Reading on the beach

Summertime is the right time for relaxing and for reading a couple of books at your leisure. The Visit Greece team has picked for you a list of novels for this summer; delve into their captivating stories set against the Greek history, people, and places with a unique atmosphere. Are you ready?

Patricia Highsmith’s excellent novel, titled "The two faces of January" (1964), made a comeback due to the film released in 2014. The award-winning American psychological thriller writer places the story’s action in Greece during the ‘60s, in Athens and Crete. A young American con artist escapes his incarceration in the US by running away to Greece with his wife, where they meet a tour guide and get involved in the death of a private detective.

Victoria Hislop’s historical novel, titled "The Island" (2005), is set on Spinalonga Island in the old castle – east of Crete - which from 1905 to 1957 served as a leper colony and today is one of the most popular destinations in Crete. The story is about an English woman called Alexis who wants to find out about more about her family’s past; at the end, she traces her origins to Spinalonga Island. The great American writer Henry Miller wrote in 1941 the classic novel "The Colossus of Maroussi". British Lawrence Durrell, who lived in Corfu, wrote “The Alexandria Quartet” in 1962. Durrell invited Miller to Greece in 1939. Miller then visited the islands as well as the Greek mainland, where he met Greek intellectuals and delivered his personal impressions of this journey in his book.

Miller’s and Durrell’s steps were followed by many writers, who loved Greece and wrote about the country. British Patrick Leigh Fermor wrote the famous travel book "Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese" (1958). Fermor's fellow countryman John Fowles got inspired by Spetses Island, in the Argosaronic Gulf, and wrote "The Magus" (1966) - one of his finest books, where the principal character comes to Greece and has to deal with situations which will have a profound effect on the shaping of his personality. The French writer Jacques Lacarrière wrote an essay "L'Été grec" (Greek Summer) in 1976. British poet and archaeologist Peter Levi describes his journeys in Mani, Crete and Olympia as well as people and facts of the ‘60s and ‘70s in his book "The Hill of Kronos" (1980). Don DeLillo, one of the major writers of the American postwar period, lived for a few years in Greece and wrote the novel "The Names" in 1982, where a plot of enigmatic cults and a number of mysterious murders unfold for the readers.

Two more recent books with an international appeal explore the modern Greek image. Patricia Storace – an American poet that lived in Athens - wrote "Dinner with Persephone" (1996) which is a description of Greece that delicately balances between the Eastern and Western Civilization. Eurydice Street: "A Place in Athens" (2004) is the story of Sofka Zinovieff’s first year as an Athenian.

Two police novels conclude our list of reading where all the action takes place in ancient Athens. Claude Mossé - a French historian specialised in the history of Ancient Greece - wrote "Meurtres sur l'Agora" (1995) where its story unfolds during the Great Dionysia* in 349 B.C. The Athenian Murders ("La caverna de las ideas", 2000) is the novel of Jose Carlos Somoza, and the story takes place after the Peloponnesian War.

Have a great summer! Enjoy your reading!

*Ancient Drama Festival in which tragedy, comedy and satiric drama originated; it was held in Athens in March in honour of Dionysus the God of Wine.

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