Saturday, June 13, 2015

Still the Cicadas Sing by Gregory Gregoriadis

"On the Acropolis hill, in Athens where it all happened, the cicadas are still singing. Over a glass of wine in the old taverna at the edge of Parthenon's shadow, I watch the sun sinking beyond Eleusis, behind Aegaleon, the black mountain. And in the twilight, I see the ghosts. Victorious Greek soldiers back from ferocious battles. Rugfged, moustachioed faces parading in the streets of Pankration. Sounds of golden trombones and cornets, the triumphant clashing of cymbals. A sea of blue-white flags. In the cool light of a noon in December..." Opening sentences

Synopsis:  This is the story of a boy’s spirited survival within a world of Nazi darkness and pervading death.

Alkinoos, an Athenian boy, is growing up in the shadow of Parthenon, in his own innocent world.

It is the 1930s and Greece is ruled by the dictator Ioannis Metaxas. In October 1940 Mussolini demands passage of his armies through Greece. Metaxas refuses and Italy declares war. The Greeks are victorious, pushing the Italians back. Seeing his Axis ally Mussolini humiliated, Hitler invades Greece.

The dreamy world of Alkinoos turns into one of brutal occupation, of famine and executions. This is a story of the boy’s coming of age, of romance with the enemy, a German girl, a Circe with violet eyes. It is a story of things that are not what they seem to be. Of daring undertakings under the nose of the Gestapo, of Odyssean heroism, wiliness and wisdom… and of eventual tragedy. An ancient Hellenic world of pathos and nobleness revisited and relived.

Still the Cicadas Sing is the story of a boy’s spirited survival within a world of darkness and pervading death. It is a literary novel that will take the reader on a fascinating journey in Nazi occupied Athens, blending the history of Greece of that period, a little known chapter of the War, with adolescent love, with passion and intrigue.

Until I read this novel, I knew little about the impact of World War II on the country of Greece. Based on actual historical events, the novels is about a young boy named Alkinoos whose idyllic life comes to a grinding halt when Hitler and Mussolini's armies invaded and occupied Greece. What makes this novel so poignant is that it is told through this young boy's innocent eyes as he moves from childhood toward adulthood and love amid the horrors and hardships of war. 

This compelling point of view gives readers a glance at the starvation, life and death circumstances, and bravery the Greek people endured. As German and Italian soldiers pillaged food and anything of value, the Greek people suffered through a horrendous famine where thousands upon thousands became emaciated and died of starvation. 

The author did a marvellous job of truly making me experience the horrors of what the main character endured. The characters were credible and real, the plot utterly compelling. Easy to read, with a focus more on the lives of the Greek people than the politics of war, this book has left me with long-lasting sympathies and emotions on what happened. 

The author did a masterful job of introducing the plot and characters and weaving a unique perspective of plausible events around the suffering of Greece during WWII. The primary quality of the novel is its ability to make you care about its characters and experience their reality. This story will appeal to both men and women, not only for the war details, but also but the love story and family bonds the author so aptly brought to life. Highly recommended. 

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