It’s hard to know what to write about this one because for the first 100 pages I was bored stiff with this book. Wooden writing, flat characters, clunky dialogue. But then I found myself finishing the last 100 pages in about an hour, reading at breakneck speed, because it is so clever what Hislop does here and how she uses tragedy to make a point about greed. I found myself really analysing this for days afterwards. However, a lot of people are going to disagree with this review (it has been slammed on Goodreads, for instance), but hear me out. It’s a massive bestseller anyway so what I’m going to say doesn’t make much difference-I just want to explore a theory.
I think The Sunrise is about fatal flaws, and how people are punished for them. Opening in the opulent early 70s, when the holiday industry was really getting in full swing, and luxury hotels were becoming more and more common, Cyprus, still recovering emotionally and materially from decades of civil war and revolution, is on the up. No one knows this more that hotel owner Savvas Papcosta, and his new right hand man Marcus Georgious. Supported by his ultra-glamorous wife Aphroditi. With the opening of the super-luxurious hotel The Sunrise, the Papcostas are one of the most successful and admired couples in Famagusta, the rapidly expanding resort on the East Coast.
The Papacostas live in their own bubble of wealth, extravagance and work, and are completely oblivious to the tensions outside the hotel. Turkish and Greek Cypriots have been at each other’s throats for decades, and for families like the Georgious, and their neighbours the Ozkans, who also have links to the hotel, every day is a test of courage and hope for a better future without violence.
When the violence erupts and Cyprus is invaded, the three families all find their own ways of dealing with the crisis. For some, such as wily and manipulative Marcus, it is an opportunity. For others, such as Aphroditi, it is a massive wake-up call.
Parts of this book are sickenenly violent, but it is told in the same matter-of-fact writing style throughout. It is like listening to a news report of the events, and more detached for being so. This allows us to see the circumstances of individual characters as lessons to be learned, rather than rolling about in tragedy overall. Marcus’ mother, for example, is such a naive and almost stupid woman in her affection for her clearly devious son, instead of feeling sorry for her circumstances we can look at a human failing in the context of a tragedy. Her characters are flawed, real people, not martyrs of horrifying events. By looking objectively at the events of Famagusta we see it for what it is; a booming city that was torn apart because it was focussed on growth and gain rather than the politics of the nation.
Get through this book, it IS worth it, but it isn’t a beach read or a sad romantic tale of loss and hope. This is the story of am event, and how people responded to it, and should be read as such.