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Book Review: Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop
What a disappointment this book was! I really enjoyed The Island by the same author and I know her books are highly thought of and well researched. The main problem with this one I think is that I couldn’t relate to the main character. I couldn’t see her in my mind or feel her thoughts and feelings. It’s the same with all the characters in this book: they lack depth and feeling. They’re almost caricatures. It’s as though she has wanted to tell a chunk of history and has just found a dysfunctional family to hang it on. Some of the characters seem to be just there to tell a particular part of the story. They then disappear: to live abroad or to conveniently die so that they don’t interfere with the rest of the story. To me the book lacks spontaneity. The reader doesn’t feel involved. The dialogue is stilted and doesn’t ring true in the mind. Sometimes we hear the thoughts and voices of people we don’t know very well rather than keeping to the main character, which is confusing. Intimate family scenes are described impersonally rather than “acted out” in speech by the characters.
The history itself, however, is fascinating. My knowledge of the second world war is hazy. When I grew up in the 1960’s it was too recent to be covered in history lessons and I have only gleaned small pieces of information since from TV programmes. I had no idea how Greece was involved. I know nothing of their turbulent past: the German occupation, the communist rebellion, the civil war, the succession of corrupt governments. A lot of research obviously went into this and it was incredibly interesting. It was just that at times it felt like a dull catalogue of events, with no depth or feeling, rather than a story. The structure is also rather odd: there are long chapters on certain periods in the story, others are rushed through so quickly that you suddenly realise you’ve moved on ten years or so.
It was the sort of book I picked up reluctantly, feeling I should read it just to see what happened and I finished reading it with a sigh of relief, rather than a pang of regret.
Bethany Askew is the author of seven novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days, Poppy’s Seed, Three Extraordinary Years and The Two Saras.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Two more women’s fiction books have been accepted for publication in 2020 and 2021 respectively and she is currently working on a new novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.