Born in June 1959, Victoria Hislop is a 63-year-old celebrated English author who also writes for many periodicals like The Sunday Telegraph, House and Garden, The Mail on Sunday, etc. She hails from Bromley, United Kingdom, but grew up in Tonbridge.
Victoria is not the only daughter of Vincent Hampson and Mary Hampson. Anna, her sister, is two years older than her. Her father, Vincent Hampson was, himself a journalist and editor, whereas Mrs. Hampson worked as a waitress in a local French restaurant in Tonbridge.
1. Early Life and Education
Hislop once admitted that she had a very unstable family life, she says that though her parents were married, her father wasn’t around much when she was growing up. Along with her, it was just her sister, mother, and grandmother, along with two girl cats, Sophie and Susie, who were Siamese twins making it more of a female household.
She has mentioned her close friend and learning new languages like French, German, Spanish, etc. during her school days.
Hislop attended Tonbridge Grammar School and later graduated from St. Hilda’s College, University of Oxford. She describes her school as one which had a selective but diverse intake and had teachers who were strict but also very dedicated.
In her school life, contrastingly to her family life, she defines as one of the happiest times of her life. She was a bright student and gave her best at everything. Miss Waldron, her English teacher, had a passion for literature, which inspired Hislop too.
Hislop also got a job as a plongeur, one who is in charge of washing dishes, in the same restaurant where her mother worked. She also assisted the chefs and later served as a waitress. She claims to have loved every bit of her job.
Never let any of this hamper her studies, as for her it was simply a way to earn some more pocket money. Going up to St. Hilda’s, she tells she had a fear that everyone would be sophisticated and intimidating, but the girls she met were an amazing mix. From her college days, she recalls her fellow girl mates and hence the great friendships formed with them.
2. The First Novel
2.1 The Island
Victoria Hislop, before becoming the Sunday times’ number-one bestseller author, worked as a journalist. She worked in publishing and PR. She became a novelist and her debut novel was – The Island. Released in the year 2005, this novel created a great buzz and sold over a million copies in the UK itself. It was published in over 20 languages.
The Island tells the story of a 25-year-old woman, Alexis Fielding. The plot takes place just before World War II. Alexis visits her Cretan village, where her mother was born, to dig into her family’s past. She went on to meet her mother’s friend Fotini, who tells her the tragic story of her family. Alexis learns many more surprising facts about herself and her family all along this story.
Victoria first got the idea for this novel when she traveled to Crete with her family in 2001. The Spinalong island, the abandoned leper colony and everything just increased her curiosity and made her write this story.
2.2 To Nisi – TV Adaptation of The Island
To Nisi premiered on 11th October 2010, is a television series based on Victoria Hislop’s novel The Island. Mega Channel Greece produced this €4 million budget series, the most expensive in Greek television history.
Mega Channel was initially going to make a film out of this novel. Hislop actively participated in the process. Shooting began in December 2009 and was completed within one year. It was shot on the Island of Crete and was directed by Thodoris Papadoulakis.
2.3 The Return and The Thread
The Return is Victoria Hislop’s second novel released two years after her debut novel. This novel too was the Sunday time’s number-one bestseller. This historical novel is a mix of romance, civil war, and Spanish travel.
The Thread was published in October 2011 by Headline Books. Just like her other historical novels, for this book as well, she did her diligent research and read many other books so as to perfectly portray her piece.
2.4 Other Books
Victoria Hislop’s novels are well-known when we talk about well-researched historical novels with Europe backdrops. Her writings are a result of her immense love for Greece. Starting from her very first novel she has hit the bestsellers with her other amazing works – The Thread which was her third novel, The Sunrise, Those who are loved, etc.
The backdrop set against Those who are loved is the German occupation of Greece, the subsequent civil war, and the military dictatorship. It talks about the complexity of Greece’s traumatic past and the protagonist’s lifelong fight for justice.
The Sunrise was brought out in September 2014 and was initially released through the ‘Headline Review publishing label. This is set in the summer of 1972 and is located in Cyprus. The story follows a couple who are opening a hotel that’s set to be one of the most spectacular in the area. Until the two families are forced to endure ethnic violence.
Wait for the long-anticipated sequel to her famous book – The Island, was completed when she released One August Night in October 2020. Hislop returns people to the world and characters she created in her first novel with this mind-blowing read.
3. Short Stories
Her book The Last Dance and the other stories has ten wonderful pieces written by her. As she takes you through the streets of Athens and into the Greek villages. These tales of love and loyalty, separation, reconciliation, and bitter-sweetness are said to leave an impact on the reader.
One Cretan Evening and other stories, her short story collection was released in 2011. The stories are set in Greece and England. These five stories are named – One Cretan Evening, The Pine Tree, By the Fire, The Warmest Christmas Ever, and Aflame in Athens. This collection also includes a preview of her third novel, The Thread. She donated the short story Aflame in Athens to Oxfam’s “Ox-Tales” project, in 2009.
She has written a total of 8 novels, and 2 short story collections and worked on 2 non-fiction along with Duncan Goodhew. Her latest novel was released in 2021 named Maria’s Island.
