A personal journey along the back roads of Greece.
Australian by birth, Greek by blood, Mitsis (When Study Goes Wrong, 2015) brings a unique perspective to this book, in which she relates a trip through her ancestral homeland. She lures readers away from the usual suspects (Athens and the Greek islands) and introduces them to smaller, out-of-the-way places, some of which are tied to her own personal heritage. The book’s tone wavers between that of a Fodor’s or Frommer’s travel guide and that of a series of chatty texts. “What does Greece mean to me?” she asks in her introduction. “I wasn’t born there, I didn’t grow up there, yet it somehow draws me to it.” A few sentences later, she says, “Home is and always has been Australia. Yet something inside me draws me towards Greece.” Unfortunately, this tendency toward repetition continues throughout the book: beaches, landscapes, and towns are all described as “stunning,” as are Lake Prespa, Agras, and Mystras. However, the author does show both her curiosity and her winning respect for history. As she writes about the Turkish invasion of Parga, for example, which forced the locals to flee to nearby Corfu, she adds a colorful detail: “In order for them not to leave their ancestors behind, they had to dig them up, burn them, and then store their ashes.” More of these types of vivid footnotes would have been welcome. Instead, the book falls into a pattern; each sojourn offers a quote, some history, often a reference to something “stunning” (mountains, a castle, a monastery), and, in true travel guide style, a “How to Get There” addendum. At first, this format is appealing, but eventually, the places all blend together; readers will be hard-pressed to differentiate between Nafpaktos (“A stunning little town”), and Dodoni, which offers “stunning views around the area.” The book would also have profited greatly from maps, blueprints, or any other sort of visual component.
Repetitious prose dilutes a potentially rich travel book experience.