Saturday 7 October 2023

The Figurine

 The Figurine


Victoria Hislop

In her irresistible new novel, Sunday Times No 1 bestselling author* Victoria Hislop shines a light on the questionable acquisition of cultural treasures and the price people - and countries - will pay to cling on to them.

Of all the ancient art that captures the imagination, none is more appealing than the Cycladic figurine. An air of mystery swirls around these statuettes from the Bronze Age and they are highly sought after by collectors - and looters - alike.

When Helena inherits her grandparents' apartment in Athens, she is overwhelmed with memories of the summers she spent there as a child, when Greece was under a brutal military dictatorship. Her remote, cruel grandfather was one of the regime's generals and as she sifts through the dusty rooms, Helena discovers an array of valuable objects and antiquities. How did her grandfather amass such a trove? What human price was paid for them?

Helena's desire to find answers about her heritage dovetails with a growing curiosity for archaeology, ignited by a summer spent with volunteers on a dig on an Aegean island. Their finds fuel her determination to protect the precious fragments recovered from the baked earth - and to understand the origins of her grandfather's collection.

Helena's attempt to make amends for some of her grandfather's actions sees her wrestle with the meaning of 'home', both in relation to looted objects of antiquity ... and herself.


Helena loves going to visit her Grandmother in Athens every summer, but her Grandfather is a tyrant and she is frightened of him. He is a General  in a military dictatorship and the apartment where they live us full of his presence with a large portrait of him above a cumbersome desk in a dark and dingy office. 

One summer, whilst Helena is at the apartment, there is a big party hosted by her grandparents. Along one of the sideboards are presents galore which have been brought by the guests for her grandfather. Curiosity fills Helena and she opens some of the presents, only to find beautiful figurines, vases and trinkets which take her breath away. They look so old and beautiful, but why is her grandfather receiving these beautiful gifts? When her grandfather finds out she has opened the presents, he is furious and punishes her so badly, she is bruised for weeks. Why would he do this to her! And what is he trying to hide? 

When Helena inherits the Athens apartments after her Grandparents death, she is determined to get rid of everything in there, but it takes her weeks to go through everything and she asks the advice of some local antique dealers and they advise her that the things her Grandfather had collected over the years were very valuable and it looked as if some of them had been looted straight from the ground!

Helena then goes on a mission to find out about the stolen artefacts and when she finds out that her own ex-boyfriend is involved in stealing these goods to order, she is determined to bring those responsible to justice.
What another great book by this author whose writing I have loved since reading The Island about 15 years ago (the reason I visited Spinalonga last year!) 
Thoroughly researched as her books always are, with characters that are very believable and who I liked (mostly!). One thing I would say is that it’s a hefty read (over 500 pages).
Another well written and really interesting book about Greece which I love reading about. Would definitely recommend. 


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 6 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, was a Sunday Times bestseller in hardback and 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, returned to Crete in the long-anticipated sequel to The Island. It spent twelve weeks in the Top 10 hardback fiction charts. Headline Publishing Group. Her books have been translated into forty languages and Victoria was executive producer on the adaptations of three of her novels for Greek television. Victoria divides her time between England and Greece and in 2020, 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. Victoria was recently granted an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Sheffield.

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