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A Flat-Pack in Greece

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by Eva Goldsworthy

Eva Goldsworthy once had a romance with a Greek sailor. On the strength of this brief introduction to the country, she decided to retire to Greece. Not, perhaps, a particularly well-reasoned course of action, but no more foolish than many another impetuous traveller. So many people have made similar mistakes, in fact, that the number of books on their amusing experiences is swiftly mounting.

What does Ms Goldsworthy have to offer that is different from the books of Peter Mayle and Chris Stewart? It could be argued that, as a woman, she sees things from a different point of view, and thankfully she does not have the pretensions to grandeur of Lisa St Aubin de Teran. Her writing is natural, fluent and interesting, and she comes across as a pleasant, normal, slightly scatty individual. There is one major problem, which is that this particular market is saturated, and consequently any writer wanting to publish a book about "my experiences of living abroad" has little choice but to go it alone. Major publishers are not likely to be interested in such stories unless the author is a celebrity (and then, of course, it doesn’t matter whether that author can write or not).

The writing, to reiterate, is good, but I do think Y Lolfa could have made a better job of proof-reading, as errors in spelling and grammar have once again slipped the net and appear irritatingly in the final text. I couldn’t decide whether "miss-read" was meant as a pun, but "Ordinance Survey" didn’t seem to be intentional.

This is not a thick book, and much of it is taken up with the effort of actually procuring a home in Greece, which involved a long and tiring bus ride to Nafplion followed by some days of uncertainty. Eventually, Eva discovers that she can afford a house to her exact specifications in her preferred location, as long as she does not mind it being the modern version of a prefab – in other words, the "flat-pack" of the title. On first impressions, the content of A Flat-Pack in Greece seems slight. A reader would learn little about Greece from the early chapters, and not much more about the Greek character. It is really more about the author and her frame of mind, in many ways not unlike Paul Judges’ Nobble Hospital of the Aegean, which was reviewed on these pages a little while ago.

There is a sting in the tail, however. This is not so much a story of an ignorant Briton settling down in a foreign country as of a failed attempt to fit into an alien community. As time passes, Eva begins to suspect that there are sinister forces at work, preventing her from living the lifestyle she had intended, one of these being the climate. Paranoid as it may sound, these dark forces end by driving her to desperate courses of action.

Like the other work I mentioned above, A Flat-Pack in Greece is, at its root, a piece of self-indulgence, intended to help the author relieve herself of the story she wants to tell. Like the other, it is entertaining but not exactly revelatory. Although Eva Goldsworthy does end with some words addressed directly to would-be owners of Greek villas, these consist of vague warnings rather than practical advice. "Find a local agent" is not really very informative, as the author found from her own experience. This last section seems to have been tagged on as an after-thought, and could well have been dispensed with. What I would really have liked was more in-depth analysis of the reasons for her failure to integrate with the local Greek community, instead of a general dismissal of those who stood against her as sexual and religious bigots. The story of her relationship with her estate agent also fizzles out in a disappointing way. The book is in fact too short; it seemed to me that there must have been other, more noteworthy experiences, that she either chose to leave out or forgot to include. I would sooner have read about these than about the long, uncomfortable bus ride to Naufplion.

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ISBN 0 86243 856 X
Dinas, 2006
150pp, paperback
Retail price 5.95

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher

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