Those Who Are Loved

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 13 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

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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Another hit for Victoria Hislop! A family saga whose main character is Themis. The story begins at her 90th birthday party in her small apartment in Athens. When the party winds up two of Themis’s grandchildren Popi and visiting American grandson Nikos stay to help with the clearing up. She takes them to a local cafe and tells them her story. What a story! It begins with her early childhood in the 1930s and takes us to the present day. As a child she lived in a small apartment with her sister and two brothers under the care of their grandmother. The family had very differing political views and there were many arguments and fights. Themis’s strong political beliefs inspired her to join the communists following first the occupation of Italy then Germany which was followed by a savage civil war from 1946 to 1949. She witnessed many awful, cruel incidents and eventually she was imprisoned. Only a very strong woman like Themis could survive the horrors and come back to raise a loving family whilst keeping her life secret to protect her and her family. As with all the Victoria Hislop books I have read so far I do find them hard going at the start. But all of a sudden I find I can’t put the book down and it’s been so worthwhile to persevere. Her knowledge of Greece and its history is admirable and I feel, again, like I’ve had a valuable history lesson. Highly recommend ‘Those who are loved’. Many thanks to netgalley for the early read.
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It's been quite a number of years since I have read a book by Victoria Hislop and I think it's because I didn't read raving reviews of her last two books but I wanted to try this new book and I was so glad I did. Now having finished her new book -Those Who Are Loved - I am reminded just how good an author she is. This book is an epic read that delves into the turbulent, tragic and difficult history of Greece.

I feel like I have been through a riveting, interesting and thought provoking history lesson. One where I barely left my Kindle out of my hands so caught up was I in the story. Yes at times it is a difficult read due to the grim and oppressive situations our main character finds herself in but it is also a very important, eye opening read. I had no idea as to the history of Greece, a country the author clearly has such a deep affection for given the care and sensitivity shown to the recollection of its past events but now I feel as if I have such a deep understanding of the fight for justice so many people endured for so long. I felt as if I was submerged into a time that was dangerous, threatening and destructive and the span of the novel although very wide ranging was needed in order to tell the incredible story that unfolded before my eyes.

Our main character Themis Stavridis is now in her 90's and as her family leave the celebration for her birthday, her young granddaughter and grandson remain and she decides to give them a gift. This gift is the story of her life and we follow her from 1930 right up until 2016 as she recollects a life filled with passion, fervour, danger, heartbreak but also loyalty to the cause she so strongly believes in. There were some fleeting moments where I questioned was the book too long? Was there too much detail? But when I read that final page I realised that every aspect of the story no matter how small or big was essential and the picture built up of a remarkable woman who sacrificed so much for the cause she so fervently believed in was all necessary to ensure a fascinating story was told in order to make this book the stunning read that it was.

We are introduced to Themis and her three siblings, Margarita, Panos and Thanasis, as their world is turned upside down. Their house literally crumbles and they are sent to life with their grandmother Kyria Koralis. Their father is away at sea and their mother becomes indefinitely ill. Kyria Koralis will go on to be the centre point of the family as does the apartment she lives in. Over the course of many years as we follow the family she becomes the matriarch their mother could never be. She is there at every juncture and as the bad times more often than not outweigh the good she supports her grandchildren. 

As the children grow older and the political and economic fortunes of the country go back and forth, a division emerges within the family with Themis and Panos on one side and Thanasis and Margarita on another. Their lives are in constant danger and as the country splits itself in two between the communists and their wish for democracy and liberation and those who wish for the King and a government to rule the factions between the siblings widen ever deeper. From the Nazi occupation during World War Two onwards we see various changes in power and with this the fortunes of the family change too. People can be killed for their beliefs but throughout all this Themis is a stand-out character who once she has formed opinions she never ever sways from this no matter how tough things get although there is so much sent to test her. Yes she questions herself but she remains solid in her viewpoint.

Themis was an incredible character who believed she knew what was best for her country and would do anything to help achieve this .Panos held the same views but I felt Margarita and Thanasis were too enshrined in the wrong way of thinking and they seemed to follow the crowd when it came to mass opinions. Following the departure of the Germans, Greece experienced its own civil war and to be honest I had no clue about any of this and at this stage the story could have felt like I was reading a boring history book that I was being made to study for an exam. Thankfully this wasn't the case at all and instead the book began to take me on an ever more vivid and interesting journey than it had up until that point. The author never shied away from the hardships endured by a family that we follow for so many years that become bitterly divided by politics. They are but a small cog in the wheel but are determined to play their part. Themis knows she cannot stand by as what she has witnessed should never have happened. The loss of a close friend will always be the inspiration that spurs her on in the fight for justice and equality and no matter how far away that goal may seem she constantly strives to reach it.

