A HOUSE IN CORFU

A FAMILY’S SOJOURN IN GREECE

Sometimes the sentences are as tangled as the underbrush, but for readers who like their travel-writing as rich as...

A Mediterranean idyll from a British novelist (Sylvia and Ted, 2001, etc.) whose parents took up residence on a Greek island in the mid-1960s.

It’s relevant to note that Tennant is British, because her celebration of Corfu’s clear, blue water, warm, golden sun, flora, fauna, and colorful vistas is emblematic of the love affair English artists, poets, and writers have carried on with the Mediterranean over the centuries. There is even the ubiquitous classical allusion. Rovinia (meaning “ruin”), the spot where her parents decided to build their dream house, was the place where the shipwrecked Odysseus was rescued by the island’s princess—or so legend, and some evidence, has it. That romantic tale underlies Tennant’s Arcadian descriptions of beaches and wandering paths, sunsets, and the eccentricities of local folk. The thread that unites her evocations of the landscape is the story of her parents’ house. Before construction could begin, they had to accumulate many small land parcels, each subject to much negotiation and assurances that villagers could continue to use their rights of way. With the help of a local architect, the building of the house (a simple design with huge glass windows facing the sea) went relatively smoothly, even though bags of building materials and fresh water had to be carried up a steep, winding path on the backs of local women. However, it took two years and an imported British colonel with divining rods before a fresh-water source was found near the house; installing electric power took even longer. On frequent visits to the island, Tennant joined her parents at local engagement parties and baptisms; she recounts adventures both political and meteorological, recalls delicious meals as well as village gossip and lore.

Sometimes the sentences are as tangled as the underbrush, but for readers who like their travel-writing as rich as first-press olive oil, this will appeal. (b&w photos)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8050-6897-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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