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The Greek for Love: A Memoir of Sorrow and Joy [Paperback]

James Chatto
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 28 2006
“Sometimes on nights like these, when I’ve been working late and the house is quiet, my mind skims away through the years to the time when we lived on Corfu. Our time there floats in the darkness of the past like a tiny island of green and yellow light. . .”

They arrived as tourists, Wendy from Canada and James from England, young, new to each other and probably even more in love than they realized. The two-line ad in the Sunday Times, advertising “Villa Parginos, Loutses, Corfu,” conjured an image of long afternoons drinking wine on a marble patio shaded by a grape arbour, looking out over an impossible Greek blue sea. Instead they got a little pink bungalow with linoleum, a buzzing fluorescent light and a patio separated from the village’s main street by a wire fence.

And yet Corfu delivered so much more than their wildest fantasy had suggested. Yes, there was the warmth of the sun, intoxicating to frozen northerners, and languid walks along sage- and oregano- bordered byways, and swimming naked off an idyllic beach. Olive trees dropped their fruit into nets, and there were fresh apricots, grilled sardines, marinated lamb and long evenings of storytelling at the local taverna — life, reduced to the sensual quotidian. But what captivated James Chatto and Wendy Martin (who soon became his wife) was the way the islanders embraced them, once they bought and renovated a house of their own. The baptism of their firstborn son was the demarcation line; after that they were locals, not tourists. And, as Chatto’s eloquent memoir so touchingly reveals, their deep connection to Corfu and its people sustained them through tragedy just as it had carried them into love.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Description

From Amazon

A kind of Under the Tuscan Sun for married people--with Corfu providing the panoramic backdrop instead of Italy--renowned food writer James Chatto's The Greek for Love similarly charts the often comic reclamation of a run-down house, throwing in an assortment of dynamic characters pulled from the neighbourhood. And as with the before-mentioned title, the house at the core of the story serves as a metaphor for a larger project: learning to cope with life, especially when it breaks your heart. The narrative is straightforward enough. During a summer holiday, Chatto and wife Wendy land in a remote corner of Corfu. Though initially underwhelmed, the pair soon become enamoured of the place and decide, with some abandon and a ton of hope, to acquire a property, take leave of their lives in England and Canada, and make the outpost village of Loutses their home. As the years roll by and their family grows, the pair becomes more than just tourists but citizens in the most meaningful sense of the word: their joys and sorrows are shared and shouldered by their community. Thanks to Chatto's eloquent prose and deeply considered perspective, The Greek for Love is not just a memoir. It's a love story, a celebration of cultural differences, and a stunning confessional. "The desire to understand what was happening became obsessive," Chatto writes during one of the book's most affecting chapters. "I was filled with an unexpressed but roiling, unquenchable anger. One night I awoke and lay in the darkness clenched with fury at every novelist who ever manipulated the emotions of the reader, every peddler of fiction who ever invented scenes of sorrow and conjured up artificial misery, as if there weren't enough real despair in the world without generating more. I vowed that I would never write fiction again." Chatto was true to his word, and readers of this exquisite book can thank Corfu for providing the author with such abundant beauty to chronicle. --Kim Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“For anyone who’s fantasized about running off to live on a Greek isle or any other idyllic spot abroad, this is a lovely way to do it vicariously.”
Maclean’s

The Greek for Love is every bit as sumptuous as its setting. In Chatto, we have a tour guide of inimitable perception and style. As with the food he so warmly describes throughout the book, we cannot help
but devour his carefully constructed offering.”
Toronto Star

“Chatto does for Greece what Under the Tuscan Sun did for Italy or Chris Stewart’s Driving Over Lemons did for Spain…. An exquisite book that will appeal to anyone who ever thought of owning an olive tree.”
The Sun Times (Owen Sound)

