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10 Novels to Read for a Virtual Escape to CRETE

4th January 2024

Love Greece? Need to “get away”? Make your escape with these 10 novels set on the amazing island of Crete—one of Maria A Karamitsos’ favorite places in the world. Here she curates 10 Novels to read for a virtual escape to Crete.

10 Novels to Read for a Virtual Escape to CRETEAt the Palaces of Knossos by Nikos Kazantzakis translated by Theodora Vasils and Themi Vasils

Yes, we start with the master! This story, plus others by Kazantzakis, are set on his native Crete. Most associate him with Zorba the Greek, but there’s so much more to this iconic author.

A mix of fact and the myth of the Minotaur, travel back 3000 years, to the final days before the ancient kingdom of Minoan Crete is conquered by the city-state Athens. When Prince Theseus arrives “incognito” with other Athenian youth to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, Princess Ariadne falls in love with him. She helps him find his way through the labyrinth. Theseus slays the Minotaur and exits alive. Even though he’s killed her half-brother, Ariadne pledges to follow him to Athens, which she believes to be a wealthier and more powerful kingdom than that of Crete. But Theseus has other plans for her. As he returns home to Athens, the smug prince forgets to fly the white flag on his ship. His father, King Aegeus, spots the black flag. Believing his son has died, he plunges to his own death in the sea. What’s to become of Athens, and its new king and queen? Follow King Minos, Ariadne, the Minotaur, Theseus, Daedalus, and Ikaros in Kazantzakis re-imagining of this classic tale.

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Island Of Secrets by Patricia Wilson

Angelika grew up with her mom in England. Her parents had left their native Crete before she was born. Her mom, Poppy, never spoke of Greece and rarely spoke about Angelika’s father. Now planning her wedding, Angelika longs for the extended family she never knew. Hoping to reunite her family, she travels to Crete to find her relatives and her roots. Her grandparents welcome her with open arms. However, one of her uncles is not so nice—he thinks Angelika’s presence will only stir up the past. Angelika’s grandmother Maria tells her about the family history, beginning at the start of WWII, revealing harrowing tales of suffering, survival, and loss. But Angelika believes that her grandmother is holding something back. Angelika and her fiancé decide to have their wedding in Crete, and they convince Poppy to attend. Years have passed and Poppy hasn’t been back. Though reluctant, she does it for her daughter. Not everyone is thrilled about Poppy’s return, and a decades-old vendetta is rekindled. Seeking answers, Angelika tries to put the pieces together. When the truth is finally revealed, what happens next? Will the truth set them free, or will the consequences be deadly?

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10 Novels to Read for a Virtual Escape to CRETEDancing the Labyrinth by Karen Martin

After an abusive childhood, Cressida flees to Crete, where she plans a new life. But fate has other ideas. When she discovers she’s pregnant, a great fear overcomes her—maybe violence is in the DNA. She’s afraid she’ll pass on her father’s violent genes. While in a cave, she discovers some ancient Minoan paintings. While seeking the history of the artwork, she becomes compelled to confront her own truths.

Dancing the Labyrinth is the first book in series ‘Women Unveiled’, blending Greek mythology, archaeological and historical research with imagination in the telling of (almost true) stories of women challenging societal notions and boundaries.

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The Girl Under the Olive Tree by Leah Fleming

Growing up in Scotland to a high society-obsessed British mother and a Greek father, Penelope is the black sheep. Her sister, Evadne, “the pretty one” with zeal for the life her mother prizes, is the favorite. Much to her mother’s chagrin, Penelope longs for a different life. Evadne gets married, then follows her husband to Athens where he assumes a diplomatic post. When she needs help, she summons Penny to Athens. Eager to get away and expand her horizons, Penny jumps at the chance. While her mother tells the world they’re “finishing Penny in Athens” and prepares for her debutante season, Penny signs up for training as a Red Cross nurse. Then the war breaks out. Against her family’s wishes, she remains in Greece.

She finds herself in Crete, eventually stranded, as one of the few foreign nurses remaining on the island. She befriends Yolanda, a Jewish nurse, making her mission even more dangerous. When she catches the eye of a German officer, the unwanted attention proves life changing. Her friendship with a British officer she’s known since childhood complicates matters further. Sixty years later, her family convinces her to journey to Crete for a war commemoration. She never thought she’d return, reliving those harrowing days. She comes full circle to unleash secrets of the past and to find someone she thought she’d lost forever.

