The Thread

The Thread Cover

Victoria Hislop

Thessaloniki, 1917. As Dimitri Komninos is born, a devastating fire sweeps through the thriving Greek city where Christians, Jews and Muslims live side by side. Five years later, Katerina Sarafoglou's home in Asia Minor is destroyed by the Turkish army. Losing her mother in the chaos, she flees across the sea to an unknown destination in Greece. Soon her life will become entwined with Dimitri's, and with the story of the city itself, as war, fear and persecution begin to divide its people. Thessaloniki, 2007. A young Anglo-Greek hears his grandparents' life story for the first time and realises he has a decision to make. For many decades, they have looked after the memories and treasures of the people who were forced to leave. Should he become their next custodian and make this city his home?

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Author Q & A

Reading Group Questions

Thessaloniki - Reading the Story of the streets... By Victoria Hislop


Judy: If you think Greece is in deep trouble today, try reading this surging story from the author of The Island, Victoria Hislop’s smash-hit debut novel of a few years ago.

After a Spanish sojourn in her follow-up, The Return, Hislop is back in the Greece she clearly so adores. She has a home there and her local knowledge shines through The Thread’s pages – almost 400 of them, so you get value for your Drachma. Or Euro. Or maybe Drachma after all – who knows what’s going to happen?

And that’s the question that crops up almost from the first page to the last: instability and chaos rule. The Thread is set against Greece’s tumultuous, often bloody, 20th-Century history. The saga begins in the country’s second city, Thessaloniki, a fabulous cultural melting pot with its roots stretching all the way back to Alexander the Great.

It is 1917, and Thessaloniki is the very model of a multi-cultural, integrated society. Christians, Muslims and Jews rub happily along together in a spirit of benign mutual tolerance. Greeks and Turks mingle contentedly: all is sweetness, harmony and light.

Then a terrible fire razes most of the city to the ground and suddenly everything changes. Konstantinos Komninos, a wealthy cloth merchant, sees his business and luxurious seafront mansion go up in smoke on the very day his beautiful wife, Olga, gives birth to their first child, Dimitri. Olga is a trophy wife and it quickly emerges that Dimitri is destined to be a trophy son. But mother and baby are forced to lodge in Thessaloniki’s teeming old quarter, where Jews, Christians and Muslims live cheek-by-jowl. Konstantinos – a right-wing, racist bigot – is disgusted when he realises Olga relishes her new environment. But it won’t survive - war and prejudice are coming to destroy it.

Richard: Although Hislop’s characters are the fruits of her imagination, the terrible events they live through are real enough. The colossal fire that destroyed Greece’s second city is a historical fact, as is the vicious war that shortly followed when Greece and Turkey came to blows in Asia Minor. Hislop mercilessly describes the terrible atrocities committed by both sides as she introduces us to Katerina, a little girl who, with her mother, flees the advancing Turkish army - men bent on murder, rape, and the decapitation of any civilian they can lay hands on.

Katerina is separated from her mother in the chaotic flight from the marauding Turks, and is rescued by another young mother, Euginia, who has twin daughters of her own. They manage to board a boat across the Aegean and after suffering terrible privations in refugee camps, eventually wash up in Thessaloniki, half-starved, half-dead, but full of stubborn hope and optimism.

All of this is told in flashback: the book opens in Thessaloniki in 2007, where an elderly Greek couple are visited by their grandson, Mitsos, a student over from London for the summer.

They decide the time is right to reveal to him the story of their days: an inspiring romance set against the backdrop of violent change and calamitous events.

Hislop’s accounts of everyday life in Greece are a delight, whether she is writing about the preparation of ethnic food, or snatch of conversation overheard in a bar, or Greece’s stunning scenery. Thessaloniki is a hundred kilometres from Mount Olympus but the mystical mountain is clearly visible on clear days: Hislop’s lyrical description of the breathtaking vista leaps off the page.

A great Greek stew of a book - aromatic, colourful and richly flavoured. Enjoy.

Reviews & Comments

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  • I really enjoyed this book, even though I hadn't read anything by this author before. The writing is so beautiful that you can almost see, smell, taste everything she is describing. Would definitely read something by this author again and am looking forward to reading The Island now.


  • Have just finished this book having been unable to put it down since Sunday. I hav'nt read a book in a long time and only went in WH to put the lotto on, when the advert at the till took my fancy. The story is sad, interesting, informative, I had no idea this had happend in Greece. I vaguely knew Prince Philip had to leave Greece pre war but not the reason. The people in the story are very real and I felt the emotions the author gave them. I am looking forward to reading her other books.


  • enjoyed his book! ( not quite as much as the island )read it just after watching joanna lumleys greek odyssey tv series so knew a little about the history. the characters are very believable and you care about them , a couple of coincidences which you can see coming, but an enjoyable read and descriptions make the country come alive!


  • I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would or as much as The Island, felt a bit like a history lesson


  • What a wonderful read. I loved it. The use of language conjurs up the very heart of the images portrayed. This story would make a powerful yet lovingly gentle film.

    Andie Taylor

  • A good summer read. I learned a lot about Greek history. Anyone who enjoyed The Island would not be disappointed.

    Karen Holmes

  • I really enjoyed the story, the history and the storytelling. Until the main character marries for no good reason- without any particular necessity. Then when she finds her true love is still alive she fattens her husband up to cause him to have a heart attack and conveniently to die! Then she can marry her lover and its all plain sailing after that, Never mind all the loose ends.... After this point the whole story becomes utterly unbelievable and I felt, as a reader, quite manipulated as the author wraps the story up. Terribly disappointing!. However, The Return ( her previous book) was excellent. Sorry but I did feel very disappointed with the final few chapters because the beginning two thirds was very good.


  • I liked this book. it was hard to get in to at first but after the prologue i was captivated. so much Greek history what they went through was shocking. A great sense of family and friendship that lasts threw generations. i loved that the characters are all connected by "the threads " of life.

    good read .

    Stacey Roberts

  • I've just finished this and have never read Victoria Hislop before, if I tell you I've just bought another of her books it should give you an idea of how much I enjoyed this book. I found it to be incredibly well written, invoking great emotion and empathy in the characters and a friend said how much she enjoyed 'The Island' so I've just bought that one. Really good.....


  • Absolutely fantastic book, enjoyed it just as much as The Island, read it in 2 days.

    Kath L

  • A lovely read. The bit about the husband was a bit far fetched(already mentioned in a review). Very interesting. Informed writing too which made me want to delve further into Greek history. You can understand why the country is in such a mess and feel so sorry for the normal people over there. I read The Island and enjoyed that so am now considering her second book.


  • I love this Author and have read her previous novels. I have just started The Thread and she is not disappointing.


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