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Customer Review

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a harrowing tale of the best and the worst in human nature, 8 Mar. 2003
This review is from: Eleni (Panther) (Paperback)
This remarkable book tells the true story of the last years in the life of Eleni Gatzoyiannis, a peasant woman living in a mountain village of Greece before she was executed by communist guerillas during the civil war that followed the country's liberation from german occupation after WWII.
In an attempt to uncover the reasons for his mother's death, the author puts together a vivid account of everyday life in one of Greece's poor mountain villages, the experience of german occupation, and the nightmares of the civil war as well as the events that led to his mothers death. The book is written like a novel -based on information from eyewitnesses, relatives and other contemporaries of Eleni- and is riveting as such, although clearly not important literature. The narrative is embellished by brief notes on the historical facts of the greek civil war as a backdrop to the unfolding story. Unfortunately, these notes suffer from a -perhaps understandable- lack of objectivity: by failing to mention the atrocities committed by extreme-right paramilitaries all over Greece before and during the civil war, the author omits a dimension of the war that is perhaps as important as the ideological fanaticism of the communist guerillas.
Why would I recommend this book to anyone who is not interested in a theme related to a small nation's recent history? For two reasons: Firstly, the book provides a thorough anatomy of society in a secluded, poor mountain village in the southern Balkans. Gage's depiction is likely to be interesting not just to social historians and anthropologists, but to any reader with general interests. Secondly, and most importantly, the book is about universal themes that reach deep into the human psyche: the boundless barbarism man is capable of, the dangers of ideology when not reigned in by reason and sensibility, the pettiness and cruelty of people towards others when faced with danger and, finally, the great force of maternal love.
A gripping and uneasy read.
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Location: London, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 8,284,652