• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (July 7, 2015)
Internationally bestselling author Victoria Hislop delivers a stirring novel set during the 1974 Cypriot coup d’état that tells the intersecting stories of three families devastated by the conflict. . .
Summer 1972—Famagusta is Cyprus’s most desirable tourist destination in the Mediterranean. Aphroditi Papacostas and her husband, Savvas, own The Sunrise, a wildly successful new luxury hotel. Frequented by only the very wealthiest of Europe’s elite, The Sunrise quickly becomes the place to see and be seen. Yet beneath the veneer of tranquil opulence simmers mounting hostility between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Years of unrest and ethnic violence come to a head when, in 1974, Greece’s coup d’état provokes a Turkish attack on beautiful Famagusta.
The fallout sends the island’s inhabitants spiraling into fear and chaos, and the Papacostases join an exodus of people who must abandon their idyllic lives in Famagusta and flee to refugee camps. In the end, only two families remain in the decimated city: the Georgious and the Özkans. One is Greek Cypriot, the other Turkish Cypriot, and the tension between them is palpable. But with resources scarce and the Turkish militia looming large, both families must take shelter in the deserted hotel as they battle illness, hunger, fear, and their own prejudices while struggling to stay alive.
The Sunrise is a poignant story about the measures we take to protect what we love.
Buy, read, and discuss The Sunrise
Victoria Hislop is the internationally bestselling author of The Island and The Return. She writes travel features for the Sunday Telegraph, Mail on Sunday, House & Garden, and Woman & Home. She divides her time among rural Kent, London, and Crete. She is married and has two children.
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It’s both perfect timing and kind of eerie that this book has been released as the world watches Greece’s economy crumble, because while The Sunrise is technically an historical novel (though it’s difficult for me to consider events that took place within the span of my lifetime ‘historical’) it’s modern history, taking place only 40 years ago.
Victoria Hislop has taken real events – the ethnic tension between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in Famagusta, Cyprus – woven fictional stories ( a young couple building a luxury hotel, two families (one Greek, one Turkish, obviously), two sons who get lost in the conflict) into them, and created a picture of a moment in time just before a community’s bubble burst.
The story itself is, at times, both shocking and saddening – one line near the end of the novel that hit me hard was a member of one family asking “Are we supposed to hate them now?” about people who used to be neighbors, and are now, because of politics, technically enemies. It’s a line that echoes through history, because we forget that war and conflict aren’t just events on battlefields or stories in newspapers, but involve real people, with real lives.
Hislop, however, takes these moments – big and small, political and personal – and turns them into literary magic. You feel the sun, see the shine of the marble floor in the lobby of The Sunrise, hear the clinking of tableware, the murmur of conversation. You feel the stress of living in opulent surroundings, but with very little resources. Some of the language is downright brilliant, turns of phrase that really put you in 1972 Cyprus, and others are a bit simpler, but they work together to form a cohesive whole.
Famagusta is a real place, and it remains a ghost town, wrapped with barbed wire, abandoned, alone.
Still the reality is that in the novel, and in life, there is always hope. Earlier this year the leaders of both countries met in Nicosia and started the slow process of talking, and of working toward healing.
Goes well with stuffed grape leaves, kalamata olives, flatbread and iced mint tea or Turkish coffee.
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