Tag Archives: Cyprus

The Sunrise – Victoria Hislop

You may remember that I had a moment we all dread last year when my computer broke and lots and lots of files were lost/wiped. Imagine my joy when I was looking through my emails and I found some reviews which I thought were gone for good. What was I looking for was to see if I had Victoria Hislop’s email address as having been to Cyprus, where she set her latest novel The Sunrise, I wanted to email her about it. As it turned out I don’t have her email but I did find my review of The Sunrise sat in an email I must have sent to myself from my old work – how could that happen? I have never blogged at work. Anyway as it seemed Aphrodite had popped this review, which I wrote at the end of 2014, back into my life (well, onto my computer) I thought I would share it with you now.


Headline, hardback, 2014, fiction, 352 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

It is the summer of 1972 and Savvas and Aphroditi Papacosta are living a life of luxury through the riches of tourism in the Cypriot city of Famagusta. Their hotel, The Sunrise, is one of the most popular destinations on the whole island with loyal staff and even more importantly loyal customers. The couple can have pretty much anything they want, and life seems perfect. Yes, you guessed it there is a ‘but’ coming. For behind the facade of partying, glamour and wealth that the tourists see, there are tensions between Green and Cyprus which initially seem to be taking place further afield, until a Greek coup starts and the island is torn in two as civil war starts with Famagusta becoming one of the central grounds.

As the holidaymakers reclined in the sun, sipped cocktails, swam or lost themselves in the latest thriller, Huseyin noticed that they were always orientated towards the sea. The sunbeds had to be laid in rows, pointing towards the rising sun. These foreigners did not want to look inland. Even Frau Bruchmeyer, who lived on the island now, saw only its beauty and the paradise created by the blue sky and sea.
Although during their short conversations she never forgot to ask after Huseyin’s mother, she seemed unaware of the knife edge on which the Cypriots were living.

Victoria Hislop does something very savvy with The Sunrise. Initially I was completely won over simply by the hotelier couples, though Aphroditi in particular who gets her hair done and wears a different gown each day and night and is Cyrus’ answer to Alexis Carrington. I was then bowled over by the tension that unravels and soon takes us from the high camp and glamour of the hotel and into the streets where we join two families, the Georgious and the Ozkans, who both have links to the hotel itself with members of the families working there.

As we follow these families we gain more of an insight into the history of Cyprus and where the tensions came from  as we discover they both tried to escape prejudice, ethnic violence and bubbling unrest elsewhere on the island. We then follow these two families, and the Papacosta’s, as they come to terms with the fact that they must pick sides, whether they like it or not, and how their decisions on staying or fleeing will affect them all as time goes on and the conflict gets worse. How far will these people go to survive and how do people change when they have no idea what the future holds?

Everything was quiet, but at the end of the street not far from home, he noticed something that shocked him even more than anything he had seen.
He put the sack down behind a gate and went up close. Ahead of him, there was a line of barbed wire. He was at the edge of the modern section of the city now, and as he peered in both directions down the moonlit street, he realised that the wire stretched as far as he could see. Famagusta had been fenced off. They were now living in a giant cage.

Naturally as things go on Hislop’s plots thicken, twist and take many a surprising turn whilst all the while giving us an insight to a period of history. It is this combination that makes The Sunrise  so enthralling to read. Sometimes if you know a novel is based on historical fact it can go one of two ways; either there is an element of the story falling flat for you because you know the outcome or there is added tension and atmosphere. As with her debut The Island (of which I am also a huge fan and read before my blogging days) Hislop’s latest novel is definitely in the latter category. Whether she describes the city at its most buzzing and opulent or at its most devastated you are completely there, the city fully created at either end of the spectrum.

Here characters are also marvellously crafted, you end up liking them whether you want to or not. Be they spoilt rich women, eccentric tourists, vagabonds, victims, profiteers you end up following their stories and narratives avidly whichever side of the conflict they are on. Hislop very carefully pitches her tone on neutral ground, so that regardless of who is wrong or right (bearing in mind that each official ‘side’, not necessarily the characters though, thinks they are right) we the reader get to see the situation from all sides. This is an incredibly difficult thing to do in any historical novel, set around conflict or not, especially without adding any hindsight to it. Hislop does it marvellously; her main focuses the story, the characters, the city and her readers with the facts firmly embedded in the fiction. The Sunrise is a perfect combination of an escapist, educational and enthralling read around a period in history you might not have a clue about. Highly recommended and a most timely reminder of how much I loved The Island and how I need to read all the Hislop’s I haven’t yet.


