Friday, July 03, 2009

Moussaka to My Ears

Moussaka to My Ears
by John Manuel

(Otherwise Known as “Feta Compli 2!”)
Further Rambling from Rhodes and Other Diverse Parts of Greece

( / 1-409-26732-6 / 978-1-409-26732-4 / February 2009 / 312 pages / $21.31)

Reviewed by Celia Hayes for PODBRAM

This is a lively and enchanting account of living in Greece, on the island of Rhodes, written by a long-time expatriate. In his first book, Feta Accompli, John Manuel told a rambling story of how he came to fall in love with his wife, Yvonne-Marie – and the country of her birth, of how they drove all across Europe with their worldly goods to settle into half of a half-finished duplex on a raw building site of new properties. The sequel is a much more polished account, and even better, ornamented with pictures of some of the places and situations and characters which John and Yvonne-Marie encountered over the years. These included the German photographer with his roll of carpet, the man who sold botanical concoctions and his tiny second-floor workshop, poor Lady, the stray dog who charmed them all during her sadly brief life, and their indestructible neighbor Manolis, the 6-Million Drachma man … all of that and more. Greece is a place that visitors fall in love with at once and as irrationally as love always is. Some fall abruptly out of love upon encountering some of Greece’s more wayward and exasperating qualities: truly horrible drivers, the sort of winter weather that doesn’t feature in the tourist literature, a very utilitarian and un-sentimental view of animals as useful tools rather than pets, a certain carelessness about fire safety in times of drought, truly awful customer service when it comes to government offices and retail establishments. All of that tends to breed disillusion. But others fall even farther into love with Greece’s considerable charm: the look of the sky on a clear summer day, the smell of ripe figs, the feeling of having put in a good round of work at bringing in the olive harvest, and dancing at a taverna until the wee hours, and the kindliness and courtesy of the people. That minority will develop such a deep and knowledgeable love of Greece and the Greek people that it will carry them over those rough spots – cheerfully acknowledging such imperfections and moving on to the good stuff. This book explores all of that in loving detail, and what it is like to live there, slightly on the outside and viewing its foibles with a keenly observing eye. All in all, Moussaka to My Ears is a lovely evocation of a place and a people.

See Also: John Manuel's Website
Celia's BNN Review

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