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Headline for an advance copy.
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I was not disappointed in Victoria's new novel.  Well written and atmospheric.  
I love Greece and her books are always so well written
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I always enjoy Victoria Hislop's books and this one is no exception. 'Those who are loved' gives a fascinating account of what it was like to live in Athens during the German occupation and see your family torn apart by different loyalties. There is no taking sides in this book as each character does what they feel is right, even if it means betraying their family. It is interesting that the book also deals with the Junta years under the Colonels when political loyalties of the past are once more brought to the fore. Hard to believe that one family can suffer so much and yet Themis and her brother find some kind of peace at the end.  Very well researched and a truly heart-breaking account of the daily life suffered by so many Greeks.
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Those who are loved is a novel set in Greece against the backdrop of civil unrest then occupation during the Second World War.
A great way to see how history affects families this story follows a Greek family though thick and thin, through family conflict  as siblings support opposing sides.. Desperate times lead to desperate actions and thus heart sending story of survival against the odds will make it's way into your head and heart as you read. Victoria Hislop has that rare gift of making history compelling and alive, and she has succeeded in doing this once again.
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I always enjoy Victoria Hislop's writing.  I also learn a lot about history that is missing from the history books in the UK.  She evokes the time and the place very beautifully.  Her characters feel like family.  This story of this Greek family is at times very harrowing, reflecting as it does war, distress and loss.  However,  it is also the story of human strength, resilience and love.  An excellent read.
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Set in Greece at the time of the German Occupation and the build up to the civil war.  Themis, as a 90 year old relates her story of survival to her grandchildren. Torn apart by the political differences within her family she joins the Communist  army where she experiences extremes of love and hate midst Greeks fighting Greeks. She ends up being imprisoned and exiled. A deeply felt storyline embedded in a rich history telling full of enlightenment for the reader. 
I did find the storytelling a little slow for my taste.hence the 3 stars
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