This is a richly depicted story concerning the personal ramifications of political divisiveness during the German occupation of Greece. It is essentially the story of Themis and the impact that the occupation had on her life and the lives of her family from 1930 through until nearly the present day, when she is 90 years old and celebrating her birthday with her eight grandchildren.
Brimming with Greek history and a vivid insight into the lives and plight of those who lived in Greece during the time of dictatorship and civil war, it is an historical family saga. The impoverished lifestyles and the tension of living with the constant fear of torture or death because you expressed your political allegiance to the wrong person are strongly captured.
Themis morphs from an overshadowed youngest sibling to a resolute communist, serving as a soldier against the Greek regime. She both carries out and endures atrocities before being required via the protective instinct of motherhood to be more conciliatory and to settle into a more unassuming life.
The book covers a period of time and history that is unlikely to be known by many and so it is incredibly interesting. The characters within the story are memorable and indelible, as the book’s title suggests. The futility of the political anger that people felt against one another makes you feel angered and frustrated in turn as such individuals were so deeply attached to their views that there was no reasoning with them, despite the human cost. The emotional impact is unwaveringly hard. Some of the ways in which the characters’ lives fall into place is a bit too convenient, but it is easy to just let the story flow and enjoy the journey nonetheless. Powerful, imposing, yet emotionally touching, it offers an immersive read that reflects the importance in society of being tolerant and acting with clemency.
Sara Garland 4/4
Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop
Headline Review 9781472223241 hbk May 2019