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Review: It's All Greek To Me

by Kim on January 26, 2009 · 8 comments

Two weeks ago a friend and I were browsing the selection at Magers & Quinn, a well-known used bookstore in the Twin Cities, when I found It’s All Greek To Me by John Mole hidden away in the travel essays section.  I’ve always had a thing for Greece, so I picked the book up to see if it might be interesting.

I was sold on buying it after I read the last paragraph of the introduction:

Our transfer from Greece was imminent, probably to Frankfurt or Pittsburgh.  We talked of staying on or at least owning a place we could come back to.  Our dream was a little whitewashed house with a blue door and blue shutters on an unspoiled island in a picturesque village next to the beach with a taverna round the corner.  So how did we end up with a tumbledown ruin on a hillside above a village called Horio with no road, no water, no electricity, no roof, no floor, no doors, no windows and twenty years of goat dung?

The book is the story of how Mole and his family renovated a ramshackle house into a home in rural Greece.  Along the way, Mole deals with family conflict and learns more about the idiosyncrasies of rural Greek culture through his interactions with the villagers helping him with the house. Mole is enjoyably insulting and self-deprecating as the narrator.  The cast of native Greek characters are funny, without slipping into caricatures, and Mole is appropriately affectionate and honest about his family.

It’s All Greek To Me was a perfect lazy Friday afternoon read that I finished cuddled up on my sofa while the windchill in Madison was about -25 F.  The humor took me away from the frigid temperatures and reminded me of why I want to travel to Greece so much. If you’re in need of a quick and funny travel essay about living somewhere totally foreign, It’s All Greek To Me is one you should look for.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Andi January 26, 2009 at 9:07 am

This one sounds fantastic, and it’s been a while since I’ve read any travel writing. This might be just the fix I need!

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Eva January 26, 2009 at 9:38 am

This sounds fun! I was born in Greece, but we moved when I was two, and I haven’t been back since, so I’m always curious about it. :)

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Lisa January 26, 2009 at 9:44 am

I read part of a very similar one about Italy but was really put off by the author’s complete nonchalance about how much better off they were than everyone else. They could afford to be the snooty people in the falling down house, it was just a plaything to them. This one sound like it might not have the same problem.

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Kim January 27, 2009 at 9:14 am

Andi: I hadn’t read any travel writing for awhile either, this one hit the spot.

Eva: Wow, that’s cool! I’ve wanted to go to Greece for a long, long time, but who knows if that will ever happen :)

Lisa: I don’t think Mole is nonchalant about the differences between himself and his neighbors. In fact, I think he’s more self-deprecating about how he doesn’t get them than about they don’t get him. It could be snotty, I suppose, since the family moving to Greece is sort of on a whim and yes, they can afford to live in a little house, but I never picked up that attitude from it.

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David E January 27, 2009 at 1:00 pm

We’re always glad to know one of our books has found a happy home.

We keep a blog, too. It has book news, store news, and events information: http://magersandquinn.blogspot.com/

David E
Magers & Quinn Booksellers

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Dorte H January 27, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Hate to admit how shallow I am, but I do think this is more fun than posts about law & order (unless they are crime-related, that is).

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Kim January 27, 2009 at 8:58 pm

David E: Great, thank you!

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bermudaonion January 29, 2009 at 8:40 pm

This one sounds really good. Thanks for the review.

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