The Island, by Victoria Hislop, was my last truly amazing read. This story is Hislop's debut novel. The book was published in Europe and the U.K. in 2005 and has been acquired by Harper Collins, I believe it has either just come out in the U.S. or it will any day now. I had the opportunity to read an arc or advanced reader copy.
The story is set in Greece in the 1940's on the island of Crete. It starts out in contemporary London where the heroine is drawn to trace her family roots in Greece. She knows there is a mystery in her mother's past, something her mother refuses to discuss. When she arrives in Crete she is told the story of the town, of her mother's relatives, and the history of an island, Spinalonga, which was once a leper colony. A colony where her own relatives were sent. The story deals with the complexities of mother/daughter relationships, sisters, forbidden love, disease, and prejudice, and all with a deft hand and a sensitivity that is evident through the author's beautiful prose.
After reading this novel I had a yearning to read books from earlier times, historical romance, classics, I couldn't get enough of the lyrical prose that had filled my thoughts when reading The Island. Last week a friend gave me an early Christmas gift, Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer, it was originally published in 1953, this one is a 2007 release from Sourcebooks Casablanca, the cover is gorgeous, the paper is fantastic, the interior design simple but elegant. It has a really good feel to it and I love that.
I'd never read this book, although as a teenager I loved Regency and Gothic novels best of any. I've been swept up into the Regency period again and loving it. I read until almost two a.m. last night, unable to put this story down. It's a slow start and if I were writing it I'd start from the protagonist point of view in chapter two and weave the tedious male conversation in chapter one throughout the novel, but that's a contemporary author speaking. For the period, the story works, but for many of today's readers it's a slow start. Stick with it, it's a great read.
Both books are beautiful to look at, a total luxury to read, and would make excellent holiday gifts for any lover of romance.