Week after week, the postcards arrive, addressed to a name Ellie does not know, with no return address, each signed with an initial: A.With their bright skies, blue seas and alluring images of Greece, these cartes postales brighten her life. After six months, to her disappointment, they cease. But the montage she has created on the wall of her flat has cast a spell. She must see this country for herself.On the morning Ellie leaves for Athens, a notebook arrives. Its pages tell the story of a man's odyssey through Greece. Moving, surprising and sometimes dark, A's tale unfolds with the discovery not only of a culture but also of a desire to live life to the full once more.Beloved, bestselling author Victoria Hislop's Cartes Postales from Greece is fiction illustrated with photographs that make this journey around Greece, already alive in the imagination, linger forever in the mind.
Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop is published by Headline Review in hardback, ebook and audiobook on 22 September 2016.
Check out my thoughts on some of her previous novels on Random Things: The Thread (October 2011); The Last Dance & Other Stories (July 2013) and The Sunrise (September 2014).
Everyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of Greece. I fell in love with that beautiful country, and its people twenty years ago and have been lucky enough to visit twice a year ever since. I haven't really gone off the beaten track, sticking to the islands such as Corfu, Crete, Zakynthos, Kos, Rhodes, Ithaka, Kefalonia, Lefkada and Kos. We always travel early in the season, and then later on and as it's usually fairly quiet, we get to know the locals. Our friends in Arillas, in north-west Corfu are almost like family, we've been visiting them for ten years.
During our late-night discussions, usually over countless glasses of village red wine and shots of Metaxa, or Ouzo, but never, never Tsipouru (evil stuff!), we talk about the economy, politics, family, tradition and generally put the world to rights. In Cartes Postales From Greece, Victoria Hislop brings to life those people that I've come to love, with their incredible hospitality and their zest for life. Their anger at what is happening to their country, their despair about the past, are quite perfectly portrayed.
"Everywhere I stopped strangers talked to me, and many of them told me a story. Their voices poured into the void, filling the silence that you had left.
You will recognise some of the places in the stories, from the postcards.
Who knows if the tales people told me are true or false? I suspect that some of them are complete fabrications, others are exaggerations - but perhaps some of them are real. You can decide."
The story begins with Ellie, and the mysterious postcards that arrive through her letterbox. Addressed to S Ibbotson, and each signed with just an initial - A. Ellie realises that S Ibbotson was the previous occupant of her dreary flat in London, and wonder who A is, and what was their relationship, and why do the messages on the back of the cards sound so sad? The cards are all from Greece. Ellie pins them up in her kitchen, they bring a splash of sunshine into her otherwise dull life.
On the spur of the moment, Ellie decides that she will travel to Greece. She wants to experience the places on the front of the postcard, she's desperate for something more than her boring job, in wintry London. On the morning that she leaves, a notebook is delivered to her flat, she stuffs it into her bag and departs for Athens.
From there, Cartes Postales From Greece becomes the story of 'A', his stories of his travels through Greece, all detailed in the notebook. He recounts how he meets the locals, he re-tells the stories that they share with him. He opens his heart to S Ibbotsen, with honesty and quite painfully at times.
The author has brought together stories from Grecian history and modern-day tales and has created a novel that will delight her readers. Anyone who has been to Greece will recognise these characters, those sunsets, those smells. She does not shy away from the troubles that this country has suffered, now and throughout history, and her words go some way to explain why the Greek people are angry, but also why they continue to love their homeland so much.
Wonderful storytelling. Cartes Postales From Greece evokes such a brilliant sense of place. Rich, vivid and beautifully told.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy of Cartes Postales From Greece for review.