Elias is sent to Cyprus to recover, where he attempts to find comfort in the arms of Eylul, a beautiful Turkish journalist. But the lovers’ reprieve ends in a moment of shocking brutality that drives Elias into Varosha, once a popular Greek-Cypriot resort town, abandoned since the Turkish invasion of 1974.- Goodreads Blurb
MY RATING : ★★★★ (4.0)
Bewitchingly touching, this book is about humanity in all of its forms. When I first read the blurb, I expected a political and historical novel but it is so much more. What we have here is a protagonist, an ex-soldier, struggling with the traumas of war in Afghanistan and is sent to Cyprus to “recover”. But he spiraled down a path of no return: a brutal event happens to him and he ends up in an abandoned town populated by a group of exiles and refugees.
“Rationalizations are daytime creatures, less plausible by night”
The focus of the novel is of course the evolution of Elias, and, oh my, the character development was on point. What’s really special is that as a starting point, Elias is already introduced to us as a broken man with his PTSD moments from Afghanistan. But it doesn’t stop there. He will undergo even more unfortunate events obliging him to fight his own demons while dealing with new encounters.
“How conscientiously his brain works at getting it exactly right, over and over! (But why not work to change it, delete it?)”
When arriving in Varosha, he wouldn’t understand the town at first. Because of its abandonment, it feels like a town frozen in time. The people wouldn’t know either what to make of him so he is treated like a prisoner at first. The dynamic between the two parties will transform into something else entirely: love and companionship, learning to trust and loyalty. Everyone in the group has their own peculiarity and with time, I learn you can make the best of everything even if you live in ruins.
Even if the psychological process of the characters is a major tour de force in this novel, the real magic resides in Steven Heighton’s prose. For the first time in a really long time, I read a book where I can precisely imagine every element of the historical period, moment and place. For example, when Elias has flashbacks from his traumas, the sound and the movements are so vivid. The gravity and suspense of the actions are what makes the reading experience even better.
The only reason why it’s not a 5 stars novel is because of the pace and the heavy content sometimes. Heavy political-wise content. It’s a novel that requires all of your attention. I’m usually really good at multitasking and I like reading in a coffee shop with a background noise. However, this book made me sit in a quiet room because if I happen to miss one or two words then I was completely lost.
Thank you to Hamish Hamilton- Penguin Random House for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review 🙂