Perhaps the most powerful and shocking scenes were those when Themis leaves the family home to enlist with the communists in order to fight. She has yearned for liberation for so long and has had enough of repression. She believes people cannot struggle on the way they have and that if she can play any part at all in achieving the long term goal than she will do so. Not only does the conflict in Greece change the family but also do the ravages of time and this is highlighted when Themis is captured. The chapters set during this time were difficult to read and to be honest if I really took the time to sit and observe everything that was befalling her I might have had to stop reading for quite some time. Everything she endured was horrific and to think it really did happen to so many people not that long ago is unbelievable and hard to swallow. But throughout it all Themis is a stalwart, never swaying from her beliefs or convictions. The thuggery, torture, deprivation and brutality she witnessed and endured would have made anyone else sway in their opinions but she held strong. The pain from everyone involved in this story just bounced off the pages right into the heart and mind of this reader and I am sure the same will be said by anyone who picks up this book. I felt I was there right along side Themis as she partakes in a test of endurance that would either shatter her or make her. When she makes the ultimate decision I did not judge her for it because circumstances had changed and she knew she would wrestle with this choice for the remainder of her life.

I enjoyed how the latter half of the book took on a different tone and though initially I thought this seems like I am reading a separate story I then realised how cleverly everything was being woven together. The political situation in Greece played out amidst a family saga and it turned into an utter triumph of a novel for the author. Themis herself experiences many internal and external conflicts as she questions why am I doing this but I loved seeing the inner strength emerge from her core. She placed herself in danger numerous times over and the one promise she made to someone who did something so loyal for her would never ever be broken. As the family dynamics changed over the many years this story encapsulates it demonstrated how the past will always have a bearing on the present and that people can mould, adapt and change but when one makes the ultimate sacrifice for what they truly believe is right they must live with those choices and their repercussions.

Those Who Are Loved was a brilliant read written with such tenderness, care and respect for the subject matter and the people of Greece. Their history deserves to be told and Victoria Hislop has done so with tact and balance as she showed how the schism between right and left deepened and widened and polarised families, neighbourhoods and cities. When Themis finishes recalling her story just as her two grandchildren sit back and attempt to absorb and comprehend everything they have heard I did the same. It was almost like I let go of the breath I had been holding for much of the story. My eyes had been opened to a Greece I never knew existed and the image we all have of a sun filled country belies its oppressive and destructive past.

I wouldn't say this is a book that is enjoyable simply because of the subject matter, and really this is not the correct word to use, but it certainly is a book that you must read. In the brief end notes there is an explanation behind the name Themis - in Greek mythology it meant fairness and natural law and the symbol was the scales of justice. A more apt name could not have been chosen for an incredible character who will remain with you long after you have read the final page. In my mind, Those Who Are Loved is a superb return to form for Victoria Hislop and long may it continue.
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the author doesn't disappoint with the latest novel based from 1930's to modern day in Greece following  a womans journey from childhood to old age and charting her family's progress through WW2, civil war and military junta. the book seems to be well researched in the historical aspects and the family dynamics also help in the early part of the novel to really work to have conflicting ideas.
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I’ve read and enjoyed a number of Victoria’s books but I’m afraid that this isn’t one of my favourites. I learned a lot about Greece that I didn’t know before. I was quite shocked at how recent some of the events were. 
The book also demonstrates how there are no easy answers when it comes to conflicts. One man’s terrorist............
Even so, I found some parts of the book more like a lecture than a novel.  I’ve no problem with being educated but at time this seemed like a recitation of facts. 
My thanks to Netgalley, the author sand the publishers for this copy.
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I have read a lot of books set in the 1940’s but none from the point of view of someone living in Greece. Reading Themis’s story of her life and how she grew up in Greece during this difficult time really opened up my eyes to another aspect of this time period. 

