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Recommended reading?

We are at the beginning stages of researching and planning a trip to Greece for next year. In addition to guidebooks, I enjoy reading memoirs, tales from expats, or novels set in the countries I'm going to visit. Does anyone have favorite books set in Greece?

Posted by
1320 posts

Two favorites: Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres and Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels.

Posted by
3133 posts

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy

Posted by
3362 posts

Carol, I've developed a "read-list" that's always been a big hit with Newbies who are my travel pals. All are available in Paperback (many of them used, in bookstores or on Amazon) Included:
• HISTORY (ancient) "Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea:Why the Greeks Matter" -T. Cahill -- Lively! Splendid!
• MOD HISt/CULTURE - "Portrait of Greece" - N. Gage.. 1980s-90s... find in Library?
• FICTION (Ancient) - All the Mary Renault books! "The King Must Die" (Minotaur legend, a must for Crete) "Bull from the Sea" (the healing arts; a must for Epidaurus) "Last of the Wine" (Golden Age/Athens) "Mask of Apollo" (birth of Greek Drama) "The Praise Singers" (epics!) ... NOT "historical romances" but authentic & literary.
• MEMOIRS - "Eurydice Street" - by UK-born anthropologist who marries a Greek Diplomat, moves to Athens (1990s) with young children & watches them "become Greek." Fascinating look at customs, habits outlook linking ancient ages, near past & today. My current Fave! "Dinner w. Persephone" and "The Priest Fainted" (Memoir disguised as novel) both have women w. half-greek heritage encountering realities of Greece.
• GUIDE CHOICES -- My overall favorite - "Rough Guide to Greece"; best visual overview - "Eyewitness: The Greek Islands (+ Athens)"; best "bedside read" - The Cadogan Guides, to Peloponnese and To the Greek Islands ... enjoyable, insightful, great prose style.

Posted by
186 posts

Oh, my gosh! Thank you, Janet, for your solid and interesting "read list." I look forward to getting started. Thanks to Lee, Grier, and David for your titles. And Christi, yes, revisiting Mamma Mia will be fun!

Posted by
910 posts

If you go to Crete - Zorba the Greek (the book or the movie). Also, the Island by Victoria Hislop about the leper colony at Spinalonga - a fascinating place to visit - a Venetian fort that became a leper colony and was in use until the mid-1950's. The book paints rather a romantic picture of life on the island for the people suffering from leprosy but still an interesting read. She also wrote a family saga set in Thessolonika between the wars (sorry can't recall the title). For Corfu the books by Gerald Durrell (My Family and Other Animals) are great fun. They are biographical and based on his growing up with his eccentric family (including his brother, author Lawrence Durrell) in Corfu. A couple more movies, Never on a Sunday and, set in Mykanos, Shirley Valentine.

Posted by
809 posts

I enthusiastically second Janet's recommendations for Thomas Cahill and for Mary Renault's Greek novels [she did write others but I've only read one of those, The Charioteer, which is set in England during WWII; I prefer the Greek ones] - one more Renault to consider is Fire From Heaven, the first of her Alexander the Great trilogy. Mostly not set in Greece but a logical follow-on to Last of the Wine.

And I'm copying the rest of Janet's list for my next trip to Greece; what a great compilation!

Posted by
2034 posts

We've just started reading a series by Gary Colby set in ancient Greece. Light, funny mysteries.
Check out Lo's posting in General Europe, "List of mysteries..." for more titles and authors you might enjoy.

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3362 posts

Most recent movies do not really show today's Greece. For instance, teenagers see "sisterhood of Traveling Pants" with a segment in Santorini which does not at all reflect the reality of extreme tourism ... nothing in the movies shows crowds, then visiting teens are startled. And "Shirley Valentine" again shows a Mykonos very sparsely populated .. it must have been filmed at Dawn. Mama Mia at least was filmed in Sporades Island(s) and peninsula, out of the tourism Mainstream.

Best thing, to view movies of past, and see them as such, i.e., "Never on Sunday" and "Zorba." My personal fave, made about 1990, is an Italian-Language delight, "Mediterraneo". About a platoon of bumbling Italian infantry in WW II who were left on an isolated isle with a radio (which they promptly broke) and were incommunicado with their army for years ... it shows how the locals took them over, and they "became Greek." Its a deep truth threading all thru Greek history ... conquest by many, who then "Became Greek." Filmed on a stunningly beautiful island, Kastellorizo, which nobody visits because it's so hard to reach (east of Rhodes, near Cyprus). I had to buy it as a VHS (no CD i think) and on snowy December days, I spool it for the warmth.

Posted by
186 posts

Thanks, Everyone, for the titles and the movie suggestions. Lesley, yes, The Island was an interesting read. The title of the book set in Thessolonika is The Thread and is on my list. Many thanks!

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419 posts

Set in present-day Greece--The Inspector Kaldis series, by Jeffrey Siger--very good.

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5678 posts

Two of my favorite Mary Stewart books are set in Greece. First, This Rough Magic is on Corfu. (And here's another recommendation for all the Gerry Durrell books! ) The second is The Moon-Spinners set in Crete. This latter book was made into a movie staring Hayley Mills and Peter McEnery....ah Peter, what are doing now? :)

Alistair McLean placed his book The Guns of Navarrone on a fictitious Greek Island in WWII. He has follow on book that i don't remember as well called Force 10 from Navaronne, but this one is not in Greece. They both were are into movies.

Paul Johnstone, the Scottish Crime writer has a series based in Greece with a detective names Alex Mavros.

Another absolute favorite of mine that is also a movie is Z by Vassililos. A fascinating the book that the Greek Colonels didn't like too much.

Pam