Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review| The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos

The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos, is the story of a family living through the Greek military junta of 1967-1974. While most of the country sleeps, Greece suddenly changes. A group of colonels stage a coup d’etat and seize control of government. Eleni and Mihalis, Anna and Sophie, now live in a very different world.

At the start of this novel, it seems to me that Mihalis, a poet and past revolutionary, struggles with how to react. A part of him wants to act out against the dictators, while the rest of him is tired and justs want to reconcile with his wife. He recognizes the need for action, but feels he has done his part in the past. His niece, Sophie, is radical and ready. She believes in the cause but wants dearly to impress her uncle and boyfriend. The resistance seems to be a stage for her, and a movement only second. Sophie’s sister Anna is a shy, withdrawn, and sullen child. As a third child, she feels herself lacking in identity and importance. Eleni, Sophie and Anna’s mother, has a family and despite her past with politics, must put them first. Widowed, she has lost control of her children and has to reconcile what they want with what she expects.

This is very much a character driven novel. There is a semblance of a plot, sure, but it’s certainly not the feature. The political turmoil is a mostly a backdrop in the family drama, only occasionally propelling them forward. Each person's mindset and emotions are explored. Their past, their fears, their desires. We learn so much about these four main characters that is impossible to not relate to them, to not identify with them in some way. They want what we all want: to be rid of oppression, to love freely, to be happy. We all want to leave behind the best world possible for future generations.

Each character also experiences tremendous growth. The dormant are pulled into action, the overzealous lulled into more subdued protest. Mihalis and Eleni move from what they seem to have accepted to what they know is right. Sophie grows from her days as a kid playing at politics. Anna is, perhaps, the most transformed. She sheds her childish cloak of insecurities and becomes an empowered young woman.

Greece, as a backdrop, is wonderfully described. From Athens, to the islands; the shared home in Halandri, to the secret places the characters keep to themselves. The reader can feel like they are moving alongside each character. We are lounging with Mihalis in Kifissia, traveling with Anna to Hydra. And, as we escape with Sophie, Paris springs to life.

Don’t go into this novel expecting a fast paced, action packed plot. This isn’t that kind of book. It is for those seeking a story to connect with, something to contemplate. It is beautifully written, riddled with standout passages. I’d quote from it, but I have an advance reader copy won through Goodreads.

See (and like) this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

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