This is a very descriptive read following one characters life through from early childhood, right the way through to old age. Themis has lived an interesting life to say the least and I throughly enjoyed reading along with Themis as she recounts her life story. She has such a colourful past and there are some really interesting characters she meets along the way. 

Themis is such a strong character with such conviction for her beliefs she really is the kind of person I would love to meet in real life and have a conversation with. The author beautifully mixes historical and family drama here and weaves it into one well thought out and written book.
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Despite numerous holidays in Greece and a son living in Athens, I was totally unaware of the civil war which followed WW2. Set at Victoria Hislop's usual high standard, the novel follows Themis throughout times of turmoil and stress for herself,her family and friends.. Compulsive reading. Fabulous.
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I have never read any books by Victoria Hislop before but this one appealed. What a fantastic author she is.  I am ashamed to say that I knew nothing about the issues that this book addresses and was shocked by what had obviously escaped my narrow world here in the U.K. by the end of the story I was crying with the raw emotion that had been written and my body was tingling as all the nerves seemed to be affected.
I can only say what a remarkable way to write about modern history.
At the end I did have to go back to the first chapter to read the introduction in 2016 that began Themas telling her story to her two special grandchildren.
I wish that I could give this book 10 stars out of the 5 to show what I thought about it but I have to settle for a straight 5, but these come from an emotionally impacted reader.
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As usual Victoria Hislop’s writing was masterful in her latest novel Those Who are Loved. The novel is weaved with intricate details of the protagonist’s life and within a couple of chapters I was hooked.

Those Who are Loved was particularly enjoyable for me because my Greek history is very sketchy, so it was fascinating to learn about the countries fragmented political history.

Those Who are Loved is primarily about family conflict and Greek political history. Victoria Hislop clearly does her research and it showed time and time again throughout the novel.

Those Who are loved begins with the protagonist, Themis celebrating a birthday surrounded by her friends and family. Her husband is there with them in body but not in mind, “his face was like a dark house. In the past five years, the lights had gone out one by one and today his wife’s radiance accentuated the contrast between them,”

In the end it was her husband’s condition that prompts her to tell her story to two of her grandchildren. She begins by telling them about a friend of hers who died in the square outside Themis’ apartment building during the famine.

“Her life story was not an heirloom, but it was all she had.”

The rich detail of this story was what made it so enjoyable to read. Themis dealt with a lot from a young age – absent parents, siblings who were constantly at war with each other and her over everything but in particular their political beliefs. Themis stays away from the conflict until the death of her friend and then she begins to find herself taking part in increasing acts of rebellion against various political systems until she discovers that she can do more than she thinks but at what cost?

I highly recommend this book.
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Having only recently discovered the delights of Victoria Hislop I was thrilled to be given the chance to read this one. Her writing is beautiful and moving, first rate characterisation and a wonderful description of setting.
A stunning and detailed story set in a period of Greeces history that I had heard of but knew very little about, the author gives you the history through characters that are easy to like and engage with. What a wonderful way to learn a little bit of history without having to wade through a dry and weighty educational tome.
My third book by this author and I already have another waiting to be read, Highly recommended.
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I have been fan of Victoria Hislop from the publication of her first book The Island,; the only book I haven’t read is Sunrise which is still on my shelf.  Those Who Are Loved  is her seventh novel, and like the previous books is about the history of Greece, from the 1930’s to present day.  Themis was one of four very different children who were brought up by her grandmother.  Whilst growing up there were always arguments about politics, especially during the horrors of World War II. After the war Themis is angry and decides to fight for the communists, seeing and doing some awful things she ends up in prison and having to decide wether she wants to live or die. Through Themis we see the political turmoil in Greece that continued for decades after the war and tore families apart.

Victoria Hislop is a beautiful writer and is able to engage the reader from the first page and keep your attention until the last sentence of the last page.  I always like to learn something when reading historical fiction and I found this book fascinating.  I had no idea of the political turmoil that engulfed Greece and Victoria Hislop has the ability to write this detailed history and make it enjoyable to read. I think this is made easier by having a central character that you come to know and take to your heart and care about; in this case Themis.

As a character Themis saw some terriblest things as a child that influences her join the communists and fight for her beliefs. She may have taken part in some terrible acts but I still felt empathy for her and admired her strength of character for standing up for what she believed in and and for what she endured.  I also admired her sense of forgiveness and understanding and being able to reconcile with her family and find a common ground so they can live together.  Even after the civil war she has difficulties to face with family and is able to face those with great love, understanding and not being judgemental.  Thanasis, her older brother has the opposite views to Themis and her brother Panos and in their political debates the reader is given both sides of the political divide that consumed Greece over the years; it also shows the atrocities committed by both sides.

