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Ten Great Books set in GREECE

10th December 2021

Greece is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Ten Great Books set in Greece. Greece is a country in southeastern Europe with thousands of islands throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas. Influential in ancient times, it’s often called the cradle of Western civilization. Athens, its capital, retains landmarks including the 5th-century B.C. Acropolis citadel with the Parthenon temple. Greece is also known for its beaches, from the black sands of Santorini to the party resorts of Mykonos

It takes a lifetime for someone to discover Greece, but it only takes an instance to fall in love with her’ –– Henry Miller

Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

Set before the start of the First World War, this moving fable sees a young English writer set out to Crete to claim a small inheritance. But when he arrives, he meets Alexis Zorba, a middle-aged Greek man with a zest for life. Zorba has had a family and many lovers, has fought in the Balkan wars, has lived and loved – he is a simple but deep man who lives every moment fully and without shame.

As their friendship develops, the Englishman is gradually won over, transformed and inspired along with the reader.

The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault

Alexias, a young Athenian of good family, grows up just as the Peloponnesian War is drawing to a close. The adult world he enters is one in which the power and influence of his class have been undermined by the forces of war, and more and more Alexias finds himself drawn to the controversial teachings of Sokrates. Among the great thinker’s followers Alexias meets Lysis, and the two youths become inseparable, wrestling together in the palaestra, journeying to the Olympic Games and fighting in the wars against Sparta. On the great historical canvas of famine, siege, and civil conflict, their relationship captures vividly the intricacies of classical Greek culture.

The Magus by John Fowles

On a remote Greek Island, Nicholas Urfe finds himself embroiled in the deceptions of a master trickster. As reality and illusion intertwine, Urfe is caught up in the darkest of psychological games.

John Fowles expertly unfolds a tale that is lush with over-powering imagery in a spellbinding exploration of human complexities. By turns disturbing, thrilling and seductive, The Magus is a feast for the mind and the senses.

A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson

1960. The world is dancing on the edge of revolution, and nowhere more so than on the Greek island of Hydra, where a circle of poets, painters and musicians live tangled lives, ruled by the writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, troubled king and queen of bohemia. Forming within this circle is a triangle: its points the magnetic, destructive writer Axel Jensen, his dazzling wife Marianne Ihlen, and a young Canadian poet named Leonard Cohen.

Into their midst arrives teenage Erica, with little more than a bundle of blank notebooks and her grief for her mother. Settling on the periphery of this circle, she watches, entranced and disquieted, as a paradise unravels.

Burning with the heat and light of Greece, A Theatre for Dreamers is a spellbinding novel about utopian dreams and innocence lost – and the wars waged between men and women on the battlegrounds of genius.

Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne

On a hike during a white-hot summer break on the Greek island of Hydra, Naomi and Samantha make a startling discovery: a man named Faoud, sleeping heavily, exposed to the elements, but still alive. Naomi, the daughter of a wealthy British art collector who has owned a villa in the exclusive hills for decades, convinces Sam, a younger American girl on vacation with her family, to help this stranger.

As the two women learn more about the man, a migrant from Syria and a casualty of the crisis raging across the Aegean Sea, their own burgeoning friendship intensifies. But when their seemingly simple plan to help Faoud unravels all must face the horrific consequences they have set in motion.

In this brilliant psychological study of manipulation and greed, Lawrence Osborne explores the dark heart of friendship, and shows just how often the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions.

One August Night by Victoria Hislop

Beloved author Victoria Hislop returns to Crete in this long-anticipated sequel to her multi-million-copy Number One bestseller, The Island.

25th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony. And a moment of violence has devastating consequences.

When time stops dead for Maria Petrakis and her sister, Anna, two families splinter apart and, for the people of Plaka, the closure of Spinalonga is forever coloured with tragedy.

In the aftermath, the question of how to resume life looms large. Stigma and scandal need to be confronted and somehow, for those impacted, a future built from the ruins of the past.

Number one bestselling author Victoria Hislop returns to the world and characters she created in The Island – the award-winning novel that remains one of the biggest selling reading group novels of the century. It is finally time to be reunited with Anna, Maria, Manolis and Andreas in the weeks leading up to the evacuation of the island… and beyond.

Afternoons in Ithaka by Spiri Tsintziras

A charming memoir of self-discovery, family, connection and the power of a tomato. ‘I remember crusty just-baked bread, rubbed with juicy tomato flesh, swimming in a puddle of thick green olive oil. I am seven years old. I sit on a stool in my grandmother’s house. It is the height of summer in a seaside village in the south of Greece. We little Aussies devour ‘tomato sandwiches’ as the family chats and laughs and swats flies …’

From the first heady taste of tomatoes on home-baked bread in her mother’s village in Petalidi, to sitting at a taverna some 30 years later in Ithaka with her young family, Spiri Tsintziras goes on a culinary, creative and spiritual journey that propels her back and forth between Europe and Australia. These evocative, funny and poignant stories explore how food and culture, language and music, and people and their stories help to create a sense of meaning and identity.

Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Patrick Leigh Fermor’s ‘Mani’ compellingly revealed a hidden world of Southern Greece and its past. Its northern counterpart takes the reader among Sarakatsan shepherds, the monasteries of Meteora and the villages of Krakora, among itinerant pedlars and beggars, and even tracks down at Missolonghi a pair of Byron’s slippers.

‘Roumeli’ is not on modern maps: it is the ancient name for the lands from the Bosphorus to the Adriatic and from Macedonia to the Gulf of Corinth. But it is the perfect, evocative name for the Greece that Fermor captures in writing that carries throughout his trademark vividness of description.

But what is more, the pictures of people, traditions and landscapes that he creates on the page are imbued with an intimate understanding of Greece and its history.

The Dark Labyrinth by Laurence Durrell

This captivating Mediterranean novel was written by Lawrence Durrell immediately after finishing his exquisite vignette about Corfu, Prospero’s Cell, and a decade before Justine. The story is set on Crete just after the War, as an odd assortment of English travellers come ashore from a cruise ship to explore the island and in particular to examine a dangerous local labyrinth. They include an extrovert painter, a spiritualist, a Protestant spinster with a fox terrier, an antiquarian peer and minor poet, a soldier with guilty memories of the Cretan resistance, a pretty convalescent and an eccentric married couple.

To some extent the book is a roman à clef and Durrell’s characters talk with great reality about their experiences, themselves and a certain psychological unease that has led most of them to embark on their journey. The climax is a disastrous visit to the labyrinth, with its reported minotaur. The novel is a gripping piece of story-telling, full of atmosphere and the vivid first-hand writing about Mediterranean landscape and people of which Durrell was a master.

The Feast of Artemis by Anne Zouroudi

The olive harvest is drawing to a close in the town of Dendra, set in fictionalised Kalamata in the Peloponnese, and when Hermes Diaktoros arrives for the celebratory festival he expects an indulgent day of food and wine. But as young men leap a blazing bonfire in feats of daring, one of them is badly burned. Did he fall, or was he pushed? Then, as Hermes learns of a deep-running feud between two families, one of their patriarchs dies. Determined to find out why, Hermes follows a bitter trail through the olive groves to reveal a motive for murder, and uncovers a dark deed brought to light by the sin of gluttony.

Which is your favourite book to transport you to Greece? Do tell us in the comments below! And if you fancy more reads set in this magical part of Europe, then just access the TripFiction database

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