THE JASMINE ISLE by Ioanna Karystiani


Email this review


Grim yet gorgeous, here’s a modern Greek tragedy about love foredoomed, family life as battlefield, the wisdom and wantonness of the human heart and the implacable finality of the hand of fate.

Orsa and Mosca Saltaferou are sisters, but they’re oil and water, night and day. And with this, her first novel to be translated into English, screenwriter Karystiani turns them loose to be buffeted by singularly harsh winds. Manipulating them, and, it appears, the very weather itself, is their mother Mina, a domestic despot and de facto empress of Andros, that most beautiful of Aegean isles. Mosca, “she of the irrepressible mouth first and foremost,” is by three years the younger sibling, and she’s Orsa’s rival, a cool customer jealous of her elder’s beauty, her romantic longing and her status as daddy’s favorite. Said father, Savvas, a remote sea captain, is anxious but outwardly cold; we meet him first as he’s transporting a corpse across the briny deep. No captain at home, Savvas doesn’t meddle when Mina contrives the most meddlesome of her plots: to deny Orsa a future with the man she truly loves; betroth her to Mina’s choice; and then relish the girl’s heartache when her banished lover weds another. By the novel’s resolution, Mosca and Orsa are reconciled, but not after sharing devastating secrets of passion gone wrong. The author’s style and poetic prose is at turns lapidary and lyrical. At one point she compares a floor to “taut-stretched cheesecloth [that] dripped downstairs’ sounds.”

Homeric intensity visited on intimate truths.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2006
ISBN: 1-933372-10-9
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Europa Editions
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2006