The Island by Victoria Hislop

On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother's past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.
Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone's throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga - Greece's former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion. She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip...

I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about The Island. It’s one of the longer audiobooks, taking just over 14 hours to listen to from start to finish (monster audiobooks like Game of Thrones take 30+ hours) and the story was also very long - but I hesitate to say it was drawn out.

We start off with 25 year old Alexis in somewhat present day time who’s in two minds about her life and her boyfriend etcetera, and who wants to know more about her mother’s past. Her mother is from a small village on Crete, Greece and that’s where the story takes us. I never cared much for Alexis who both opens and closes the book, I just didn’t find her part in the overall story very interesting or endearing. However once it got properly going telling the more or less chronological story of Alexis mother’s mother’s mother (yeah) back before WW2 things got very interesting.

I’ve been to Crete, but in the opposite end of the island, so I’ve never seen Plaka or the leprosy island Spinalonga, but Hislop did a very good job painting a living picture of the past and how life was lived. Time flies throughout the book as we jump past several uneventful years, even decades and focus on the interesting bits and pieces throughout. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like it; mainly character driven it tells the life story of a whole community. We don’t get full insight in every little detail or decision, but we get the broad strokes with particular interest in the central characters.

After finishing it though, I was and still am not quite sure how to really rate it. It’s perhaps overly long, but well written, it’s curious, but not a page turner, the characters are interesting, but never grew on me enough to be sad to see them leave - but when you follow someone throughout their life maybe the end just comes natural? I’ve landed on 3 stars, which may be a bit less than it deserves, because it is very well written, but I feel like it didn’t quite grab hold of me enough to validate more. I definitely recommend it far and wide to all who enjoys this kind of semi-historical fiction with such a focus on characters, life and development.

The Island by Victoria Hislop//Iben Jakobsen
by Victoria Hislop
ISBN13: 9788764468359
Audiobook - 14h 18m / Published in 2005

Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2014


  1. Jeg brød mig heller ikke særligt om den nutidige historie, som virkede temmelig ligegyldig, men kunne faktisk virkelig godt lide den 'gamle' historie. Tror jeg var lidt mere vild med den historiske fortælling end dig, men ellers lyder det som om vi havde nogenlunde samme opfattelse af fortællingen :)


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