3.1 Maria’s Island
Maria’s Island is a children’s book illustrated by Gill Smith. It’s her first children’s book. The story is set in the same place as in, The Island. It deals with the discussion of Leprosy disease. Exploring the stigma, shame, and treatment of those who were related to it.
Maria Petrakis is the protagonist of the story, a character that also appears in the original version of The Island.
The idea for this story came to her when she was having a conversation with some school teachers while she was in Crete. Finding The Island a little too grown up for the children she thought of writing something along the same theme, but more suitable for the younger audience this time.
Since Maria’s Island is a compelling story for KS2 and KS3 students, Lepra provides free Maria’s Island educational resources to these classes and assemblies. Hislop has visited India and met hundreds of people whose lives had been transformed, through this initiative, education, and treatment.
Sink or Swim: The Self-help Book for Men Who Never Read Them (2002)
Fix Your Life – Now!: The Six-Step Plan to Help You Fix Your Life (2012)
In both of these, she has worked with Duncan Goodhew, who is a former international swimmer.
She has also been part of anthologies : Touchy Subjects(By: Emma Donoghue)(2006) and RED(With: Emma Donoghue)(2012)
Hislop has also released a collection of her favorite short stories by other female writers. The title for which is – The Story. She highlights some of the very best writing of the past 200 years, and the topics vary within a far and wide range.
Victoria Hislop has achieved much love from her fans worldwide along with many awards, which just proves the great impact of her moving story set.
Her debut novel The Island held the number one place in the Sunday Times paperback chart for eight consecutive weeks and sold over two million copies worldwide. In Greece too it was at the top of the bestseller charts. She was the Newcomer of the Year at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2007. Along with this, this novel also won her the Richard & Judy Book Club competition for their 2006 Summer Reads. The American edition of this dramatic and moving story was also released in 2007.
The Return, her second novel was also a Sunday Times number-one bestseller. It was described as a captivating and deeply moving read.
Her 2016 book – Cartes Postales from Greece, was also serialized for Greek television.
5. Her Love for Greece
Victoria Hislop read English and worked in publishing at Oxford, but after all this, she found her ‘story-telling spark’ in Crete and the streets of Athens. Traveling to these beautiful places, she created numerous long and short stories that combine history and culture.
This international bestselling author has a special love for Greece, which can be seen in her writing. She was also granted honorary Greek Citizenship in 2020, for promoting Greek history and culture.
She has a house in Crete, which she says offers her a lot of peace and tranquillity for her creative thinking. She claims her favorite Greek foods to be traditional things like fava, Horta, and Gigantes.
Much of the inspiration for her international bestselling books, which she has so eloquently written about, has been drawn from Greece, a country that she’s loved, studied, and intuitively understood. Greece is like her second home and she often visits the country.
In her Greek adventure, Hislop also graced the Greek TV screens as a contestant on the 7th season of Dancing with the Stars, the Greek version of Strictly Come Dancing. And appeared along with her professional dance partner Telemachos Fatsis, in the year 2021.
In April 1988, Victoria Hislop married Ian Hislop. Ian Hislop is an editor for Private Eye, a British fortnightly magazine, since 1986. He is also a journalist and writer for the magazine. Ian also appears in the To Nisi series, based on Victoria Hislop’s novel. Victoria and Ian are blessed with two children, Emily and William. Emily Helen was born in 1990, and her brother William David was born in 1993. William is a writer and stand-up comedian.
After living in London for twenty years, Hislop returned to Kent with her husband and their two children. She now lives in Sissinghurst, a small village in Kent, United Kingdom.
7. Some Other Facts about Victoria
Victoria Hislop writes travel features for a number of magazines. She writes regular features on education for the Daily Telegraph, and celebrity profiles for Woman & Home.
Since 2013, Hislop has been an ambassador for Lepra. Established in 1924, Lepra is the world’s first leprosy prevention organization. She is a part of this international charity that fights disease, poverty, and prejudice.
Victoria Hislop joined the protest organized by the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM). The author joined protestors at the British Museum in London for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles with Greece.
Activists unfurled a banner reading “Reunify the Marbles!”, while Victoria Hislop, an honorary Greek citizen presented a cake with the numbers “1” and “3.”
She was diagnosed with breast cancer during the 2020 quarantine, just a week before Christmas. But fortunately, she was diagnosed early and hence there were no metastases. She had an operation, she didn’t have to have a mastectomy, which, she tells her mother did when she was the same age as her.
Victoria had an operation two days before Christmas that year. She describes the first months of the new year as very difficult. But being the optimistic person she has always been, she told that – as cliché, as it seems, she feels reborn!
Victoria Hislop has written a good number of books inspired by Greek culture and history. She has a special connection with this country. She rose to fame from her first novel- The Island. Her fictional tales since then have attracted fans from many countries and made her a celebrated author worldwide.
She is a dedicated being and has a beautiful imagination too. Her knowledge and engaging writing style have made her a global phenomenon. She believes in living life to the fullest and we can very much see her enjoying and appreciating every moment of her life!
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