"Reeling with revenge, romance and retribution, this characterful novel sees the politics of looted Ancient Greek treasures become intensely personal."
Steeped in family history, Greek history and the politics of plundering artefacts from ancient history, Victoria Hislop’s The Figurine will be relished by readers who love sweeping family sagas with cultural context and an evocative sense of time and place.
Interweaving a woman’s conflict-ridden journey to reconcile her love for her mother’s Greek heritage with her grandfather’s acts of brutality, along with an exposition of the ethically corrupt practice of plundering artefacts, it’s an immersive read. Adding to the drama, readers will also be engrossed by a bounty of betrayals, shocking discoveries, and a frisson of romance.
The story begins in 1968 when eight-year-old Helena goes to stay with her grandparents in their luxurious Athens apartment. From the off, she’s scared of her brusque soldier grandfather — “She had a growing dislike of him: his uncontrolled temper, his apparent lack of feeling for his wife, the sour smell that hung around him” — though it will be some years before Helena realises the horrific extent of his sour ways.
While reading chemistry at Cambridge, and in the throes of new love with a charismatic actor, Helena visits an Aegean island to help at an archaeological dig. With a passion aroused for ancient Greek artefacts, Helena also becomes angered by the fact that “looters are depriving everyone of knowledge and heritage.” Cue her launching into an almighty undertaking when she inherits her grandfather’s house (replete with secret treasures), and when she’s betrayed by a beau.
As its core, The Figurine tells of a woman’s quest to make amends for her grandfather’s wrongdoings through finding the rightful home for cultural treasures, and for her heart.