The other week I decided it was time to be sensible. Much as I like to think otherwise, I can’t read every book I want to – and I’d had a lovely hardback copy of Cartes Postales from Greece, the latest book from Victoria Hislop (published by Headline Review on 22nd September, in hardback and for kindle), on my bedside table for a while with little prospect of my picking it up. So when Julie Ryan mentioned that it was a book she really wanted to read, I knew I had my solution.
You may remember Julie as a guest on Being Anne back in April – you’ll find the article here, and I couldn’t think of anyone better qualified to be my guest reviewer. Julie is a blogger and reviewer at Allthingsbookie, but she’s also the author of the Greek Island mysteries, and loves Greece with a passion.
You can find the buying links for Julie’s books in our earlier article.
Go on Julie – what did you think of Cartes Postales from Greece?
Firstly, my thanks to Anne for inviting me to review it. This is a book I have been eagerly anticipating ever since its launch was announced, yet there was also a slight trepidation – would this book live up to the well-deserved praise of her previous books?
To begin with, this book is different in format to the others as it revolves around a series of postcards picked up by Ellie although intended for an S. Ibbotson, whom we assume is the former tenant of her flat. These inspire her to go to Greece and follow in the author’s journey, a person we know only as A. As a result we have a series of stories which are not connected to each other but which inform and mark the traveller. Some reviewers have said they disliked this but I found them fascinating. Each story conveys a message or something enlightening that stays with us, and the trick is to read them as individual stories.
Victoria Hislop manages to interweave modern day Greek culture, religion, mythology, anecdotes and human nature into a coherent whole, all neatly tied together at the end; perhaps a little too neatly if I’m honest as all too soon the book drew to a sudden close and I didn’t want it to end. It doesn’t matter if the stories are true, false or exaggerated – the skill is in the telling and in how they evoke memories of Greece, things I thought I’d forgotten are suddenly brought to mind as the writer’s love of Greece shines through and makes the reader feel they are there. It’s a book that you can totally lose yourself in.
There really is something for everyone in this book, which will appeal to lovers of Greece as well as those looking for narrative with a difference. I also have to mention the cover as it is so tactile I found myself stroking it longingly even before opening the book. Once inside there is the added treat of postcard reproductions that really capture what is for me the essence of Greece.
The book is less about the characters and more about Greece and once she catches hold of you, she won’t let you go as anyone who has visited will testify. It would make the perfect accompaniment to a trip around Greece and one day I would love to follow in A’s footsteps just like Ellie. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the future there is a ‘Cartes Postales trail’ in Greece for book lovers.
I read this book in a day and a half and would have read it even faster if I hadn’t deliberately slowed down in order to savour the stories. This is one book that I really wish I had been able to write myself but having the pleasure of reading it is the next best thing. This is a book that will have pride of place on my ‘Greek Shelf.’
Thank you Julie – I knew it was going to someone who’d really appreciate it! And my thanks to Caitlyn Raynor at Headline Review for the beautiful hardback copy.
Victoria Hislop read English at Oxford, and worked in publishing, PR and as a journalist before becoming a novelist. She is married with two children.
Her first novel, The Island, held the number one slot in the Sunday Times paperback charts for eight consecutive weeks and has sold over two million copies worldwide. Victoria was the Newcomer of the Year at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2007 and won the Richard & Judy Summer Read competition.
Her second novel, The Return, was also a Sunday Times number one bestseller, and her books have been translated into more than twenty languages.
Find Victoria Hislop’s website here.