Fairlight Moderns are a series of pocket sized books which feature stories by authors from around the world, and although I like what Fairlight publish, I will admit that these little books are a reading highlight. So far the quality has been high and I haven’t been disappointed by the ones I’ve read. Although they can be completed in less than an hour, they are quite punchy and will stick with the reader for a while.
This time we’re off to Cyprus with Polis Loizou. The plot is about pregnant Despo, whose life is steeped in Cypriot folklore especially the Kalikantzari, goblins who emerge during the 12 days of Christmas and cause havoc. These creatures are at the back of her mind. At the same time her husband Loukas is having a relationship with a married Englishman who is studying the fauna and flora of Cyprus. Both couples are drifting apart and yet they know that their child will need them to be together.
A Good Year is steeped in Cypriot culture and superstitions and that fascinated me. As the book takes place during Christmastime it is interesting to see the myriad of customs from keeping a fire burning until epiphany to family gatherings. At one point the English couple give Loukas and Despo a Christmas cake and they don’t like it that much, proving how deep set traditions can be. Incidentally as I live on an island in the Mediterranean (albeit Malta is 94% Roman Catholic as opposed to Cyprus’ Christian Orthodox), I was curious to see if any traditions overlapped but other than the role of the poinsettia there’s a lot of differences
As Loukas begins to worry about his orientation we see how religion plays an important role. At one point he begins to confess to a priest about his desires and the whole thing ends in a disaster as homosexuality is inconceivable. From Despo’s side the reader can see how pagan rituals take over the true meaning of Christmas due to her worry that the baby will be born before epiphany, thus exposing it to the Kalikantzari.
I read and enjoyed Polis Loizou’s previous novel The Way it Breaks , which was about the problems in contemporary Cyprus but A Good Year focuses on a lot of Christmas traditions, many of which were unknown to me, which goes to show the diversity of the Mediterranean cultures. Anyway A Good Year is another worthy addition to The Fairlight Moderns and definitely one of the strongest of the batch.
Many thanks to Fairlight for providing a copy of A Good Year