My thanks to Caitlin Raynor at Headline for an advanced reader copy of Cartes Postales From Greece by Victoria Hislop. Cartes Postales From Greece is published in hardback on 22nd September 2016 by Headline Review and is available for purchase from all good booksellers.
Cartes Postales from Greece
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 postalesbrighten 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.
My Review of Cartes Postales From Greece
When Ellie finds postcards from A, addressed to S Ibbotson, in her flat pigeon hole they sow the seed of desire to visit Greece. A notebook arrives too as she goes off to Athens and so the book begins.
I’ve always loved Victoris Hislop’s writing and I have to say that I was apprehensive about reading Cartes Postales From Greece as I was slightly disappointed in my last Victoria Hislop read, The Sunrise, my review of which you can read here, which, although good, didn’t move me like her other writing.
Initially I didn’t ‘get’ this book at all. Ellie seemed to disappear completely and I couldn’t attune myself to the writing. I set the book aside, came back to it later and suddenly I understood. It is not a story about Ellie, or A (even though the notebook tells us and Ellie about his innermost emotions), or S Ibbotson. It is Greece that is the central character, gradually uncovered through the tales A hears on his travels and which are linked with the notebook.
I have one criticism that I didn’t see the need to have Ellie as part of the structure. The ending of the book was too tidy for my liking and A’s notebook is quite strong enough to stand as a plot device alone.
However, Victoria Hislop weaves magical elements into what are, in effect, a series of short stories or snapshots. We meet colourful charcaters from beautiful women to corrupt officials. We read about the history, mythology, geography and economy of Greece. Each aspect is beautifully illustrated by postcards and photographs which are produced with a slight sepia tone giving a dreamlike quality to them and enhancing the concept that perhaps the truth isn’t always told in the stories. There are many layers for interpretation here. I felt reading Cartes Postales From Greece was the next best thing to actually visiting the country. It is incredibly well researched, immaculately written and thoroughly absorbing.
For anyone who loves the country or wants to understand it better, Cartes Postales From Greece is an essential read. Beautifully and vividly written it is evocative and I thought Cartes Postales From Greece is Victoria Hislop at her very best.
About Victoria Hislop
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 books have been translated into more than 30 languages.