Hope you’re all well and have had a spectacular July. August is upon us and the beautiful weather is set to continue. It’s been amazing!
Nevertheless, summer for me is a time to rest and read. I wanted to share with you all today my review of the book I chose for July’s Read The Year theme which was: Travel anywhere in (or out of) the world with a book. I couldn’t think of a better choice than Cartes Postales From Greece. I absolutely loved this book! I was like being on holiday and the stunning coloured pictures really helped me to immerse myself there.
What’s it all about?
Ellie Thomas received a number of postcards in the post, each showing a glorious picturesque image of Greece. She came to obsess about them and when the next would arrive. However, she was not S. Ibbotson, the intended reader and the tone was always rather sad. Yet, this did not stop her from reading them, pinning them up and admiring them. Feeling the ever increasing need to get away and explore the places being shown to her, she booked a flight. On the morning of her departure to Greece, she finds a package. Little does she know how much this will shape her whole trip.
“Even though she was an hour later than intended, she felt compelled to retrieve it. The package had more than a dozen stamps stuck on it at different angles and was the size of a hardback…She recognises the writing straightaway and her heart beat a little faster.”
This package, a blue book full of Greek adventures, creates an episodic narrative. Whatever the author of the postcards saw is what Ellie and we see as a reader. The two marry together: the postcards and the notebook. We learn that the author was meeting S. Ibbotson but she failed to appear at the airport. Despite shock and disbelief, the author, only knows as A, continues to travel on his journey.
“The waves were wild, endlessly rolling in and crashing on the sand, their mood reflecting the turmoil that I felt inside. It did not seem to subside. I could not eat or speak. Men are meant to be the stronger sex, but I have never felt so powerless.”
The stories shared in this novel are all part of A’s healing process (later revealed as Anthony.) It starts with a story about heartache and the effects of this. We learn about a vendetta between two families due to a bride fleeing on her wedding day. Consequently, revenge is sought after and people live in constant fear. The author finds it ironic that this is the story he has been told after he himself has been jilted. However, he doesn’t feel revenge is the correct answer.
“Even if I had been brought up with the culture of revenge, I wouldn’t have the energy to lift a gun, let alone fire one, sorrow weighed me down so heavily.”
Yet, despite the start being so forlorn, the novel does change its tone. The scenery helps him heal, it’s just so beautiful. The tales divulged are often positive and enjoyable. The recount of Antoni, the violin player, is rather special. The soulful playing attracted men, women and children all around to listen and feel the music. One of those women was Magda. She too was attracted by the music and the effect it had on her. Because she was alone, she was regarded with suspicion but not the player. He reveals the story of the violin and who it belongs to. He shares the knowledge and passion. After an unforgettable evening together, a change comes. The next morning, he has gone.
“Now the stillness of the sea seemed to magnify the music and, even when the violin ‘whispered’, its voice could be heard across the space. When it rose to a crescendo, the notes burst through conversation like an explosion.”
As we travel around the different islands of Greece, we meet a number of different characters, each with a story to tell. Messolonghi had its own story to tell regarding a celebrity: Byron. Crowds gathered to catch a glimpse of this charismatic man. Unfortunately, he was unwell after such a long journey. Nevertheless, this did not stop everyone, particularly Despina, a sprinted young woman who was full of admiration for him. Byron’s health was deteriorating. His servant believed it was the ‘eye’, the evil eye. Someone has cast this upon him. His health deteriorated, he became increasingly worse. Sadly, Byron was not going to see this trip completed as he sadly died. Again the crowds formed but this time with melancholy.
“Once again, he was surrounded by a crowd, though now they were mourning his departure rather than celebrating his arrival. His closed eyes could no longer charm.”
Four days into her Grecian trip, Ellie continues living and breathing the island and the notebook. It evoked a feeling of complete calm and serenity. She continued to read on in the evenings, waiting to see what other wonders lay ahead such as the unveiling of a sublime statue. Costas was unhappy at home, his wife seemed to stop paying any attention or care and he was becoming distracted. He spent time at his allotment planting when he found something in the ground. He returned repeatedly in the evenings to unearth what he had discovered. Over time he unearthed a whole body. He spent time carefully brushing the dust away from this masterpiece. However, once the statue of Aphrodite was revealed, Costas felt aches and pains. He’d suffered a heart attack but died with a smile on his face.
“I have an image of Costas, happy and fulfilled at the moment of death. Maybe this is what really matters. I think that, for those few weeks, his feelings for Aphrodite gave him a zest for life that he had lost.”
Towards the end of the novel we have that inevitable sense of something coming to an end. Anthony met Athina, a young girl from Greece had returned to her home after working in Düsseldorf. Each day blurred together and she only felt a sense of existing rather than living. She felt homesick and a longing to be back there. So she returned and went to the Temple of Apollo. Walking the steps of thousands before her, she was searching for some form of enlightenment. As time continued; her exploration did also. Evening drew on and she saw the most beautiful sunset. At that moment she felt like she had been set free. She knew exactly what she needed to do.
“Her eyes showed that she sympathised with what I had gone through. For both of us, Delphi was a turning point.”
But what about Ellie and Anthony? Would they ever meet? He’s shaped her holiday dramatically and as a reader I was desperate for them to meet. But how could that happen? The back of the notebook provided the answer: an address. She decided, being as it was her last day, she would find him and return the book. The result of this is completely charming; a new opportunity arises from this. Ellie and Anthony would continue to be in each other’s lives.
“Of all the moments she had lived, this was the one in which Ellie felt most peaceful, but most alive. Above them all, swallows ducked and dived on the evening air.”
There are not enough superlatives to describe this book. I’ve absolutely loved it. The highs, the lows, the experiences that shaped both Anthony and Ellie also had a resounding effect on me too. As I was reading, I too felt like I was travelling around Greece. The description was breathtaking, the stories admirable. For me, this book has been a suitable and extraordinary summer read. I must investigate more Hislop novels now for more Grecian adventures from my sofa!
Enjoy summer everyone! Don’t forget your factor 30!
Big love xxx