Sunday, May 6, 2018

Victoria Hislop - The Thread (Plot Summary) Part 1
Victoria Hislop's novel The Thread is a book that combines fiction with early, mid and late 20th century Balkan history in a fast-paced narrative that tells the story of a changing city through the experiences of its protagonists. 

By User:MWD - english wikipedia, Public Domain,
It is the story of Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city, a pivotal harbor that has experienced war, migrant influx, grandeur during the Byzantine era, sacking and slavery for 482 years under Ottoman occupation. All this is not mentioned in the novel which touches upon modern times, from the Great Fire that raged for 32 hours and ravaged 32% of the city in 1917 to the great earthquake of 1978, the magnitude of which was felt in nearby Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. 

It is also the story of Dimitris Komninos and Katerina Sarafoglou, how fate brought them together, to grow up on the same street though their backgrounds demanded they stay clear of one another. It is the tale of how Dimitris fought for his ideals in a politically unstable country before, during and after German occupation, and how Katerina toiled to make a living for herself and the woman who took her in as one of her own when the 5-year-old was temporarily left in her care aboard a ship leaving Smyrna in the midst of Turkish atrocities as Ottoman troops took over the city and subsequently torched it

  By Unknown -, Public Domain,

The caption states "Photo of the American Red Cross, monstrosities from the tragedy of Smyrna" while the French title on the top of the page translates to "Turkish atrocities Smyrna 1922"

This is the first part of the summary of the book's plot in note form for students who have been assigned it, for teachers who would like to have the notes as a reference point for each chapter, and for anyone learning English who would like to check their understanding of the text after each chapter. 

The notes in this part cover chapters 1-10 (and the Prologue, to be more precise).

More blog posts will follow regarding plot, characters, themes and discussion questions / assignment topics.

The Thread

  • plot

    • Prologue:
      • May 2007 (7:30 am): Dimitri + Katerina Komninos see grandson Dimitris walking back from a night out
      • invite him to their house to eat + tell story of why they’ll never leave Thessaloniki (to live abroad with their children; their son lives in Highgate, London; their daughter lives in Boston, US)
    • chapter 1:
      • flashback: May 1917, historical situation described
        • WWI; Thessaloniki has been freed
        • Muslims, Jews, Christians co-exist peacefully
        • Eleftherios Venizelos: Greek Prime Minister
        • National Schism = pro-German monarch King Constantine vs. Venizelos supporters
      • Konstantinos Komninos: cloth merchant, wealthy due to sales for fabric needed for military uniforms
      • Olga Komninos: beautiful wife, former clothes model, pregnant, in her mid-30s, married because of beauty not dowry
      • mansion house on Niki Street
      • Pavlina = housekeeper
      • Olga’s dream: storm at sea, fishing boat capsizes, naked baby swimming + vanishes
      • 2 porcelain figurines fall + shatter (foreshadowing)
    • chapter 2:
      • Komninos moves out of bedroom
      • problems in marriage: Komninos is unfaithful (visits brothels); is repulsed by his wife’s pregnant body
      • Pavlina reassures Olga of her beauty + husband’s return to her
      • birth of Dimitris Komninos with help of doctor Papadakis
      • Konstantinos is at work while Olga delivers child; his only concern is if baby is healthy + normal (after all previous failed pregnancies)
    • chapter 3:
      • fire (Great Fire of Thessaloniki): started in poor area, north-west of city (mixture of peoples)
      • family: 3 sons, 16 year-old daughter; mule, goat, chickens on ground floor; spark from fire boiling to wash clothes fell to ground floor, starting the great fire
      • shortage of water in city
      • explosions by Allied soldiers to create firebreak
      • Komninos and brother Leonidas try to get fabrics to safety
      • Tasos the caretaker at Komninos’s showroom dies going back to get order book for Konstantinos
      • fire jumps across Egnatia, destroying Komninos’s home + warehouse (biggest fabric storehouse in Greece)
    • chapter 4:
      • rebuilding of warehouse  + city: Jews & Muslims removed from city center, trade areas created
      • Olga, Pavlina + Dimitris move back to Irini Street (Olga’s family home where she grew up)
      • Komninos hates Irini Street, moves to hotel, slaps Olga
      • Irini Street: peaceful neighbors
        • Moreno family: Sephardic Jews (from Granada, Spain)
          • Roza, Saul, Elias, Isaac, Roza’a mother-in-law
          • Saul is Komninos’s customer (tailor)
        • Ekrem family: Muslims, 3 daughters, know little Greek
      • baby Dimitris cries: Olga’s milk not enough, needs wet nurse à Roza (kept secret from Komninos)
      • story of Jews leaving Spain 400 years earlier
      • Leonidas loves Dimitri + Irini Street: plays with Dimitri when not on campaigns (WWI, Venizelos’s push to regain Asia Minor + Smyrna 1919)
      • Kemal Ataturk (Turkish National Movement) pushes Greeks back to Smyrna (1922)
    • chapter 5:
      • separation of Zenia Sarafoglou (with baby Artemis) from her daughter Katerina (5 yrs old) during the destruction of Smyrna
      • Leonidas helps Katerina get into another boat; binds her wounded arm with his uniform sleeve
      • Katerina promises to return sleeve to him
    • chapter 6:
      • Katerina gets on ship, given to Eugenia Karayanidis who has twins girls Maria & Sofia (9 yrs old)
      • Eugenia: husband officially missing; Pontic Greek, from village near Trebizond
      • arrive in Mytilini refugee camp
      • Katerina’s arm is tended to; she keeps Leonidas’s shirt sleeve
      • Eugenia = sensitive to girl’s feelings, kind, thoughtful
      • exchange of population announced (Jan 1923 – Treaty of Lausanne)
    • chapter 7:
      • miss ship to Athens (Katerina’s mom said she was going there) because no more room
      •  take boat to Thessaloniki instead of waiting for next boat to Athens
      • dysentery in camp
    • chapter 8:
      • warehouse + showroom open for 2 yrs now
      • Komninos won case against insurer’s inability to pay
      • news of Leonidas missing in action: eyewitnesses stated majority of Leonidas’s regiment massacred by Turks in Smyrna à Olga cries
      • life continues in Irini Street for Olga + Dimitris; Konstantinos in hotel
      • Ekrems leave (population exchange)
      • exchange at harbor: American woman working for Refugee Settlement Commission gives home of Muslim family (Ekrems) to Eugenia
    • chapter 9:
      • American woman takes Eugenia to Ekrem’s house
      • Katerina tells American woman she’s been separated from her mother
    • chapter 10:
      • Eugenia finds out about Ekrems from Pavlina
      • Eugenia + girls enter church (Agios Nikolaos Orfanos = patron saint of widows + orphans)
      • Katerina enters haberdasher’s shop (Mr. Alatzas); tells him mother’s name + that she’s searching for her
      • Dimitri + the girls hang out together
      • Leonidas’s body found: news brought by Komninos; Olga cries
Read part 2 of the plot summary here.


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