[EN] The Sunrise - Victoria Hislop

Title: The Sunrise
Author: Victoria Hislop
Publisher: Headline Review
Release date: 2015 
Pages: 432


*Fine, pale sand and a turquoise sea had together created the most perfect bay in the Mediterranean, and pleasure-seekers came from all around the world to soak up in it warmth and to enjoy the sensual pleasure of the calm waters that gently lapped around them. Here was a glimpse of paradise.*

In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple open the island's most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the Özkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city's façade of glamour and success, tension is building.
When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.

The Sunrise, a book I had expected for some time. After enjoying The Thread immensely, I was impatient to discover Victoria Hislop’s latest novel.
Cyprus, 1972. In Farmagusta, Savvas and Aphroditi Papacosta open The Sunrise, the grandest hotel in town. Here, Greeks and Turks work and live together, welcoming tourists to their small parcel of heaven, oblivious to the building political tensions on the island. However, a Greek coup is all it takes for hell to break loose: the town is deserted as everybody tries to salvage what they have left and run for their lives… everybody but two families, the Georgious and the Özkans. One is Greek, the other Turkish, but they both have reasons for staying behind.
As in Victoria Hislop’s previous novels, I enjoyed the mix between fiction and history, love and violence, hope and despair. I must admit, however, that something was lacking to make the story enthralling. Do not misunderstand me, it is an easy and pleasant read, but I had expected much more of it given the context.
It appears early in the story that the author is familiar with the history of Cyprus. The reader is given details about events taking place on the rest of the island as well as in Greece and Turkey, which will help understand what is at stake for the two families. From the bombing to the camps, we are given a grim and detailed description of what life was like for hundreds of people.
The situation is different for the Georgious and the Özkans. They have stayed behind and they are in hiding. Their story is different to that of the fleeing Cypriots, be them Greek or Turkish, but it is also about survival, help, fear and hope. As touching as it is, I have not been involved as much as I was with The Thread and I think it is due to the characters.
While there was great potential in the plot, I found that there were too many stereotypes and that the characters notably lacked depth and personality. I have not been able to feel many emotions because I found them rather simply depicted, serving the purpose of advancing the story rather than really existing for themselves. In a story about two families, I expected more focus on their emotions and feelings, which would have rendered the story more likely. They almost disappear in the background several times and this revealed weaknesses in the plot.
Although I had expected the story not to be all rosy, I had not expected to finish reading it feeling frustrated and dissatisfied; we can expect a developing love story to be difficult in the context, but not that it would be wasted like this; we can accept some lucky turns of events, but not completely unlikely twists and turns; we can understand that some characters are not as good as they seem, but clearly separating good and evil does not contribute to the realism of the story, especially in the context of the civil war.
The Sunrise is overall an entertaining book, but in my opinion it does not compare with Victoria Hislop’s previous novels. Fiction and history are combined and, although the characters’ personalities leave somewhat to be desired, it gives a good overview of the consequences of an important episode of Cypriot history, which explains today’s political tensions on the island.


http://iletaitun-livre.blogspot.ch/2013/08/challenge-travelling-world-in-books.html http://www.rosecityreader.com/p/the-european-reading-challenge-january.html

* In short * 
From paradise to ghost-town

Mixing history and fiction, The Sunrise is about Farmagusta; it is about Greek and Turkish Cypriots; it is about two families in the middle of a political disaster; about love, fear and hope. Despite the characters’ lack of personality, it is an easy and pleasant read.

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