Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Booklovers - which Greek island should you visit

Booklovers – which Greek island should you visit?

Map from Lonely Planet

I was looking at my bookshelves when I thought it would be fun to tour Greece taking in the settings of the books.  If you fancy touring the Greek Isles this summer, why not take a journey there with me through fiction?

I thought we’d start our journey by stopping off at Crete, one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean and one of my favourites. With its 4000 year history there’s plenty to see and do. More recently, it has gained fame through Victoria Hislop’s book, The Island, which tells the story of Spinalonga, a leper colony just off the coast of Crete. Having visited the South of the island, this is definitely on my list for my next visit.
The next book that jumped out at me was ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandalin’ by Louis de Bernieres. Set on Kephalonia during the early days of the Second World War, it’s both a war story and a love story.  Ever since reading the book I’ve had a desire to visit and retrace the footsteps of the main characters so it’s time to head off to the Ionian islands. Much of Kephalonia was destroyed by an earthquake in 1953 and so some of its Venetian influence has been lost. Nevertheless with its gorgeous beaches and stunning scenery, you won’t be at a loss for something to do.
Heading next to Corfu, an island that is somehow different to all the other Greek islands, having a strong British influence. In Corfu town, for example, they still play cricket. It was, of course, the childhood home of Gerald Durrell and one of my favourite books as a child was , ‘My family and other animals.’ I still remember the tales of his family’s exploits and the different coloured villas that they lived in. It was perhaps reading these stories that captured my imagination and started my love affair with Greece.
No tour would be complete without heading to the mainland, to the Albanian border and the town of Lia. This is where Nicholas Gage writes so poignantly about his mother’s life and how she was killed by communist guerillas just after the Second World War during the Greek civil war. His book ‘Eleni’ is both a testament to his mother and a lesson in the horrors of what man can do to his own kind. It also inspired me to read her granddaughter’s book about how she returned to Greece and rebuilt the family home.
Finally, no trip to Greece would be complete without visiting Athens. Anne Zouroudi has become a firm favourite of mine, skillfully recreating the magic that draws people back to this mystical place. Although her books are mainly set on Symi, a small island near Rhodes, her first book is entitled ‘The Messenger of Athens’ and is where we encounter the ‘fat man’ for the first time. Having lived in Athens in the 1980s it is well overdue for a return visit as I’m sure it will have changed, although hopefully not beyond all recognition!

There are so many place I could have mentioned but I’ll have to save those for another time. One thing about Greece is sure though – once you’ve visited you’ll want to return – again and again! What are your favourite islands and were any of your trips inspired by books you’ve read?

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

What's on your bookshelf?


As anyone who knows me will avow, I'm a total bookaholic. I think it must have started in childhood when each Friday as my mother did the supermarket shop, I could be found in the book aisle sneakily reading the first chapter of an Enid Blyton book before deciding which one to buy. Needless to say, I still have this prized collection today. Since then though my insatiable desire for books seems to know no bounds. I have a wall of books as you come into the house and three large bookcases upstairs plus two downstairs and most of my books still haven't been unpacked from the boxes down the cellar yet. It wouldn't be so bad if my husband shared my pasion but unfortunately being dyslexic, he doesn't get the same pleasure from a good book that I do.
I keep meaning to stop, honestly I do, and when he bought me a Kindle in the forlorn hope that it might reduce the amount of 'clutter' in the house, I did pause briefly in my book buying addiction. It didn't last long though! Don't get me wrong, I love my Kindle too and in fact I think I've now developed another addiction - the one-click kind. When I checked the other day I realised that even at my current rate of reading about 100 books per year, there is no way that I am ever going to live long enough to read all the books on my shelves, let alone the ones now sitting on my Kindle.
Deciding to try and declutter and get rid of some books that I will probably never read lasted about ten minutes as I came across long-forgotten favourites that just have to be re-read. The touch and scent of a 'real' book conveys so many emotions to me. For many books I can remember where I was when I read it or who gave it to me. Just looking at the cover of a book I've enjoyed gives me huge pleasure. From the chaos that was a disorganised book pile, I have tried to bring some semblance of order and have put all my Greek themed books together. It was great fun doing this as again it brought back many memories. 'The Magus' by John Fowles inspired my love of Greece and maybe even subconsciously planted the idea of teaching there, the Greek cookery book reminds me of the many wonderful meals eaten in tavernas by the sea, the waves lapping on the shore as the waiter brings a complimentary drink. Then there are the Greek language books from my time spent trying to master the basics of that beautiful language and crime novels by two of my favourite writers, Jeffrey Siger and Anne Zouroudi. There are many many more still waiting for me to lovingly discover I'm sure but I know that to me each and every book is special, so for now my collection remains intact.
Please tell me I'm not alone in my addiction and I'd love to know what's on your bookshelves - virtual or otherwise.