Although I haven't read her middle book yet (The Return, about the Spanish Civil War) I agree with reviewers who speak of the great improvement in her writing style over time. The Thread unites her already firm storytelling skills and historical sensibility with nuanced characterizations. It's an epic story that never drags, one full of devastation and hope - and yes, it would make a good book club choice. Don't let this description scare you off, though. I dislike sappy novels, and fortunately The Thread isn't one of them.
Combining a keen eye for detail with her usual fluid writing style, Hislop presents an engrossing excursion to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest metropolis, a relatively unexplored setting for fiction. By the novel’s end, however, readers will be intimately acquainted with its troubled politics and rich cultural heritage.
The Thread begins in 1917 and spans 90 years, tracing the lives of Dimitri, son of a wealthy, coldhearted cloth merchant, and Katerina, who arrives as a child refugee from Smyrna after the Greco-Turkish War and becomes a skilled embroiderer in a Jewish family’s workshop. Circumstances place them in the same neighborhood on Irini Street, whose kindly residents make up for its lack of affluence.
Childhood friends, Dimitri and Katerina eventually fall in love and marry, an event foreshadowed by the novel’s modern frame. Their interwoven stories skillfully incorporate Greece’s Nazi occupation and civil war, in which Dimitri takes a risky antigovernment stance.
This fast-moving, touching saga about tragedy, recovery, and the real meaning of family is full of dramatic incidents demonstrating the city’s transformation and resilience.
The Thread is published in July by Harper in trade pb at $14.99 (400pp). In the UK, the publisher is Headline Review, from whom it appeared in hardcover last October; the trade pb appeared in May at £7.99. Around the same time, the author wrote an article for The Telegraph about her passion for Greece (where her books are huge bestsellers, and where The Island was adapted into a miniseries) and her sad observations on the financial crisis plaguing the country.
Portions of this post were previously published in the May 15th issue of Booklist.