It’s the 25th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony. And a moment of violence has devastating consequences.
When time stops dead for Maria Petrakis and her sister, Anna, two families splinter apart and, for the people of Plaka, the closure of Spinalonga is forever coloured with tragedy.
In the aftermath, the question of how to resume life looms large. Stigma and scandal need to be confronted and somehow, for those impacted, a future built from the ruins of the past.
Number one bestselling author Victoria Hislop returns to the world and characters she created in The Island – the award-winning novel that remains one of the biggest selling reading group novels of the century. It is finally time to be reunited with Anna, Maria, Manolis and Andreas in the weeks leading up to the evacuation of the island… and beyond.
I remember when The Island was published in 2005. I read it in one sitting. I stayed up virtually all night to finish it. Spinalonga was a leper colony off the coast of the Greek Island of Crete. This was the 1940s and 50s, before there was a cure for leprosy. The book followed the lives of people in the village of Plaka and those who were diagnosed were sent away for ever. Even children were sent to live with a ‘new’ family on the island. Parents initially sent them to school in long trousers in case anyone saw the signs of leprosy on their legs. Spinalonga eventually became a community with its own school, church, medical centre and shops.
One August Night continues the story after the cure has been found. Maria Petrakis is one of those who survived. Her mother Eleni was sent to Spinalonga where she died, while her father Giorgios rows the boat back and forth with new exiles and supplies.
It is 1957 and Maria is finally coming home, having been cured. But on the day she arrives in Plaka, there is a terrible tragedy which involves her whole family.
Manolis has always been in love with Maria’s sister Anna to the point of obsession. But Anna is married to his cousin Andreas Vandoulakis. He knows that the tragedy of that day was partly his fault and he must seek a new life away from Plaka and his family. Away from Maria, to whom he was betrothed before she was sent to Spinalonga. Away from Sofia the child who might be his. In The Island it is Sofia’s daughter Alexis who travels to Crete to find out the secrets her mother has been keeping from her about Spinalonga.
The sequel to The Island follows the lives of these people, tied by family, love, tragedy and redemption. We also meet other wonderful people along the way, including Dr Nikos Kyritsis, who was involved in finding the cure, and Kyria Agathi, Manolis’s landlady in Piraeus. They are amongst those who will help Maria and Manolis come to terms with everything that happened. We also still see the stigma and prejudice attached to leprosy even though it can be completely cured. It is a very slow developing disease and if caught early enough leaves no lasting scars.
One August Night is not about leprosy though – it’s about the aftermath of the tragedy on that fateful day and how it affects everyone connected. But the standout story for me is that of Maria, whose ability to forgive is so magnanimous it is hard to understand, but I was full of admiration for her.
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours and to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Inspired by a visit to Spinalonga, the abandoned Greek leprosy colony, Victoria Hislop wrote The Island in 2005. It became an international bestseller, has sold more than six million copies and was turned into a 26-part Greek TV series. She was named Newcomer of the Year at the British Book Awards and is now an ambassador for Lepra. Her affection for the Mediterranean then took her to Spain, and in the number one bestseller The Return she wrote about the painful secrets of its civil war. In The Thread, Victoria returned to Greece to tell the turbulent tale of Thessaloniki and its people across the twentieth century. Shortlisted for a British Book Award, it confirmed her reputation as an inspirational storyteller. Her fourth novel, The Sunrise, about the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the enduring ghost town of Famagusta, was a Sunday Times number one bestseller. Cartes Postales from Greece, fiction illustrated with photographs, followed and was one of the biggest selling books of 2016. The poignant and powerful Those Who Are Loved was a Sunday Times number one hardback bestseller in 2019 and explores a tempestuous period of modern Greek history through the eyes of a complex and compelling heroine. Victoria’s most recent novel, One August Night, returns to Crete in the long-anticipated sequel to The Island. The novel spent twelve weeks in the Top 10 hardback fiction charts.
Her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. Victoria divides her time between England and Greece and in 2020, Victoria was granted honorary citizenship by the President of Greece. She was recently appointed patron of Knossos 2025, which is raising funds for a new research centre at one of Greece’s most significant archaeological sites. She is also on the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.