Kerr’s debut novel about life in an imaginary rural town in Greece during the 1990s.
Allan Krokkos is a newly arrived Scottish ex-pat living in the remote town of Sophiapolis in southern Greece in the prefecture of Arcadia. He decides to settle in Arcadia, “abode of the Gods, to search for whatever I did not have or to abandon what I felt had weighed me down from reaching to the heights of contentment.” Sophiapolis, however, is hardly the utopia it first seems. With the studious eye of an outsider camped at a local cafe, Krokkos describes the goings-on of the other ex-pats and townspeople, and the picture of a Peloponnesian town emerges, replete with rich Greek culture and customs, quiet lives and hidden stories, and the usual small-town pettiness and betrayals. Dozens of characters struggle to find validation and meaning in their lives. Between souvlakia and Greek coffee, there’s plenty of gossip and talk of history, music and politics, as Krokkos delves deeper into the lives of his friend, Idris, an ex-pat teacher; Dimitra, known by some as the town seductress; the xenophobic Evie Riga, director of the Westminster School; and others. A collection of character vignettes without a plot, Kerr’s novel is a pastiche of Cornell Woolrich’s voyeuristic short story “It Had to Be Murder” (1942) and Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place (1956), only less sordid and without the intrigue of an unsolved murder. Deprived of a narrative arc, the townspeople’s tangled, hidden lives provide the interest. Thankfully, like the bouquet of a fine Greek wine, Kerr’s prose sometimes evokes literary notes: “I had a compulsive habit of arriving in a place or situation too late. My own birth under some starry northern sky had taken me on a journey of missed boats and late trains.” But in the end, there’s still no story here other than the never-ending little dramas of a claustrophobic town, which soon wear thin.
A drifting, unhurried escape into the insular life of a small town in Greece.