Sunday, 31 May 2015

Leaving home – or coming home?

Ever wondered what awaits those real-life Shirley Valentines who leave a life of expected conventionality and comfort for the unknown of a foreign land with a different language, very different habits and a squiggly alphabet?

Rebecca A. Hall’s debut novel “Girl Gone Greek” will give you some of the answers – from the point of view of Rachel, a young English woman who escapes familial judgement and the accepted mores of her homeland to become the newest English teacher in a Greek village. With nothing more than a sprinkling of Greek words to get her by. And in the midst of the worst economic crisis the country has seen for decades.

What Rachel discovers after arriving in the grimy capital and taking the bus out to the Peloponnesian village confirms some of her expectations, but defies most. Peopled with colourful characters, almost incredible but somehow entirely believable for anyone who’s ever had any contact with ‘real’ Greek society, Rachel’s tale is one of love for the country she discovers tinged with frustrations and confusions of the culture clash that awaits her.

The story is written in an easy, familiar style that had me nodding in recognition and chuckling in sympathy throughout. It’s like being told the tale by a good friend over a week of afternoons featuring delicious, sweet baklava and strong treacly cups of Greek coffee.

It’s a voyage of discovery of the Greece beyond the glossy pages of the holiday brochures and the alarmist headlines to reveal the reality of ordinary life for its people – their hopes, their dreams, their struggles, their dichotomies and, most of all, their lust for life. But perhaps, more than anything, “Girl Gone Greek” is Rachel’s tale of self-discovery as her time outside England removes her from the comfort zone that always felt vaguely like a straitjacket.

It finishes as her first year in Greece comes to an end, but somehow, you know that she’ll be back – perhaps taking delight in introducing her hyper-judgemental sister to the delights and frustrations of Greek life. And, as I finished the final chapter, I found myself urging Rebecca to get working on the next chapter of Rachel’s adventure.


  1. I am humbled - truly - at my first whole BLOGPOST dedicated to my debut novel! Thank you so much Mandi, words fail me.

  2. I really don't want to buy through the odious, tax dodgers at Amazon. Where else can I buy?

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