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Authors: Victoria Hislop

The Island

BOOK: The Island
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The Island
Copyright © 2005 Victoria Hislop
The right of Victoria Hislop to be identified as the Author of
the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication
may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any
means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case
of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences
issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2008
All characters in this publication are fictitious
and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead,
is purely coincidental.
Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library
eISBN : 978 0 7553 5244 9
This Ebook produced by Jouve Digitalisation des Informations
An Hachette Livre UK Company
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH
Table of Contents
Victoria Hislop read English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and writes travel features for the
Sunday Telegraph
, the
Mail on Sunday
Woman & Home
. Her first novel,
The Island
, held the number one slot in the
Sunday Times
paperback chart for eight consecutive weeks and has sold one million copies. Victoria was the Newcomer of the Year at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2007 and won the Richard & Judy Summer Read competition.
The Island
has been translated into over twenty languages. She lives in Sissinghurst, Kent, with her husband and their two children.
Her highly anticipated second novel,
The Return
, is a captivating tale of pain and passion at the heart of war-torn Spain.
Praise for Victoria Hislop’s acclaimed debut novel,
The Island
‘A beautiful tale of enduring love and unthinking prejudice’
Daily Express
‘This is a vivid, moving and absorbing tale, with its sensitive, realistic engagement with all the consequences of, and stigma attached to leprosy, elevating it beyond holiday literature’
‘A page-turning tale that reminds us that love and life continue in even the most extraordinary of circumstances’
Sunday Express
‘The story of life on Spinalonga, the lepers’ island, is gripping and carries real emotional impact. Victoria Hislop . . . brings dignity and tenderness to her novel about lives blighted by leprosy’
‘Hislop carefully evokes the lives of Cretans between the wars and during German occupation, but most commendable is her compassionate portrayal of the outcasts’
‘A heart-rending tale of love, loss and passion’
Good Book Guide
‘War, tragedy and passion unfurl against a Mediterranean backdrop in this engrossing debut novel’
‘A moving and atmospheric tale’
The Scotsman
For my mother, Mary
With special thanks to:
The Spinalonga Island Museum
Professor Richard Groves, Academic Dermatology,
Imperial College
Dr Diana Lockwood, London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine
Stelios Kteniadakis
The Leprosy Mission
The island of Spinalonga, off the north
coast of Crete, was Greece’s main
leper colony from 1903 until 1957.
Plaka, 1953
A cold wind whipped through the narrow streets of Plaka and the chill of the autumnal air encircled the woman, paralysing her body and mind with a numbness that almost blocked her senses but could do nothing to alleviate her grief. As she stumbled the last few metres to the jetty she leaned heavily on her father, her gait that of an old crone for whom every step brought a stab of pain. But her pain was not physical. Her body was as strong as any young woman who had spent her life breathing the pure Cretan air, and her skin was as youthful and her eyes as intensely brown and bright as those of any girl on this island.
The little boat, unstable with its cargo of oddly shaped bundles lashed together with string, bobbed and lurched on the sea. The elderly man lowered himself in slowly, and with one hand trying to hold the craft steady reached out with the other to help his daughter. Once she was safely on board he wrapped her protectively in a blanket to shield her from the elements. The only visible indication then that she was not simply another piece of cargo were the long strands of dark hair that flew and danced freely in the wind. He carefully released his vessel from its mooring - there was nothing more to be said or done - and their journey began. This was not the start of a short trip to deliver supplies. It was the beginning of a one-way journey to start a new life. Life on a leper colony. Life on Spinalonga.
Part 1
Chapter One
Plaka, 2001
UNFURLED FROM ITS mooring, the rope flew through the air and sprayed the woman’s bare arms with droplets of seawater. They soon dried, and as the sun beat down on her from a cloudless sky she noticed that her skin sparkled with intricate patterns of salty crystals, like a tattoo in diamonds. Alexis was the only passenger in the small, battered boat, and as it chugged away from the quay in the direction of the lonely, unpeopled island ahead of them she shuddered, as she thought of all the men and women who had travelled there before her.
Spinalonga. She played with the word, rolling it around her tongue like an olive stone. The island lay directly ahead, and as the boat approached the great Venetian fortification which fronted the sea, she felt both the pull of its past and an overpowering sense of what it still meant in the present. This, she speculated, might be a place where history was still warm, not stone cold, where the inhabitants were real not mythical. How different that would make it from the ancient palaces and sites she had spent the past few weeks, months - even years - visiting.
Alexis could have spent another day clambering over the ruins of Knossos, conjuring up in her mind from those chunky fragments how life had been lived there over four thousand years before. Of late, however, she had begun to feel that this was a past so remote as to be almost beyond the reach of her imagination, and certainly beyond her caring. Though she had a degree in archaeology and a job in a museum, she felt her interest in the subject waning by the day. Her father was an academic with a passion for his subject, and in a childlike way she had simply grown up to believe she would follow in his dusty footsteps. To someone like Marcus Fielding there was no ancient civilisation too far in the past to arouse his interest, but for Alexis, now twenty-five, the bullock she had passed on the road earlier that day had considerably more reality and relevance to her life than the Minotaur at the centre of the legendary Cretan labyrinth ever could.
The direction her career was taking was not, currently, the burning issue in her life. More pressing was her dilemma over Ed. All the while they soaked up the steady warmth of the late summer rays on their Greek island holiday, a line was slowly being drawn under the era of a once promising love affair. Theirs was a relationship that had blossomed in the rarefied microcosm of a university, but in the outside world it had withered and, three years on, was like a sickly cutting that had failed to survive being transplanted from greenhouse to border.
Ed was handsome. This was a matter of fact rather than opinion. But it was his good looks that sometimes annoyed her as much as anything and she was certain that they added to his air of arrogance and his sometimes enviable self-belief. They had gone together, in an ‘opposites attract’ sort of way, Alexis with her pale skin and dark hair and eyes and Ed with his blond, blue-eyed, almost Aryan looks. Sometimes, however, she felt her own wilder nature being bleached out by Ed’s need for discipline and order and she knew this was not what she wanted; even the small measure of spontaneity she craved seemed anathema to him.
Many of his other good qualities, most of them regarded as assets by the world at large, had begun to madden her. An unshakeable confidence for a start. It was the inevitable result of his rock-solid certainty about what lay ahead and had always lain ahead from the moment of his birth. Ed was promised a lifetime job in a law firm and the years would unfold for him in a preordained pattern of career progression and homes in predictable locations. Alexis’s only certainty was their growing incompatibility. As the holiday progressed, she had spent more and more time mulling over the future and did not picture Ed in it at all. Even domestically they did not match. The toothpaste was being squeezed from the wrong end. But it was she who was the culprit, not Ed. His reaction to her sloppiness was symptomatic of his approach to life in general, and she found his demands for things to be shipshape unpleasantly controlling. She tried to appreciate his need for tidiness but resented the unspoken criticism of the slightly chaotic way in which she lived her life, often recalling that it was in her father’s dark, messy study that she felt at home, and that her parents’ bedroom, her mother’s choice of pale walls and tidy surfaces, made her shiver.
BOOK: The Island
3.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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