COUP D'ETAT by John Harvey


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Full of passionate intensity and closely observed characters, Englishman Harvey's second novel (his first, The Plate Shop, 1979, hasn't appeared in the US) recreates the world behind the 1967 Greek junta, exploring the human cost of a political nightmare. Harvey gives us memorable people whose lives and fates are thrilling in the older sense of the word: they matter. His Greek extended family is brilliantly depicted as they work, visit relations in the hills, play in the Aegean, and stave off the critical moment of temptation and renunciation when each member must finally choose to resist or submit to the seemingly omnipotent military police state. Vangelis, a lawyer; Chryssa, his wife; and Michael, their old journalist friend from England find the reality of resistance more brutal than anything they'd imagined: "". . .underneath each person is a pit they can fall down, it is just wide enough for them and it has no bottom, and those others who stand round the brink in a ring can holler down about rights and wrongs and causes and hopes, and it is nothing but dying echoes to the person who is falling."" Leonida, an ambitious undersecretary, maneuvers his way into dangers only power can bring, while his wife Patra, Chryssa's sister, fights for the love of their alienated son. After Vangelis is imprisoned, Michael and Chryssa fall in love while working to free him; they know they are betraying him and their principles, yet love is also the key to surviving the terror. ""This is where I put my life,"" thinks Michael, and feels for the first time at home in the world. Written in a brisk, unsettling prose, the book details the disintegration of Greece--""the frantic grab society""--as murder, torture and countercoups increasingly mesmerize the population. Masterfully constructed out of recent history, evocative of Greece in mood and flavor, Coup D'Etat seeks out and illuminates the depths of a nation's character, becoming both a gripping political drama and a tragic, modern story of love under totalitarianism.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1985
Publisher: Atheneum