At the beginning of the 20th century, the Greek city of Thessaloniki was populated by a vibrant mixture of Jews, Muslims and Christians. Many of the families had lived in Greece for centuries, but within a few decades, only the Christians remained. The political decisions of 1917 and the wars that followed resulted in the forced Muslim repopulation of Asia Minor and the removal of Greece’s Jewish population by the Nazis.
The book opens with Katerina and Dimitri as elderly grandparents. Soon we learn that their European-educated grandson is perplexed by their devotion to the worn and decaying city. The couple could leave for a better life in England or America, and yet they choose to remain in Thessaloniki. As they share with him their personal story, the reader is treated to a view of a world that is no more. It’s a vibrant and beautiful tale of love and loyalty, of suffering and courage, of patriotism and heroism.
Although the book recalls a period of Greek history that was at times brutal, divisive and unflattering, Victoria Hislop gives us a remarkable Katerina and an admirable Dimitri. They may be fictional characters, but they represent an entire generation of a heroic people whose story should not be forgotten. The Thread is a wonderful addition to the historical fiction genre.