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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 6 April 2010
Other reviewers are being a bit pedantic over the title of this superb book. Yes it was first published as bitter lemons, but I think the new title gives it more gravitas.
Firstly, if you know nothing about the troubles that has plagued the beautiful island of Cyprus,then this may give you an inkling and a desire to explore more about the history.
Lawrence Durrell, brother of Gerald, writes with humour and warmth about his short stay on the Island, and gives his viewpoint on how the troubles there got steadily worse!
To begin with his adventure there is interwoven with colourful characters, that many of us would recognise from our short trips to the mediterranean area, and that we can readily relate to and sympathise with.
There are moments of sublime hilarity, the saga of buying his house made me laugh out loud, and also of great sadness as the troubles slowly tear the heart out of the community.
Read and be enchanted and saddened, his prose is so poetic, and he paints pictures with his words so well.
And then, if you haven't already, go to Cyprus follow in his footsteps and experience The tree of idleness for yourself!!! !! !(but not the taverna of the same name!!! !! !)Bitter Lemons of Cyprus
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on 31 December 2011
This is a thoroughly enjoyable and easy read which gives a good insight to North Cypriot life, especially prior to 1974. Obviously a lot has changed since then - more building work etc - but the laid back and friendly attitudes of the locals is still very much in evidence, when you wander around the villages and explore. Well worth getting hold of a copy of this book.
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on 26 October 2013
The descriptions in this book bring it to life. I am there in Cyprus experiencing what Lawrence has described.
I recently visited northern Cyprus and the village of Bellapais so this book is even more rewarding. It is so well written and amusing in parts well worth reading.
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on 6 December 2011
This book is so easy to read.It helps us understand all the troubles with Turks & Cypriots yet oozes sunshine, beauty and tranquility.
I was recommended to read it before our holiday to N Cyprus. The holiday was cancelled - but I carried on and read it anyway.
Gerald Durall makes it so easy to picture the scenery and the characters in his books.
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on 6 October 2014
I started reading this in the airport in the UK. I finished reading sitting on the balcony of my hotel on Kyrenia's harbour front - surrounded but the sounds and smells of Cyprus. What a terrific book - so educational. We spent more of our trip trying to piece together the history of island, since the events of the 1970's then build on Durrell's book. The Greek Orthodox churches in the village are neglected, the graveyards desecrated, and houses lie empty. All this sparked off by events that Gerald Durrell actually witnessed. The saddest part was his last trip with his friend.

Both the holiday in Cyprus and the book collectively have given me a whole appreciation of the Cypriot issues. I shall watch it progress with interest.
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on 20 April 2013
This is an excellent book for anybody interested in the more recent history of Cyprus when Turks and Greeks still lived side by side and played together. It clearly describes the mentality and attitudes of both races and village lfe in Cyprus. Durrell's language is a little too flowery for the modern reader, but he spoke Greek before he arrived and learned quickly to adjust to life in the Levant.

Good reading for anybody living in Cyprus, or who is interested in Cyprus today. It goes a long way to explain how and why the island developed into the state it is today.
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on 22 February 2016
This books deals with Durrell's life in Cyprus before and during the struggle which lead to independence for Cyprus (and ultimately to partition).

In a sense, it's actually two distinct books - the longer one deals with life before the conflict, and is a little like "South from Granada", though very much its inferior, in the sense that it describes the local peasants and their communal life in patronising but still genuinely affectionate terms. This section includes "prose-poems" where Durrell describes sunrises or landscapes. I enjoyed these to begin with but towards the end of the book I started to skip them.

The other book is an inside account of the ham-fisted response the Brits in Cyprus made to growing demands from Greek Cypriots for union with Greece. (An "inside account" as Durrell joins the British diplomatic service in Cyprus part way through the book). Throughout this second section Durrell assumes that "we" are the Brits, that Cyprus is "ours", and naturally enough from this starting point, "we" want to hang onto "our" possession for as long as possible. You can't accuse Durrell of sitting on the fence - "...of course, our moral and legal title to the island was unassailable..." he says on page 182 of my version, and elsewhere he does nothing to question the morality - or advisability - of the authorities hanging a convicted terrorist. "He has killed. He must die." he tells a neighbour on the day of the execution. He tells us that the authorities dealt "crisply" with a riot, whatever that means, without saying if it involved the use of the pick-axe handles he noticed in some army trucks. Durrell whines that the Brits were fair-minded and incorruptible, without asking himself how he might feel if his country was ruled from overseas, no matter how fair-minded and incorruptible the overseas rulers were.

In this section he calls his fellow-Brits "colonialist", but it's hard to see Durrell himself as anything else. He complained about the lack of infrastructure available to him as a civil servant - not seeming to consider that such infrastructure would have given career paths to educated Cypriots. As far as Durrell was concerned, the role of the Cypriots was to be loveable peasants, and they should stay that way.

Durrell himself comes across as quite a repellent individual. His whole life seems to revolve around alcohol, and if he did not have a drink problem while in Cyprus he must surely have been well on the road to one later. He lied to the villagers, telling them that his brother had died fighting for Greece. (He does not record what they thought when his brother turned up alive and kicking). He cheated a peasant woman for the fair price of her house as he knew that piped water would soon be coming to the village, and she did not. (None of us like to pay too much for a house, but he was an educated privileged citizen of a wealthy country while poverty had run in her family for generations. His lack of funds arose because he did not want to work, and at least he is refreshingly frank about this wish). He was a terrible snob about many of his fellow-Brits with their Morris 1000 cars and suburban architecture.

His daughter was with Durrell throughout this time according to Wiki, but he mentions her only very briefly, so if you're hoping to gain insights into their much-debated relationship you won't find much to go on here. The impression given is that perhaps she paid a visit rather than being with him from the outset.

Durrell does not seem to understand that peasants down the ages have manipulated their betters by telling them what they want to hear and presenting themselves as loveable fools. It never dawns on him that they might be his equal in intelligence, and outwit him. He lied to them - but the possibility that they lied to him when they said how much they loved the Brits does not even occur to him.

For all it's flaws, though, the book provides a record of a Cyprus now long gone - one where villagers of Greek and Turkish heritages lived side by side, and a condescending English drunkard lived among them and was tolerated, probably without even realising how much tolerance was exercised by the villagers he looked down on. Read these sections and not the more political parts, and it will be an enjoyable read. But read "South from Granada" first.
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on 4 August 2013
Having visited Northern Cyprus and the village of Bella Pais earlier this year, I found Lawrence Durrell's book very interesting. I expected more about the actual village but instead learned a lot about the history of Cyprus and its troubles.
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on 29 September 2013
A wonderful evocation of mediteranean life, culture, history and scenery, to say nothing of nationalist politics.
Durrel and Elizabeth David both excell at this.
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on 6 March 2016
Interesting and sad story of the run up of the cyprus siituation leading to even more conflict between the two populations of such a beautiful island. The author gives you a feel of the warmth of the people and how their lives revolve around each other,and how this breaks down leaving us with the situation of today,
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