Thursday , June 17 2021

Zakynthos Books! Celebrate World Book Day.

Today is World Book Day, and books aren’t normally something people think of when they talk about Zakynthos. Usually they think great food, blue seas and beautiful views; a place to share a weeks holiday with family and friends, to explore and immerse in the Greek culture.

Many don’t realise what an inspirational place it is too, especially for writers. As far back as ancient times people like Homer, Strabo and Herodotus found the island a fascinating place to write about in their now well known works. The renowned Greek poet Dionysios Solomos was born on Zakynthos and his poem Hymn to Liberty was written whilst overlooking Zakynthos Town in 1823. Andreas Kalvos writer of patriotic works was also born on Zakynthos, as was Gregorios Xenopoulos who wrote hundreds of books and articles covering many important subjects in the 1800’s. The island has been visited by other well known writers and poets since and the inspiration still continues nowadays.

So, in order to celebrate World Book Day Zakynthian style, this post contains works by ten modern authors all of whom have written books set on Zakynthos, all of which have proved to be very popular with readers, giving visitors a chance to escape back to the island through the pages of a book, even on the darkest of winter’s days.

Agapi Mou (My Beloved) by Donnie – Genre: Travel 

Agapi Mou (my beloved in Greek) is five stories told by five different people. Part love story, heartache and historical fiction this book engages the reader with stories that by the final pages brings together lost lovers of over 57 years on a veranda overlooking the Ionian Sea on the Island of Zakynthos, Greece. Agapi Mou is a moving tribute to the human heart and to surviving the loss of love. Think of this book as somewhat like Shirley Valentine but the Shirley that doesn’t want to run away to Greece to get away from life, but the Shirley that goes to Greece to learn about life. This book will inspire you to travel, to regain the person inside that has hopes, dreams, desires as well as give you the knowledge that even Edger Allen Poe was a man of beautiful poetry as he too found inspiration on the island and penned a poem, “Sonnet-to Zante” in 1837.

Amazon Five star review says:

This is a beautiful, haunting, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic story of separated lovers, reminiscent of “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” in many ways, with glorious descriptions of life in Greece and peppered with familiar and not-so-familiar Greek words and phrases. For anyone who has visited the Greek islands it is a must-read. I loved it. I keep a list of all the books I have read on my Kindle, and then rate them out of ten; this was way up at the top there, probably with eleven out of ten! Wonderful.

Puddles of Love by Netty Morgan – Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Description

Madeline Kalvos was much loved, respected and admired on the island of Zakynthos. When she died and left her estate to a long lost niece everyone was aghast. Helen Hardy, recently widowed, is shocked to discover the truth about her long, forgotten Aunt Maddie. A bizarre and watertight clause in the will instructs Helen to spend thirty days on Zakynthos. Join Helen and her ditzy friend Dotty as they land on the beautiful Ionian island and immerse themselves in the wonderful and often eccentric world of the Zakynthian animal lovers. Helen has just thirty days to make the most important decision of her life, with a few individuals. determined to chase her off the island, it certainly won’t be all wine and roses. 

Markos Kalvos, a local vet, had adored his Uncles wife. As a young boy Madeline had taken him under her wing and financed his studies. Appalled that Madeline’s English family so cruelly cut her out of their lives, he already hates Helen Hardy with a passion. Fulfilling a dying Madeline’s wish that he look after Helen, he has no other choice than to meet her at the airport and guide her through the next thirty days. The hate soon turns to an unrequited love when he witnesses Helen risk her own safety to save three motherless pups. Helen, still raw from her husband’s strange and untimely death is not ready to love again…or is she?

Amazon Five star review says:

I downloaded the book as it was set on my favourite Greek island and I loved reading about the various places I have visited. Once I started reading I couldn’t put it down. A great background story along with funny characters and interesting information about the strays we all see when holidaying on the islands. A must buy summer read for when you’re lying on a sunbed on a Zakynthos beach somewhere.

Eleni (Panther) by Nicholas Gage – Genre: Historical/WWII/Biography

Book Description

A son’s quest to avenge his mother’s murder.

In 1948, in a Greek mountain village, Eleni Gatzoyiannis was arrested, tortured and shot. She was one of the 158,000 victims of the Greek Civil War. Her crime had been to help her children escape from the Communist guerrillas who occupied their village. Her son, Nicholas Gage, was then eight years old. Eleni is the story of his obsessive and harrowing reconstruction of his mother’s life and death and his pursuit of his mother’s killer.

Amazon Five star review says:

This is quite simply one of the best books I have ever read. It is well written and detailed. It is in places shocking but also so warmly written that you really care about the characters. The most shocking thing is that all this really happened and not so long ago. I salute you Mr Gage and your amazing brave mother Eleni. 

