- Book: Between the Orange Groves
- Location: Cyprus
- Author: Nadia Marks
The story starts out in the early 20th Century in a remote, hill top village in Cyprus. Two families – one Turkish (of the Muslim faith), one Greek (Christian) – live side by side and their bond is so strong (fostered essentially by the women) that they virtually live as one unit. Nurture, respect and care are the order of the day.
This is the story of Hatiche and Maroula, who grow up together and marry childhood sweethearts. Hatiche’s family is Turkish, Maroula’s is Greek. A deep friendship such as theirs was unusual, as religion generally proved to be a powerful segregator.
The story then follows their progeny as they make their way in the world, set against a period of political and cultural turmoil. As they age, their offspring develop friendships and relationships. There is death, birth, love and sorrow.
On the island of Cyprus Turks and Greeks lived quite well together. There has been quite some British influence on the island but there has always been a simmering unease between the Turks and the Greeks. In 1963 Nicosia was divided (the Turks to the north, the Greeks to the South) and in 1974 Turkey invaded the island. The Greek Cypriots fled to the Southern part and the Turkish Cypriots fled to the Northern part of the island. The Southern part is part of the EU and the Northern part is under the control of Turkey and recognised only by Turkey. (This passage is taken from the end of the book where the author provides a short overview of the history of the island of the last 150 years)
In London 2008 Lambros, the son of Maroula, is reminiscing about life on the island and about his close friendship with Orhan. He is telling his story to Stella, his daughter and there are insights and regrets. Stella discovers more about her aunt Anastasia, who was a free spirit and had real talent as a seamstress but she was not destined to follow her vocation. She was pivotal in the breakdown of relationships between the two families.
I enjoyed this book and it reminded me of the difficulties for many Cypriots in the 20th Century have encountered. I found, at times, that the characters’ responses were a little too simplistic, a little 2-dimensional – Anastasia in one sentence is falling into depression and then by the next paragraph is coming out of it. Overall this is an easy read and wonderfully evocative of location.