I was lent this book by a friend who raved about it so having read both The Island and The Return by the same author I decided to give it a go. I found both of Victoria Hislop's previous books easy to read and portraying strong well researched stories. It seems that The Thread is going to be much the same. Set in Thessalonika the real story starts with the near destruction of the city by fire in 1917. As the book started with an elderly couple, Dimitri and Katerina Komninos, looking back and describing their lives to their grandson I can only assume that the book is going to be based around the two families. Dimitri is actually born on the day of the fire but as the child Katerina has not yet appeared I can only assume that she is still to be born.
As much as I enjoyed her previous two books I did find that the language used and the way in which the two books were written were a little basic. The stories were clearly told and actually managed to present the reader with a fair amount of historical fact around which the fictional stories were set. However, I found the character development within both books to be a little weak and as much as I liked the main characters within both books I always found them to be a little unreal. Having read about the first 70 pages of The Thread I am already beginning to feel much the same. Although described on the front cover as "sweeping, magnificently detailed and ambitious" suggesting a great epic, I cannot quite shake the impression of an easy to read, good holiday book!
'Gripping Fiction' say the Sunday Telegraph, but I found it immensely tedious, the writing crammed with cliche, a fine example of how not to write a novel. Like so many historicals (and I think of Scott, Dickens's Tale of Two Cities and, most recently, Sashenka) the author feels impelled to put in details and explanations in the mistaken belief that this will convince the reader of its 'truth.' In fact it does the reverse - detail and historical research stand out as set pieces, as do many of the 'atmospheric' descriptions of Granada, where the book is set. Real people do not of themselves make a 'real' novel. This one is a mix of travelogue and potted history, dressed up as a novel.
The novel is divided into 3 parts, one in the 21st Centure, the middle part in the time of the Spanish Civil War, and a final brief part bringing us up to date. I found Part 1 tolerable, though self-indulgent on its set piece descriptions of flamenco dancing. I liked the marital conflict between Sonia, the heroine and James, her male chauvinist husband. I wanted to know more, especially when she returned to Grenada to visit a friendly old Spanish waiter. Why not a few letters as he struggles in the kitchen and orders her to return forthwith? But no, the waiter has to tell the story of the Ramirez family, life under Franco, the horrors of split loyalties, the politics behind it and all that in stilted blow-by-blow prose. It takes 350 weary pages and I wanted to know how James was faring back home with his boozy city mates, but he gets forgotten, as does the interesting flamboyant schoolfriend Maggie.
If you want info on the War, fine, but if you want an engaging read forget it.