If you would like to find out more about the book you can hear Victoria in conversation about it with myself on a previous episode of You Wrote The Book here. So those were my thoughts back in 2014 which were brought back to life when I arrived in Cyprus, especially once I discovered you can go on tour to Famagusta and see the ghost town pictured above. I was desperate to do it, alas we discovered that you actually don’t get to go into the city, just see it through a fence, so a four hour round trip seemed a little excessive to peer through the fences, maybe one day though? After reading the review I was quite cross I didn’t pack it in my bag to read while I was in Paphos. It has reminded me again I need to get back to more of Victoria Hislop’s books, have you read The Sunrise, The Island or any of her other novels, if so what did you think?


Filed under Headline Review, Review, Victoria Hislop

Aphrodite’s Rock, Cyprus

I mentioned earlier in the week that almost everything in Cyprus tries to have some link, no matter how tenacious, with the Goddess Aphrodite. Amongst the many temples, restaurants, shops (so many Aphrodite’s Secrets, she must have been brimming with gossip) and hotels there are some with genuine links, like Aphrodite’s Baths which I told you all about the other day, well if a goddess can have genuine links. Though I think it is nice to believe in, or envisage. Anyway, the one with the greatest link to the goddess is Aphrodite’s Rock where it is said she was born from the foam of the sea leaving a great rock in her wake. We had to go there.


When you arrive at Aphrodite’s Rock you are slightly spoilt for choice as to which rock it might be because the whole area is indeed very, well, rocky. So after you descend a secret staircase that then takes you through a tunnel (not ancient, but possibly called Aphrodite’s Tunnel or Aphrodite’s Walkway) under the main road you are greeted with the above and then when you turn to your right greeted with this…


Isn’t it just incredible? We were told (by a man who would swim us out to it and help us get a picture on top of it for just fifty euros, hmmmm) that the big rock almost dead centre of the picture above is Aphrodite’s Rock. Fable has it that should you swim around it three times you will become a virgin again and become forever young which seems a small price to pay to contend with some possibly deadly currents. So The Beard went out to have a try…


Alas despite his best impressions/efforts of Ariel from The Little Mermaid it wasn’t to be. And as we still weren’t sure that was the one I didn’t think potential death (which I also pointed out is how you might remain forever young, in people’s memories) was worth it. So we went to explore a little further along the beach, we found more rocks…


Tricky. Whilst I had graced the sea with a paddle I wasn’t going to try any of those, so we just walked along the beach and waited for the spirit of Aphrodite to take over us. And she did. More on that in due course.


Does anyone really know which one is hers? Have any of you swum around it three times and if so how is the reinstated virginity and eternal youth going? Jokes aside, I will never forget Aphrodite’s Rock, well rocks… Quite a magical place indeed.


Filed under Random Savidgeness

The Tomb of the Kings, Paphos

I was a huge, huge fan of the Indiana Jones films as a kid (not so much the last one as an adult, it’s probably best if we all forget that it happened) and have always quite liked the ice of going off for an adventure into some old caves, ancient sites or tombs investigating and finding old relics. It was possibly this side of me, along with the gothic elements to, that lead me to take up a role as a tour guide at Highgate Cemetery. So when I discovered that there was a necropolis in Paphos that looked like an Indiana Jones film set I had to go.

It’s is quite surreal as you enter the park that within metres you realise that you are not surrounded by natural caves but by tombs. From the outside they look like a rocky natural cavern and then you go inside and discover there is much more than meets the eye. Who knows what might be lurking in them.

These are not actually tombs of kings but really a series of tombs built by the rich and aristocratic of the area. As you get towards the centre it all gets more and more showy. The more tombs you go in.

Until you get to the centre and possibly the grandest tomb I have ever seen, and believe me there are some corkers in Highgate, nothing quite on this scale though.


Quite something indeed and actually quite spooky when you get down there and there is just you and all that space…

The spookiness (and stillness and quiet) was part of what I loved about it all. As you descended or ascended each staircase you were never quite sure what you might find.