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love and loss on a Greek Island May 9 2005
Format:Hardcover
This is a wonderful book! But don't read it if you're tempted by the Greek Islands - it could rearrange your priorities! I heard the author, James Chatto, interviewed on CBC Radio and was intriqued by his understated charm. I took the book out of the library, which is my common practice, and read it over the course of a beautiful May weekend.
In their early twenties, James and Wendy visit the island of Corfu and fall in love with eachother and with the remote village where they rent a small house for a holiday. In this book, James Chatto looks back on that visit and recounts how it changed their lives forever. His story includes the expected descriptions of breaktaking scenery, the village lifestyle, its colourful inhabitants and the glorious food. I loved the way they transform the old, rundown house they eventually buy - complete with eleven olive trees - into a cozy home. Their work to restore the house and land to its original state is truly fascinating. And we settle down with them there to a satisfyingly simple life as they raise their two little boys. When tragedy strkes, James Chatto shares it honestly with the reader as he has the other details of their lives. I was touched and moved by their experience.
The copy I read has gone back to the library and my own copy now graces my bookshelf. I even think I'll select it for my Book Club's next season. And then maybe we'll plan that trip to Greece....
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Holiday Read! Jan. 3 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A perfect read for the cold days of winter... Well-written, this page-turner takes you to a little-known part of Greece, through a life changing project that will make you day-dream for days!! It was the perfect Holiday companion for me!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love and loss on a Greek Island May 9 2005
By Jennifer Charles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a wonderful book! But don't read it if you're tempted by the Greek Islands - it could rearrange your priorities! I heard the author, James Chatto, interviewed on CBC Radio and was intriqued by his understated charm. I took the book out of the library, which is my common practice, and read it over the course of a beautiful May weekend.
In their early twenties, James and Wendy visit the island of Corfu and fall in love with eachother and with the remote village where they rent a small house for a holiday. In this book, James Chatto looks back on that visit and recounts how it changed their lives forever. His story includes the expected descriptions of breaktaking scenery, the village lifestyle, its colourful inhabitants and the glorious food. I loved the way they transform the old, rundown house they eventually buy - complete with eleven olive trees - into a cozy home. Their work to restore the house and land to its original state is truly fascinating. And we settle down with them there to a satisfyingly simple life as they raise their two little boys. When tragedy strkes, James Chatto shares it honestly with the reader as he has the other details of their lives. I was touched and moved by their experience.
The copy I read has gone back to the library and my own copy now graces my bookshelf. I even think I'll select it for my Book Club's next season. And then maybe we'll plan that trip to Greece....
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How travel writing is supposed to be Feb. 21 2011
By Autumn Sun - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This charming, poignant memoir is much better than I expected, given its almost clichéd storyline (young idealistic Canadian-British bohemians buy a ruined house in a small village on Corfu and fix it up, transforming their own lives and going a bit native in the process). There is a wonderful honesty to the story, which avoids overly romanticizing rural Greece while still reveling in all the wonderful (and maddening) aspects of Corfu and its people that bring the author and his family back to the island again and again. This is what travel writing is supposed to be like.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars heart and soul in corfu Oct. 29 2008
By Mr. J. Darnell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have just finished reading this book and couldn't put it down. I have been swayed by the similarities between us in the property restoration part, we too have an old kafenion for restoration in Kefalonia, but the actual story was riveting as well as really amusing, soul feeding and deeply poignant with the loss of their beautiful son. It was well written, gave a real flavour of pre tourist Greece and came up to date without losing the special magic of the Ionian Islands beauty and mystery.
The Greek characters were captured to a T, infuriating, comical, kind and a little crazy all thrown into the mix! It is a seductive book with big chunks of real life bringing tugging at your heartstrings. I will no doubt re-read it on a grey day and dream of the photographic light of Corfu.
Detta Darnell
[...]
4.0 out of 5 stars The Greek for Love Oct. 10 2012
By Jay15 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Enjoyed it immensely..though it did drag out in some chapters. Over all, a wonderful book especially if you know Corfu.
5.0 out of 5 stars I could not put the book down... Oct. 9 2011
By Helen P. Steele - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found this book very interesting from a cultural as well as a human point of view. James Chatto's description of events, scenery and food was so vivid that my mouth was watering for more. The book was able to capture my interest from the first to the last page. I would recommend it to everyone.
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