Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Green Shore

Natalie Bakopoulos

Greece is a special place, a personal Elysian fields--golden, warm, with air perfumed by the scents of the Mediterranean. Place this paradise in a vice of fear: in 1967, just twenty-three years after Nazi occupation, a military junta brings its might to bear on a populace of “people doing their jobs, not wanting to make a scene.”

Despite the terrible familiarity of “the energy it takes to stay below the radar” and the knowledge that to think is a crime in itself, the more mature characters in Natalie Bakopoulos’s intense first novel, The Green Shore, feel torn by their wishes for liberty, stability, and protection of family and self. Typified by the radical poet Mihalis, their reaction to oppression is to suppress feelings and avoid arrest. The resulting tension becomes unbearable: Mihalis eventually bursts out from his mild expressions of resistance to full-blown confrontation, which in turn leads to his arrest and subsequent torture--all described in an eerie calm of disassociation.

Sisters Sophie and Anna mature personally and sexually, and the novel draws parallels between the unpredictable and explosive qualities of political action and their burgeoning sexual natures. In Sophie’s case the forbidden thrill of political action drives her from the bosom of family and homeland to the cold, rainy haven of Paris. The reunification of the family at the novel’s close provides a further sense of the story as a classic tale. Bakopoulos’s ability to create a compelling family saga in an intriguing oppressive context makes this novel a fascinating read.

- Rosslyn Bentley

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