This is a novel that takes a long lingering nostalgic look at an idyllic sun soaked past. Set on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960, it combines the fictional lives of the narrator and her friends and family with real life figures such as the Australian novelists Charmian Clift and George Johnston, the writer Axel Jensen and perhaps more famously Leonard Cohen and his soon to be girlfriend Marianne Ihlen. It reminded me a little of the Martin Amis novel The Pregnant Widow, which takes a similar conceit and sets it in the same era, but in Italy rather than Greece. Amis’s novel though is a black comedy, taking a rather more cutting, satirical view on things than is present in Samson’s writing. She prefers to look back with a hazy rose-tinted fondness at a period when, as they say, even the bad times were good. I suppose it’s a novel about Utopian dreams, and how, inevitably, they unravel as innocence is lost and the bohemian circle of poets, writers, musicians and artists dwelling in this seeming paradise gradually self destructs. This is all observed from the point of view of a newcomer to the island, an aspiring teenage writer from England, grieving the recent loss of her mother. The author does a super job of transporting the reader back to that luminous long summer under the hot Greek sun, and perfectly captures the freewheeling intellectual spirit and lifestyle of the resident artistic community. This is the first novel by Polly Samson that I’ve read, but I shall certainly be seeking out her other writings – if this fascinating, immersive tale is anything to go by I won’t be disappointed.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
High quality, evocative writing.
One thing you’ve learned
I was reminded somewhat of Samson’s lyrics for the Pink Floyd song High Hopes, which convey similar imagery of yearning and longing for a lost past.