The Return (2008) is Victoria Hislop’s second novel. Her debut novel, The Island (2005) was included in The Times ‘100 Books That Defined the Noughties’.
Engrossing. Victoria Hislop captures readers in a trance with The Return, an epic family drama spanning generations, country borders and political affiliations.
This is a story within a story. Ordinarily, I would say “oh no, not again” because we have all seen this novel structure done many times and all too often badly executed – but Hislop’s execution was picture-perfect for me. Hislop lets the reader get to know and empathise with the characters in the outer story well before opening the door to the gritty story within. The linking is not gratuitous – it is well structured and carefully developed.
I listened to this novel on audio and was transfixed, swept away by the imagery, passion and tragedy of the Ramirez family’s plight during the Spanish Civil War. Credit goes to the narrator Judy Bennett for her excellent timing and ability to convey the mood of the characters. I am often moved by works of fiction – but generally only in an introspective sense. As The Return neared its conclusion I found myself so invested in the characters I had become teary (beautiful, but not so great while driving).
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One of the wonderful things about historical fiction such as The Return is the history lesson that stays with you long after reading.
I am ashamed to say that I knew little about the Spanish Civil War before reading this novel, and it has sparked my interest in reading more fictional works about this culture and period in European history.
The power and passion of dance is a key element that binds the generations, and the story being told. Those that appreciate the art of dance will respect Hislop’s attention to detail and the beautiful imagery she paints through her words. The same goes for lovers of coffee.
The shocking brutality and suffering contrasted with unflinching strength of human spirit produces a tale with real depth and heart, one that is ultimately inspiring. I highly recommend immersing yourself in The Return.
BOOK RATING: The Writing 4.5 / 5 ; The Story 4.5 / 5
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About the Author, Victoria Hislop
Victoria Hislop is the internationally bestselling author of The Island and The Return. In the United Kingdom, she writes travel features for The Sunday Telegraph, The Mail on Sunday, House & Garden, and Woman & Home. The Island sold over a million copies in the UK and has been translated into 24 languages. Victoria’s second novel, The Return, has been published in more than a dozen languages. She lives in Kent, with her husband Ian and their two children.