Victoria Hislop talks to Graham Norton about her new book Maria’s Island

Victoria Hislop has returned to the islands of Greece for her new book, and her first novel for children, Maria’s Island.

She joined the Graham Norton Radio Show with Waitrose to chat about how she adapted the book from her original novel The Island.


Explaining why she was suprised she didn’t have more pushback adapting from fiction for adults to fiction for children, she says: “I haven’t held back with either the ideas or with some of the vocabulary”

“The setting is principally a little island called Spinalonga which is just off the coast of Crete, which for 50 years was a place where people with leprosy were sent during the period when it was still an incurable disease and they needed to be isolated, so almost worldwide the law said that if you were diagnosed with it, you had to go into a place of isolation.”

Victoria is an ambassador for Lepra, who raise money to treat sufferers of leprosy around the world.

So how did she bring the subject manager down to a children’s eye-view? “In my book The Island, which takes place over a couple of decades, we have a family where two generations are afflicted by this disease. What I suddenly realised last year was that my principal characters were actually children, even in the adult book” she explains.

“And when a schoolteacher out in Crete said to me ‘I’d love to read the island to my class but it’s a little bit adult’ I realised that I could actually adapt it for children, because I think generally children like to read about children.”

“So I just took the main characters in the early chapters in the original book and just led them all the way through and it actually wasn’t that difficult to do because, as I say, children’s emotions and reactions were very much at the core of the original.”