A Perfect Stone by S.C. Karakaltsas

This is a dual timeline novel set in Greece in the mid-20th century and Australia in the 21st century. Nine-year-old Dimitri is exposed to the senseless brutalities of war when his father is taken away to prison for no apparent fault. Later he becomes one of the thousands of children forcibly removed from their homes to save them from becoming victims of the Greek civil war. Accompanied by a few brave women, Dimitri and his friends make a gruelling trek through the mountains without adequate food, clothing or shelter and exposed to bombs dropped from “blackbirds” as well as the risk of a chance encounter with soldiers who might or might not be sympathetic. The heroism and compassion of the children are awe-inspiring but never defies belief.

The story of the trek and Dimitri’s assimilation into a new life in a new country is told in the memoirs of Jim, an octogenarian of failing memory. Who nevertheless retains a sense of humour. After a stroke puts him in hospital, his over-protective daughter, Helen, helps him to confront a past he has hidden and overcome the guilt he has carried for decades.

This is a fictional story but based on actual events, and the author wastes not a word in evoking sympathy for those most vulnerable members of society, without ever becoming maudlin.

I didn’t know there was a Greek civil war. And although I vaguely understood that children were sometimes evacuated for their own safety, I never gave a thought to how those children felt about being separated from their parents and how they may have suffered in other ways. I now know that P.T.S.S. is not confined to soldiers.

This book is the best kind of historical novel: engaging, enlightening and thought-provoking. Kudos to the author for a well-told tale.

This review was originally written for Discovering Diamonds.

Greece

 

This Blog has been quiet for some time. The reason is that I have been doing a lot of travelling. First, my hubby and I went to Greece to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary. We were home for four days (hardly enough time to do the laundry and winterise the place) before we went to our daughter’s where we stayed for eight days. Then we drove to Laughlin to do what people like to do in Laughlin. (Gambling, for the uninitiated.) After four days there, we continued on to our second home in Mexico. We have been here now for three weeks, settled in and I’ve resumed work on my w.i.p. and caught up with a backlog of other stuff. Now I can devote some time to my blog.

First I would like to show you one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever received. It was from all my children but was conceived and created by my wonderful and clever eldest daughter. Isn’t it just perfect?

IMG_0379

The bench is concrete. The rings and butterfly are glass inserts.

So, Greece on the 24th September. I won’t lie. We were a little disappointed in the weather. Our first outing, of course, was to the Parthenon, where the wind was so strong it carried off the voice of our guide and almost blew me off the Acropolis.

Before I continue, I will divest my self of a pet peeve; the refusal of the British government to return the Elgin marbles to Greece is a disgrace. Half of the ancient sculptures originally part of the Parthenon were removed by agents of Lord Elgin, who claimed he had written permission from the government of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Greece at that time. That document has never been found. Lord Elgin sold the statues to the British government and they now reside in the British Museum. In my opinion, the removal of these priceless sculptures is the greatest art theft in history. They should be returned to Greece where they belong. ‘Nuff said.

I also wanted to visit the Corinth Canal, but it was closed to boats due to the high wind. Plaka is an interesting pedestrian-only area, full of bars, restaurants and boutiques. Our visit was accompanied by rain and wind. If you look closely at the picture below, a restaurant where we had dinner, you will see that everyone is wearing heavy coats and the propane lamps were lit. It was cold!

After Athens, we took to the sea. Homer described it as the ‘wine-dark sea’, which I think from a literary point of view is an absolute gem. However, I have always thought of it as being a tender blue, sparkling in the sun. Nope. It was dark and angry and tossed our boat around like a great monster trying to devour our little ferry. Ever experienced air turbulence? Like that but worse.

We made it to Mykonos, leaving the monster gnashing its teeth. The weather improved. although it was still cooler than I had expected and often windy. Mykonos is a small island with only one city – the capital, Mykonos city – and a small settlement inland. The capital is entirely closed to traffic and a fun place to wander. There is also an interesting harbour, lined with restaurants.

Next was Paros, where we had an enormous apartment with 5 beds to choose from, a small kitchen, and a view of the sea – now a tender blue. This was where we bravely dipped our entire bodies in the sea, swam four strokes, and leapt out again. It was very cold, shattering another of my illusions about the Aegean.

 

Then we moved on to Santorini, surely one of the most beautiful places in the world. Due to a volcanic eruption aeons ago, the centre of a much larger island dropped out leaving a circular archipelago of which Santorini is the largest island. The capital city Fira is built on the rim overlooking the caldera. From below it looks as if the boutique hotels are slipping down the cliff.  Further to the north is the stunningly beautiful city of Oia pronounced like ‘ear’ but with no emphasis on the ‘r’. It is a must for sunset-lovers. The only way up from the landing stage is by donkey or a steep climb on foot.

On the ferry back to Athens we had to go via Mykonos and the sea was even rougher with huge swells and white caps. People were advised not to go outside and remain in their seats. Apparently, the sea at that point is always rough.

We spent four days on each island and each had something different to offer, but my favourite was Santorini.  I would go back there again except that there are so many other interesting places to visit. I hope to get to them all.

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