Among the Olive Groves by Chrissie Parker – Genre: Historical Suspense/WWII Fiction

Book Description

Elena Petrakis adores living on the Greek island of Zakynthos. When World War Two looms her way of life is threatened. Left with no choice she joins the island’s resistance to fight for what she believes in; her family, her home, and her freedom. 

Decades later, thousands of miles away in the Cornish town of Newquay, Kate Fisher prepares to celebrate her twenty-first birthday, but her joy is fleeting when she learns she is adopted. Abandoning life in England, Kate flees to Zakynthos, where she is forced to acknowledge a life she has struggled to come to terms with, one that will change her future.

From the beautiful crystal turquoise seas of the Ionian Islands to the rugged shores of the Cornish coast, ‘Among the Olive Groves’ is a story of love, bravery and sacrifice.

Amazon Five star review says:

This book was amazing! Set on such a beautiful island off the Greek mainland – Zakynthos. The story alternates between the present day and during wartime occupation during the Second World War. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a story of love, courage of the island’s wartime resistance and the two strands pull together beautifully at the end. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Miracle at Zakynthos by Deno Seder – Genre: History/WWII

Book Description

Nearly ninety percent of Greek Jews perished during the Holocaust. Most were killed at Auschwitz/Birkenau. But on the Ionian island of Zakynthos, the entire Greek Jewish community was saved from annihilation. 

The German commander on Zakynthos, Alfredo Litt, a vile, treacherous man, ordered the island’s Bishop Chrysostomos and Mayor Loukas Carrer to prepare a list of all the Jews on the island. He gave them 72 hours to deliver the list. What happened next was a series of remarkable and historic acts of human courage, compassion and cunning. 

The story illuminates the humanity of a people who risked their lives to save their neighbors. It documents many of the horrors and atrocities during the occupation in Greece and then takes the reader on a journey high into the remote mountain villages of Zakynthos where Greek Christians hid their Jewish neighbors to protect them from certain death. It recounts the many acts of human kindness and compassion, large and small, that restored faith in mankind and renewed hope for survival.

Amazon Five star review says:

I heard about this story on a recent holiday on Zakynthos. I have been to that island many times and met and made friends with quite a few of the people who live there. They are among the nicest, most friendly people I have ever met and I know I’m not alone with that opinion. Reading the book confirms how wonderful the people on that small island in the Ionian sea really are. A fabulous read.

My Map of You by Isabelle Broom – Genre: Romance/Travel

Book Description

A holiday on the stunning Greek island of Zakynthos, with its perfect blue skies, white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, should be a dream come true.

But for Holly it feels more like a nightmare. Arriving on the island to clear out a house she’s just inherited, Holly has no idea what to expect. And she’s certainly not prepared for the family secrets she uncovers inside.

With the help of Aidan, her handsome neighbour, Holly sets out to explore the island, hoping to piece together her own lost story. Yet all too soon real life, including the boyfriend she left behind, threatens to catch up with her.

Holly thinks she’s following the secrets of the past. But might it turn out to be a map to her future?

Amazon Five star review says:

I read so many books and don’t often stop to review them, but having just read this debut novel of Isabelle Broom – I have to take the time out to say that it was excellent! – I really enjoyed it. It was so easy to become wrapped up in the life of Holly, and to experience Greece through her eyes, with the superb descriptions of life in the various villages, the people, the markets and beaches. Throw in a handsome vet, a red setter, an adorable puppy and really nice ending – I was sad to put it down. A great holiday read, and a credit to Isabelle for such an outstanding first novel.

Swimming Pool Summer by Rebecca Farnworth – Genre: Literary Fiction

Book Description

Frankie hasn’t had a proper relationship for years. But though she tells everyone this is how she wants it, secretly she’s in love with her best friend Patrick.

Tor didn’t think she could have a baby, but now she is pregnant by her younger lover. Could this mean the end of a romance that has started to mean more to her than she expected?

Leila seems to have it all – a happy marriage, a beautiful daughter and a successful career. But Leila is harbouring a secret that could destroy her marriage forever.

On an idyllic Greek island, the three women try to keep their secrets hidden. But emotions are running high, and when an unexpected guest arrives, events start to spin out of control…

Amazon Five star review says:

I have had this book on my kindle for a while so when I didn’t know what to read next this called out to me such a fab read loved how you got to meet every character and how secrets can change everything loved the easy flow of the chapters. Perfect summer read loved every moment.

