Ellie is living a rather dull life in London, but when postcards from Greece arrive for the previous tenant of her flat she starts to dream of going to Greece. Signed only with the initial A there is an air of mystery about them; who is A and who is S Ibitson who the cards are addressed to. When the post cards stop Ellie decides to take a holiday to Greece to see some of the wonderful places from the cards. On the morning of her flight a package arrives, a journal written by the mysterious A that details his journey through Greece and a collection of stories he has been told by the locals as he visits their villages and towns. A’s stories bring Greece and its culture to life and make Ellie consider her own future.
This is very different form Victoria Hislop’s previous novels. I have seen it described as a book of short stories but I disagree; The book reads like a travelogue, one man’s journey through Greece and through life but with the addition of stories from the Greece’s culture. The thread is held together by A’s story and Ellie’s to a point. What makes this book extraordinary are the photographs that accompany the text. The vivid descriptions combined with the photographs really bring Greece and its gorgeous landscapes and villages. The only drawback is for those who like to read on tablets or e-readers where the photographs would not be seen in colour and size and thus you would lose a lot of the pleasure and atmosphere of this book; it has to be read in hard or paperback to fully appreciate the work that has come into its creation.
The characters are many and varied; a married French couple who run into trouble in a quiet fishing village, Giannis a monk who lives in the high monastery in Meteoa, to the many people who make up the soul and life of the villages and towns. The stories told read like Greek Folklore, with each village or town having its own customs and stories to be told. Antony (A) really develops through his travels, he moves from being heartbroken over a failed relationship to his realisation that he needs to live his life to the full and let the sadness go. Ellie is the epitome of many young people today, finished her degree moves to London to try to make her way in the world but falls into a job she doesn’t like and lives in a flat she hates, but she sees no way out. We see her travel from grey London to the bright sun of Greece, a metaphor for her moving in life to a new bright beginning.
This really is a wonderful read, a tale of love, life, hope and the human condition. It takes the reader through Greece’s varied history and its many customs and traditions, but it must be read as an actual book. A sublime novel in full technicolour, a love letter to Greece.