on 8 October 2006
Anyone moving to Greece or interested in finding out more about the contemporary country should read this book. The author, newly ensconced in Athens, takes the reader on the voyage of discovery through Greek customs, etiquette, culture and modern history that she herself has embarked upon.
As a Greek myself, I can vouch for the accuracy of her observations. She pinpoints precisely the things I love and hate about the old country, and does so in a way that is measured, yet passionate - and never less than engaging and articulate.
on 1 November 2009
Written by a bright + interesting woman this book works on several levels. For me it presented a richly informative portrait of a culture that I was curious about. What grabbed me was the fact that it was the story of one woman's journey into making a life in Greece with her family told from her individual experience. Because of her background as an Anthropologist + her marriage to a Greek man this book goes way beyond the limits of domestic encounters with the natives.
Although the writing style seemed a little awkward at first I was quickly absorbed into the warm + often very funny observations of Greek life. Indeed, as a lone woman traveller I was very glad of her shared knowledge of the 'Kamakia' or "Harpoonists" (usually cafe-based gaggles of predatory men!) and many other Greek institutions + customs. The book goes on to offer a perceptive account of events in Greek history which have shaped both the people and the place. If like me, you have an aversion to dry or pompous history books + travel guides then try this wonderful book. I quickly began to understand the strengths and vulnerabilities of a people told in a very human way. Don't go to Athens without it !
on 22 June 2005
A great read for those who love Athens and all things Greek.
The characters you meet are sometimes surprising, but I found it
entertaining, moving, and beautifully written.
on 21 November 2012
The author married Vassilis, the Press Attaché at the Greek Embassy in Moscow. For several years they lived in Moscow, London and Rome before returning to Greece. By 2001 when they did return they had two young daughters in tow, Anna and Lara. This is the story of their first year settling in. Only it is so much more than a diary of events ....
Sofka Zinovieff's text is part translucent biography, part penetrating travelogue; it weaves an amazingly detailed portrait of a Greece in transition and covers most squares on the human chequerboard from etiquette and folklore to politics and economics. She has a slight advantage having studied anthropology at Cambridge and gains some stereoscopic vision from having done a year's fieldwork in the mid-eighties for her Ph.D in Nafplio, now a modest tourist resort although briefly the capital of Greece after independence in 1834. Her book is effectively a fount of mythological associations and historical facts, yet full of food description and accounts of age-old custom, made all the easier to assimilate for having been sown into such an interesting real-life story.
It does not fall short on humour and generally makes for such a pleasant read that it can be disappointing to reach the end so quickly ! But before you do, you should have learnt amongst other things about "katharevousa" (or purist Greek v. demotic modern Greeek), "filoxenia" (Greek hosptiality to strangers unless "allodapos" - aliens), "filotimo" (sense of honour and pride), "kamakia" (local competition between males to score with female tourists), "fakelaki" & "rousfeti" (envelopes under the table and favours), "rembetika" (Greek Blues music), "Ochi Day" (28th of October , celebrating 'saying No' and the rout of Italians in 1940) and the Greek Revolutionary Organisation '17 November' (founded after the fall of the military junta in 1974).
All of the above is but a small fraction taken at random of the information woven in so cleverly - almost guilelessly! - into her imaginative tapestry based on real experience. It is literally awe-inspiring that such an outwardly modest book contains such a wealth of knowledge.
on 25 March 2011
I am a Greek who has lived in Britain for a very long time so this is why this book appealed to me. The author writes beautifully and the book just flows. She does really know life there first hand so her comments are real and I nod my head in agreement when I read them. The fact that her husband is Greek has made a difference here and she has had to immerse herself into the Greek life rather than seing things from a distance. Strongly recommend this book. It goes beyond the silly stereotypes of zorba the greek, plate smashing etc and gives the reader a flavour of the real life in Greece in recent times.
on 4 January 2015
As a trained anthropologist, Sofka Zinovieff has a discerning eye for the various aspects of daily life in Athens in combination with the history, traditions and physical environment of modern Greece. She writes well and conveys her love of the country while keeping to an objective and fair-minded approach. The book is easy to read, amusing and enjoyable as well as informative.
It is interesting however to see how much has already changed in the 10 years since it was first published and since the still ongoing 'crisis'.
on 25 August 2005
This is a smashing read. I read it whilst buying a property in Greece, and it made the whole experience enjoyable rather than stressful, as the author described and explained Greek social culture and customs. I recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about Greece, its extraordinary people and what it might be like to live there.
on 23 April 2011
Everyone who contemplates visiting or staying in Greece should read this book. As somebody who is Greek and lived for 8years in Italy and for the last 10 years in England and plans to return soon in Athens I have to say that her comments/remarks are to the point. Particularly for me, that spent my summers as a child and teenager in Vouliagnmeni with my grandparents not far away from where Sofka lived brings up pleasant memories.
Thank you Sofka for your excellent book and your love for my city and country.