From the moment I first heard that Victoria Hislop’s new book was going to be set in Thessaloniki I could barely contain my excitement. As a huge fan of The Island and The Return (and as someone who is slightly obsessed with Greece) I was thrilled to hear that her next book was going to be set in Greece again. Even more exciting was the fact that it was going to be set in Thessaloniki, which is where I spent a semester studying while at university. Needless to say, when the first proofs of The Thread came in I swiftly devoured it. And, of course, The Thread does not disappoint; Victoria’s imagery and vivid descriptions bring the streets and the people of Thessaloniki to life. I love how the turbulent history of the city is interwoven with the story of two people who fall in love after the city throws their lives together.
So when the prospect of accompanying Victoria to Thessaloniki arose I jumped at the chance. Although Thessaloniki is Greece’s second city, it is definitely not as well known or as frequently visited as Athens or the many islands surrounding Greece. Consequently flights to Thessaloniki are not very regular and Victoria and I had no choice but to take a 6am flight from Gatwick. Bleary eyed and still half asleep we began the morning with much-needed coffee while discussing Homeland and a recent publishing phenomenon (the subject of which I never thought I would be sitting in an airport at 5am discussing). We went on to discuss Victoria’s hectic itinerary for the next week in Greece (which made us even more tired) – set to include becoming an ambassador for the city of Thessaloniki, a TED talk, as well as many other talks and lectures around the country.
Fresh off the plane, Victoria had a TV interview with the main Thessalonian station ERT3. It was my first experience of the scale of Victoria’s fame in Greece. Within minutes of arriving I was taking a picture of Victoria and the producer on his phone – clearly an exciting moment for him! It was pretty cool to be in the studio, although it was all in Greek so I had no idea what was going on. However, it was great to see the wonderful trailer by Beau Merchant being aired on Greek television.
As soon as we had finished at the television studio, we had to race to the Public book store where the event was to take place and where Victoria had a press interview scheduled. The event space in the store is absolutely amazing; when they were building the store they discovered ancient ruins so these are incorporated into the store. A big section of the floor is see-through and you can see the remains below. Victoria was then interviewed by Eva Kousiopoulou, a Thessalonian TV and Radio journalist, in front of a very enthusiastic audience. Eva had done her research and they had a wonderful interview with lots of laughs from the crowd. Victoria did a reading from the English edition of her book which was then followed by a signing. She took the time to speak to each person in turn, pose for photos and sign books both in Greek and in English. After that it was time for more interviews with the press until finally everyone had left and then, dinner!
The people from the Public store took us to a gorgeous, traditional Greek restaurant in the old part of town. Victoria wasn’t the only celebrity there – the band Death in Vegas were also visiting. We didn’t know who they were although we had noticed them on our flight that morning as they looked noticeably rock band-esque. The food was delicious. We had an authentic Greek dining experience – they generously ordered a big selection of everything and we all got to try some wonderful Greek dishes including some favorites – as well as some new dishes that they introduced us to. As we discussed Greek history it was evident that Victoria knew more about Greek history than any of the Greeks did! There were also several different suggestions of places in Greece that Victoria should set her next book. After eating our fill, Victoria and I began to fade, I think the Greeks were disappointed but in our defense we had been up since 3am that morning!
Very reluctantly I returned home the next day. I left Victoria to continue her journey to almost every part of the country – quite simply, everyone wants a piece of Victoria! The Thread was received with great fanfare and enthusiasm on first-format publication and the paperback is sure to be a bestseller also. Not only is the book so closely tied to this wonderful country but so too is Victoria, and the reception she receives there is truly marvellous to see.
Posted by Bríd Enright, Sales