CORA by Daphne Athas


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Tourists come back from Greece with a tan; visiting novels come back sun-stunned: mythical, mysterious, and steamy. Thanks to Athas' intelligence, this one keeps its more swoony effusions off for quite a while, though not entirely. Don Tsambalis is 24, in the Army, stationed in Europe, and off to Greece on a month's leave. On the way, he is contacted in Naples by three shadowy young Greeks, one a beautiful young woman who asks him, while in Athens, to deliver a small keepsake containing Jordan almonds to a certain address. The colonels' junta is in power, and as soon as Don arrives in Greece it becomes clear he is being tailed. During his various dodges and feints, he meets up with Cora, a 47-year-old American widow and free-spirit/earth-mother who's arrived at the proudly declared and menopausally sanctioned ""state of Vagueness"" that lets it all hang out. To Don (the dreamiest Keats of a soldier the Army's probably ever seen), Cora is the embodiment of the Goddess he's obsessed with--and their subsequent affair is bigger to him than a vacation-time roll in the wild thyme. But then he and Cora are suddenly arrested by the police--it turns out that the Greeks in Naples were Resistance bigwigs. Don is gruesomely tortured, while Cora is imprisoned alone in a seaside fort, where she comes to realize the primitive relations between air, water, sea, sex, etc.--soup's on, in other words, and Athas lets it slop all over. The lyricism up till this point is well controlled, nicely complementing the cat-and-mouse suspense part of the book, and has a real infusion of place. Then, though, it becomes your standard Greek caftan: brightly colored but billowy, lacking a tuck.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1978
Publisher: Viking