Friday 6 October 2023

The Figurine by Victoria Hislop BLOG TOUR #TheFigurine @VicHislop @headlinepg @RandomTTours #BookReview


When Helena inherits her grandparents' apartment in Athens, she is overwhelmed with memories of the summers she spent there as a child, when Greece was under a brutal military dictatorship. Her remote, cruel grandfather was one of the regime's generals and as she sifts through the dusty rooms, Helena discovers an array of valuable objects and antiquities. How did her grandfather amass such a trove? What human price was paid for them?

Helena's desire to find answers about her heritage dovetails with a growing curiosity for archaeology, ignited by a summer spent with volunteers on a dig on an Aegean island. Their finds fuel her determination to protect the precious fragments recovered from the baked earth - and to understand the origins of her grandfather's collection.

Helena's attempt to make amends for some of her grandfather's actions sees her wrestle with the meaning of 'home', both in relation to looted objects of antiquity ... and herself.

The Figurine by Victoria Hislop was published on 28 September 2023 by Headline Review. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour.

I have been reading and enjoying Victoria Hislop's novels for almost twenty years. I devoured her debut, The Island, back in 2005. I visited the island of Spinalonga, off the coast of Crete, purely because of that book and have eagerly awaiting every one of her books ever since. 

I love Greece, and have spent so many wonderful holidays of many of the Greek islands. Not only are they beautiful, but they are also steeped in history and it is this history that Victoria Hislop recreates in her novels. 

In The Figurine, she explores the destruction of Greece's historical past, and has created a dramatic and often tense story that details the robbery of precious, often very ancient artefacts. Take from the ground by looters and those who often should know better and sold for huge sums and then secreted away in the homes of the rich and wealthy. Depriving Greece and its people of their birthright. 

We meet Helena as a shy eight-year-old girl in the early 1960s. She's arrived in Athens, after travelling alone from her home in the UK, to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. Helena's mother left Greece many years ago and has never been back. She speaks little of her parents, and especially seems to loathe her father, but she appreciates that Helena should be aware of her roots. 

Hislop takes us through Helena's formative years, as she learns to love Greece, learning the language and making new friends. Her own relationship with her Grandfather is strained, he's an oppressive, stern and angry man who often lashes out. However, it is clear to Helena that he is very important and that her family come from great riches. 

Helena's relationship with her own parents is the exact opposite. They clearly adore each other, and her and until tragedy strikes, they have a happy and comfortable life. 

When Helena's inherits her Grandparents Athens apartment, after their deaths, she is dismayed. She has learnt much about her mother's experiences and has no desire to return to those rooms. However, she does and this is where her real awakening begins. Striking up a relationship with suave and smooth talking Nick, Helena soon falls in love. Swept up by the lifestyle at Oxford, surrounded by people with money and freedom, Helena enjoys life.

From the dusty, chaotic streets of Athens to the slow paced Greek islands, Hislop brings Greece to life on the page. Her incredible passion for the country shines through in her writing, her descriptions of the people, the customs, the food and the music are wonderful.

Her research is admirable, and she doesn't hold back from including events from recent history that still affect Greece. The vicious fighting after the war, Greek on Greek. The terrible work camps, the destruction of families, the murders and the never to be forgotten events that shape modern Greece are all there. 

It is the wanton destruction of Greece's history, the looting of incredibly important artefacts to satisfy the whims of the wealthy are really brought home and Helena's bravery and courage in facing up to the sins of her own family, and her determination to bring justice is perfectly portrayed.

Another wonderful story from a very talented author. Highly recommended. 

Inspired by a visit to Spinalonga, the abandoned Greek leprosy colony, Victoria Hislop wrote The
Island in 2005. It became an international bestseller, has sold more than 6 million copies and was turned into a 26-part Greek TV series. She was named Newcomer of the Year at the British Book Awards and is now an ambassador for Lepra.

Her affection for the Mediterranean then took her to Spain, and in the number one bestseller The Return she wrote about the painful secrets of its civil war. In The Thread, Victoria returned to Greece to tell the turbulent tale of Thessaloniki and its people across the twentieth century. Shortlisted for a British Book Award, it confirmed her reputation as an inspirational storyteller.

Her fourth novel, The Sunrise, about the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the enduring ghost town of Famagusta, was a Sunday Times number one bestseller. Cartes Postales from Greece, fiction illustrated with photographs, was a Sunday Times bestseller in hardback and one of the biggest selling books of 2016.

The poignant and powerful Those Who Are Loved, was a Sunday Times number one hardback bestseller in 2019 and explores a tempestuous period of modern Greek history through the eyes of a complex and compelling heroine.

Victoria's most recent novel, One August Night, returned to Crete in the long-anticipated sequel to The Island. It spent twelve weeks in the Top 10 hardback fiction charts.

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