Those Who Are Loved is a detailed, compelling, intelligent and stunning read.  Themis is such an engaging and personable character that I really cared about and wanted to survive her ordeals, that didn’t stop after the war. This book further puts Victoria Hislop at the top of the list as a masterful storyteller with her historical detail that brings Greek history to life, the good and the bad.  I absolutely loved this book so please go and get a copy, you will not be disappointed.
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A compelling and moving story set mostly in Athens, centring around the Greek civil war. Elderly Themis is celebrating her birthday by gathering her family together and then telling them a story of her life from being a little girl caught up in an earthquake, to fighting for the communists, to being a prisoner of war and then to becoming a wife and mother.

I know very little about Greek history so I found this tale enormously interesting. It’s really engrossing. Themis is a great character, she has such resilence. What she goes through is mind boggling. This is a wonderful story combining historical fact with fiction. It’s well paced and kept me eager to read more, quite the page turner in fact. The writing is vivid and gives a good sense of time and place. I almost felt I was there.

Easy to read, gripping and captivating, I can highly recommend it. “Those who are loved, they shall not die.”
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As usual Victoria Hyslop did not disappoint. As always you learn a lot about Greek history and the struggles.  The story of Themis and her family through the generations keeps you completely hooked. You really care about the characters - I didn't want to put it down and was sad to finish it.

Thanks to NetGalley for mu free copy in exchange for a review.  Definitely recommend this book!
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Classic Victoria Hislop. This story follows Themis from her childhood towards the end of her life, telling the story of Greece's troubled political years from the 1950s through to the present day.  It's a tale of love, loss, friendship, trust and betrayal.  A must for any Hislop fans.
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Despite my many holiday visits back in the 70s, my knowledge of recent Greek history and the immense trials and tribulations of its citizens through the Second World War and beyond has always been lamentably sketchy. This book – following Themis’ personal story set against an exceptionally vivid backdrop of recent history – most certainly put the record straight, and revealed a catalogue of pain and suffering that has, until now, remained largely unseen.

The research behind the telling of this story in such stark recreated detail must have been immense – and much of that detail is quite thoroughly shocking, a proud people escaping the yoke of Nazi oppression only to move into an internal struggle with different political forces fighting for supremacy, its people experiencing the most horrendous privation and unspeakable cruelty.

It’s a sweeping and thoroughly shocking backdrop, drawn in very large scale and cinematic detail – but what gives particular strength to this book is the way it also manages to be a very moving story on a far smaller scale, focusing on a family with its competing passions and allegiances and the events that befall them. It’s essentially Themis’ own story, a lifetime’s experiences with a particular emphasis on her experience of imprisonment after she chooses to join the communist cause, having become a freedom fighter, but then following her through the aftermath into her later life.

It’s those experiences during her imprisonment that will stay with me the longest – the fleeting moments of joy, the appalling cruelty she suffers, her absolute determination to be true to a cause she believes in with absolute disregard for her own comfort and survival. While the character development is quite excellent, I think the author’s great strength is in the describing of moments – small scenes that it’s impossible to look away from or ever forget.

I also particularly loved the way she took us into the heart of Themis’ family and the complexities of the different characters – and the impact of the changing political situation on its individuals and their relationships, together with its ongoing legacy.

Did I enjoy it? “Enjoy” might be the wrong word, as it’s a harrowing read – but a totally unforgettable one. If I do have criticism, I did think that the book’s opening and ending, providing the framework for Themis’ story, might not have been entirely necessary: and I did think the story slowed a little as it moved into the later stages of her life, however necessary to complete the history and draw things to a satisfying conclusion.

But the writing is absolutely superb – easy reading in so many ways, but so very challenging in its subject matter, certainly not flinching in its focus on scenes and issues that can’t fail to move the reader. It left me with an immense sense of shame that the Greece I’d always thought of as ancient history, sunshine, beaches and happy people had such a painful recent history – and immense respect for the author for so effectively laying it bare. Very highly recommended.

(Review copied to Amazon UK, but link not yet available)
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