The Island by Victoria Hislop
The first novel from the pen of Victoria Hislop is set on the island of Crete, and revolves around the treatment of patients with the ‘world’s oldest disease’: leprosy. Like her succeeding novel, The Return, the story begins in the UK with a British protagonist, who begins to learn a few things about her family’s past. In the case of Alexis, her family’s past takes her to the island of Crete, where she meets people from her mother’s family and community, and their links with the tiny off-shore island of Spinalonga, a kind of fortress community for segregating people suffering from leprosy.
The narrative is full of intrigue, it ambles along at a gentle pace, but captures the reader’s interest when he/she realizes that much of the content is based on fact. This is not a Dan Brownesque page-turner that will keep you ‘on heat’ until you’ve hit the last chapter, but the very human tale of the trials and tribulations suffered by a community during World War II, coping with the distress of a leprosy colony just off its shore, will hold your attention.