The book starts out like something by Peter Mayle or Chris Stewart, a forerunner of the "good life abroad" genre. Durrell is a hard-up writer looking for Mediterranean peace and a stunning old house--Cyprus obliges. But circumstances and Durrell's poetic genius ensure that the book is far more than a glib chronicle of hilarious events and eccentric neighbours. These exist in plenty, and Durrell writes about them with zest and great wit, but slowly he gets drawn into the unfolding tragedy of Cyprus's battle for self-determination.
The revolt ignites, and Durrell's tranquil life is shattered. His stay on Cyprus becomes one of great sadness, which he communicates with restrained fury as he describes the political transformations and paradoxes that overtake the island. In his poetic and loving descriptions of places and people--most of them remarkably steadfast in the face of political convulsions--there is an empathy and an attention to detail which provides a poignant memorial to a life which, it becomes clear, was shattered as much by the indolence of men in grey suits as by the violent spirits of the hills. --Toby Green