Also set in Crete, check out her book, A Wedding in the Olive Garden.

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One Summer in Crete by Nadia Marks

Photojournalist Calli’s world has fallen apart—her long relationship is suddenly over and with it her chance to start a family. So when she’s sent to write a magazine article about the Greek island of Ikaria, it seems the perfect escape. From there, she travels to her ancestral Crete, where she makes friends and revels in the relaxed pace. Embraced by her family, she enjoys the food and customs of the island. Attempting to console her, her Aunt Froso, who never married, shares her own story of teenage heartache. Will the love, betrayal, and revenge Froso reveals change Calli’s world? Can she make peace with the past and move on?

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10 Novels to Read for a Virtual Escape to CRETEThe Crete Connection by John Manuel

In rural Wiltshire, England, a six-month-old baby disappears from a stroller while its mother is inside a store for a moment. A young Englishman begins a summer of adventure on the Greek island of Crete. By pure chance, the two events, although separated by more than twenty years, are irrevocably linked by the taverna where the young Englishman ends up helping out. The result is life-changing, both for the mother of the child that disappeared, and for the young Englishman. A chance visit to the same taverna by these two separate individuals brings on a crisis in both of their lives, but will it end well for either?

An Island in the Sun by Holly Greene
Ellie lands a sought-after marketing job with a world-famous celebrity chef whose ego rivals the size of his media empire. On Ellie’s first day, the boss sends her to Crete to spy on a Hersonissos hotspot. The mogul wants to put them out of business, so he can open his own place and gain the admiration of his fellow Greeks. On the plane, Ellie meets Chris, who happens to be the son of the restaurant’s owners. She’s attracted to him, and becomes conflicted, as she’s there to do a job. She gets to know Chris and starts falling for him. When her secret is revealed, he throws her out in disgust. But things have changed. Ellie cares for him and wants to help save his parents’ restaurant. She devises a brilliant plan, but will it work? Will Chris forgive her?

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One August Night by Victoria Hislop

In this sequel to the #1 bestselling novel, The Island, Hislop returns us Crete as Spinalonga closes as a leper colony. It’s August 25, 1957. Treatments are available to treat and cure the deformative disease, but some are still afraid. A tragedy occurs that not only splits families but also casts a shadow on those emerging from years of exile. Though now free, Spinalonga’s former residents battle stigma and scandal as they try to rekindle relationships and forge a new life outside of the isolation of the island. Can they live as they did before leprosy? Or does their experience on the island and the events that marred their freedom get in the way?

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Kritsotopoula: Girl of Kritsa by Yvonne Payne

Rodanthe, the feisty daughter of Kritsa’s priest, spent her childhood longing for her father’s approval. She never appreciated his efforts to keep her safe under Ottoman oppression. Years later, the ruling Pasha, intent on making her his wife, orders her kidnap. Determined to be free, Rodanthe tricks the Pasha and then flees to the mountains dressed as a young man. After joining rebels as Spanomanolis (Beardless Manolis), she draws on her unusual experiences and rare education to maintain her disguise throughout daring raids. Now honored every year as Kritsotopoula (Girl of Kritsa), villagers celebrate Rodanthe’s exploits in front of a poignant stone carving. This monument portrays the moment in 1823 when brave Rodanthe’s secret was exposed—a point mirrored as this story culminates with a twist. Infused with myths and local flavor this historical adventure gives insight into customs that still shape many lives in Kritsa today.

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A Piano Bar in Crete by Richard Clark

On the heels of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, a couple flees to Crete to begin a new life. There, they start a family and open a taverna. When tragedy strikes, they become guardians to their grandson. But things are never the same. Almost 50 years later, a young woman is orphaned when her parents are killed in war-torn Ukraine. A Greek man arrives on a rescue mission and offers to bring her to Greece. He and his family take her in, and ultimately bring her to her new home with the man’s sister on the island of Crete, where she forges a new life. When she meets the Cypriot family, and befriends their grandson, a bond forms from their shared experience. Can they help each other heal the wounds of their shattered lives?

Don’t miss Clark’s other novels set in Crete.

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So there you have it. 10 novels set in Crete! So many great books to read! Hitch a ride to Crete today with one of these fantastic books.

10 Novels to Read for a Virtual Escape to CRETEMaria A Karamitsos (Chicago based WindyCity Greek) for TripFiction

Catch Maria on Twitter X @MariaKaramitsos and IG @windycitygreek


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