Margaritas Olive Press by Rodney Shields – Genre: Travel Writing

Book Description

An enchanting true story of one man’s 20 year odyssey on the beautiful Greek island of Zakynthos. Dennis Potter was the first to enjoy early tales of life at the olive press, which he found ‘diverting and properly flavoured with yoghurt and honey’. ‘The house is in a wild place and stands on its own – like its owner’ is the introduction Rodney Shields is given to the remote house on the beautiful Greek island of Zakynthos, which is to become his obsession for the next twenty years. The universal dream of finding an island paradise and making it reality is explored with wit and detail, and sometimes high drama. Rodney sets out with a vision: to find a property on the Greek island which he and his family have come to love. During his search he builds lasting friendships with islanders, becomes involved in the often tricky minutiae of Greek marital relations, until finding the ideal property – and meeting its formidable owner, Margarita. This is followed by complicated negotiations in Greek property law – the outcome of which are frequently reliant on a carrier bag full of almonds. All set amid the brilliant blue Ionian sea and olive groves which have enticed travellers for centuries. Having secured the property – or at least part of it – the drama continues over the next twenty years; rendering the place habitable by the use of mules, achieving a natural source of water without interference from snakes. Finally Rodney and his family can enjoy the simple pleasure of their island paradise amid old and new friends alike – until the dream is threatened by an approaching island fire.

Amazon Five star review says:

I adored every page of the book. I love Greece and especially the Ionian islands and it is my dream to live there one day.

The story is delightful, the charm of the island and the people comes through on each page and the conversion of the olive press into a holiday home is a real adventure. It is a fabulous account of buying and restoring the olive press against the odds. 

The Homecoming by Dougie McHale – Genre: Literary Fiction

Book Description

It only takes a second to change a life.

Louis Satriani, a successful architect, has the perfect life- or so he thinks, until he finds out his partner is having an affair. Distraught, he abandons his life and embarks on a journey that will take him through the landscapes of Greece and into a family’s hidden past.

Maria Nasiakos, an attractive tour guide, living on the Greek island of Zakynthos, feels that life is passing her by. When she meets Louis, a decision is made that will change both their lives forever.

Forced to confront past love and betrayal, Louis has to choose between his heart and head. As he unravels the truth about the extraordinary past of Maria’s mother, can their love survive life changing events and the unfolding of a secret that can only be resolved by a homecoming? 

Amazon Five star review says:

This is a great holiday read, especially if you love Greece and the Greek Islands! This story of love lost, love found and a soul searching journey which takes you from the new town of Georgian Edinburgh to the beautiful island of Zakynthos. Recommend you give this one a try!

On a Greek Island; a season in Zakynthos by Ralph Lavelle – Genre: Non-fiction/Travel

Book Description

Last April Irishman Ralph Lavelle went to the Greek island of Zakynthos on an extended break with his family and finally got a chance to explore Zante (as Zakynthos is also known) in depth. It’s a place they love – his wife Tina’s parents are from there – but one which they never got to spend much time in on previous occasions.

Experiencing springtime and Easter on ‘Il fiore di Levante’ for the first time, over the next four months Ralph brought his Greek up to official ‘not bad at all now’ standard, joined a traditional mandolin and guitar group, and shared in the growing anxiety everyone felt that Greece might be forced to leave the Eurozone before too long.

In June, when the kids finished school, they all took the morning ferry off the island, piled into a car, and saw some truly spectacular sights on a tour of the Peloponnese. Back on Zante one week later, there was just about time for the local village Paniyiri before their short time was up.

In this book, Ralph talks about books, movies, the state of the island, and ponders two aspects of Zante – its culture and traditions, and its reliance on mass tourism. The beautiful, underappreciated (by most visitors to Zante, certainly) Greek language gets a look in too. This is a warm-hearted account of a glorious season spent on this Mediterranean jewel, during a turbulent few months for Greece.

Amazon Five star review says:

As a veteran Zakynthos visitor/fan I really enjoyed this book. More so as I was on the island at the same time, doing the same things as the author… playing guitar, travelling the island, discussing Greek crisis, struggling comically with the language and enjoying the people. A good read whether you’ve been to Zakynthos or not.

So there are your ten Zakynthian style books for World Book day!

They are a great mix of books that prove that the island still inspires writers, even today, and what better of celebrating World Book Day than by supporting the people who are ensuring a new generation of readers get to experience the history, culture and often unknown sides of the island, all wrapped up in a great story. We hope this gives readers some good ideas for their next read. All the books can be found on Amazon.

For more information about these books and where to buy them as well as information about other books set on the island of Zakynthos, visit the Facebook group Zakynthos Books and Films

Happy World Book Day from all of us, and enjoy reading!

About Chrissie Parker

Chrissie Parker joined the Zakynthos Informer Team in 2014. Chrissie’s first experience of the island was a combined birthday and wedding celebration, in true Zakynthian style. Since then she has been able to combine her love of the island, including its incredible history, tradition and culture, with her love of writing.

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