I had enjoyed Victoria Hislop's first novel, The Island, and was looking forward to reading The Sunrise before the author visited our literary festival. Most of the novels I have read about Cyprus have been set in the south, so it was interesting to read about Famagusta, the town on the border between North and South, where the worst of the fighting occurred in 1974.
When the narrative starts, in 1972, the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots are living in relative harmony. Many of the residents of Famagusta are working in the luxurious Paradise Beach Hotel, run by Savvas Papacosta and his wife Aphroditi, and tourists are enjoying the resort and facilities. The Papacostas are ambitious and as we join the novel, they are opening a new hotel, The Sunrise, even more fabulous than its predecessor.
Markos Georgiou is the manager of the night club at The Sunrise and Savvas Papacosta comes to rely heavily on him. Markos, however, is not the totally reliable employee and has resentments towards the wealth of the Papacostas.
Finally, Markos's family, The Greek Georgious, are very close friends with the Turkish Özkans Both are Famagusta families of moderate means, whose relationship is tested when the war breaks out, bringing old animosities back to the surface. They become trapped in the war stricken city and must scavenge to survive.
I enjoyed the historical research and I learned a lot about this disastrous event. The town of Famagusta still lies barren and deserted more than forty years later. Something about the book, however, didn't quite work for me. I was invested in the characters to some extent but I wasn't particularly enjoying the read, it seemed to be lacking somehow.
The presentation by the author at the literary festival was fascinating, with photographs of the resort before and now, in its deserted state. Along with her enthusiasm, this all made a rather mediocre read, worthwhile.