Bar a few small incidents of some Cyprus Lizards (which are pretty big) a pair of unsuspecting pigeons and a pair of fellow tourists popping their heads out when I least expected it I was very brave. (I did almost scream in the couples face when they suddenly appeared.) So maybe there is still time for me to become an intrepid explorer…

…Maybe! Or I could move here and become a cave/tomb guide. I do now really fancy some tales of adventure in the Indiana Jones style though. Know of any series or novels like that? I fancy getting lost in a few jungles, tombs and forgotten/hidden valleys, any recommendations?


Filed under Random Savidgeness

A Cove of Ones Own, A Perfect Reading Retreat

So on our adventures after visiting one of the archeological sites, which I will talk about later in the week in bulk so you aren’t overwhelmed by ancient stuff, we accidentally came across a place which may be the closest thing to my idea of seaside heaven. A cove with caves and a shipwreck and stunning blue waters. Best of all with no one there but us, a picnic and some books. So I thought I would share it with you.


It felt like a Famous Five adventure might take place at any point and was the perfect place to read in the sun in silence. Wonderful. If you’re ever in Cyprus head to the Edro shipwreck and the coves around it, perfect hidden reading retreats.


Filed under Random Savidgeness

The Baths of Aphrodite, Cyprus

I mentioned a while back that I wanted to do more things on whim so I decided that this should be the case on this holiday to Cyprus with the beard and so instead of joining the various day trips out supplied (note – at extra cost) on this trip I insisted that we hire a car and go off on our own whimsical adventures. The first of which was to the opposite side of the island to the Akamas National Park and mountain range to find the Baths of Aphrodite.

 Aphrodite is everywhere on this island, in fact it’s become something of a joke with me and The Beard that everything secretly has Aphrodite in front of it from chemists to public restrooms, however she was born from the foam at the seas edge here so you can’t blame them can you? But the idea of seeing the place she bathed (below a palace, we mere mortals cannot see, on the surrounding mountains) and where she and Adonis met was just too tempting. It seems the classicist roots from my mother are still in my blood. And so off we headed and found the grotto in question.


I wasn’t as bowled over by it as I expected to be (we’ve slightly more delectable grottos in my hometown of Matlock Bath) this still didn’t stop us both using the water on our skin for its magical youthful properties which are supposedly magical.


As the sun was out and the surrounding area was an abundance of flowers, butterflies, lizards (two massive ones), goats and stunning views of the sea we decided to follow the Aphrodite trail to a temple above and an oak tree where she would sit and contemplate the world both mortal and godly. And 7km isn’t far is it?


Well it turns out when it’s up a mountain over rocky terrain it is but wow were the views worth it. I actually said at one point that I felt like I was up the beanstalk in the land of the Giants.

The Beard was slightly sniffy that an oak tree would exist in these parts and indeed if one did there were bound to be loads. How wrong was he? After quite a walk we turned a corner and suddenly were faced by a single oak tree, there were no others, and the most silent and still point in the whole wood on the whole mountain. A mini valley cum glade that honestly felt quite other worldly even if you can’t tell from the picture. I will never forget it.

After a small bit of contemplation we realised we weren’t even half way on the walk and so headed up even higher and we’re just beginning to worry the mountain would never end when we reached the summit and were greeted by this…

I could completely understand why people felt that this could be the home of the gods. And then we turned a corner and it got even better…

Just amazing. We sat and just watched the world in all its quietness and stillness for quite a while just taking it all in. We then had to get back down which involved some interesting manoeuvring following mountain goat paths and looking like graceless goats, of which thankfully there is no photographic proof. We had to remember to watch our step and not just stare at the scenery till we fell off the precipice. A hairy scary but stunning decent down where bar four other walkers we saw no one. It felt like we were the last people on earth. And we quite liked it.

Quite the start to the holiday. Heartily recommend it if you are ever in Cyprus.


Filed under Random Savidgeness

Savidge Reads in Cyprus…

We have arrived safe and sound in Cyprus after a very early start and a very pleasant flight, which didn’t take anywhere near as long as expected. Hoorah. You know how I feel about planes. We are now safely ensconced in our hotel, which is wonderful…


And have been off exploring the local Paphos area, mainly wandering along the waterfront as the sea is the harbour is mesmerising and very clear. I might have to have a dip or two at some point.

Next up planning what to do for the next week, most of it will be Aphrodite based (which my mother will be proud of as a classicist), halloumi based or reading by the pool/sea based. I may report back in between blog posts I’ve scheduled just to share the experience, hopefully it won’t bore you all too much – we all know what other people’s holiday photos can be like don’t we? Ha.


Filed under Random Savidgeness