A raw and emotional account of an ongoing Greek tragedy.
When the Turkish invasion took place, I was only 7 years old but I have a very vivid memory of that day. I remember my mother holding my hand in the street (in Athens suburbia) as we walked to my gran’s house. The place was like a ghost town that day. The only thing missing from the scene was the tumbleweeds! Hardly anyone was about and an eerie silence hung uncomfortably in the air. Although I was just a child, I sensed immediately that something terrible had happened. I recall asking my mother about it as we walked alone and she said something like: ‘it’s a very, very sad day today my child…” This stayed with me. Over the years, every time I listen to real-life stories from that day, the same numbness that I felt then returns inside me to rest uncomfortably at the pit of my stomach. I still find it difficult to imagine what it must be like to have a home that you are not allowed to go back to or even worse to have lost a loved one so suddenly, and to not know what their ending was or indeed if they are even dead.
“Daughter of the Winds” has touched me deeply as a result. I also think it is wonderful that a British author wrote it as to provide readers with a fresh perspective of the event. Jo Bunt has done an excellent job setting the scene, both for pregnant Pru who felt lost in the middle of a war that didn’t concern her, as well as for Leni who visited Cyprus seemingly as a tourist but in reality with a secret wish that burnt inside her heart. I found the descriptions of Famagusta utterly fascinating although oddly enough, more at the beginning and less when Leni actually made it through the barbed wire fence. Once she got there, the descriptions of the ghost town and of Leni’s mother’s derelict house went on and on and with a lot of detail. Half of it would have sufficed quite well but this long and detailed account had the undesirable effect of distracting me. They drew the flow to a halt, snapping me begrudgingly as a reader out of the illusion of being there. This is the only significant weakness that I found in the whole of the book.
The scenes of death and devastation were incredibly raw and realistic, including the scene of Pru at the beach towards the end of the book. Jo Bunt did a remarkable job conveying the anguish, the fear and the pain of the people of Cyprus at this difficult time in their history.
I enjoyed the descriptions of the local cuisine too, both at the restaurant that Leni frequented and at her guesthouse. The locals in Leni’s story were a bunch of lively, adorable people although I never warmed to the waiter. The flirting between him and Leni felt awkward from the word go plus his actions and words often came off as unpredictable. Then again, that may have been the author’s actual purpose for some reason.
As for the adorable kids at the guesthouse, it was particularly delightful to read about them. I won’t give any spoilers here but I also found the little twist at the end enchanting and delightful.
All in all, this was a great book and I have already recommended it to a few of my friends. It was also highly informative and I really enjoyed hearing all about the cosmopolitan days of Famagusta when it used to be frequented by Hollywood movie stars. Something I didn’t know! I am giving this novel five stars regardless of the long descriptions that I mentioned before as a weakness. I enjoyed this book utterly in all other respects and so I still feel it deserves top marks. Looking forward to this author’s next book already!