3.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Dilys Powell’s first fell in love with the country and people of Greece in 1931. She was there with her husband, the archaeologist Humfry Payne, who was undertaking an archaeological dig at the time. She came to know the villagers who were being employed as labourers on the site and came to know them as friends as they spent years camping on the sun-drenched site.

Tragically her husband was to die in 1936 from a staphylococcus infection. Her experience of the Greek people led to a Political Warfare Executive, but it was a place that she longed to return to. That opportunity came after the war when she returned time and time again to Perachora, the site of Payne’s excavations of the Heraion.

The water was soft and warm. I was content not to be reminded of the secrets beneath it, but simply to swim: to float, leisurely and indolent with the sun drying onto my face; to be solitary.

This book is a collection of her visits to the country, there are stories of her exploring remote parts in the company of shepherds walking along tracks to the coast. She learns of the atrocities that took place during the war, of villages being burnt in reprisal for the smallest of misdemeanours. All around homes are being rebuilt and she talks to those that survived the massacre by running to the mountains. She has a couple of unsuccessful attempts at diving but prefers to stick with the snorkel

Even though the timeline was fragmented in this book as she visits Greece multiple times, it still worked for me. It gives a sense of her picking the pieces up of her life after losing her husband, travelling back to the place that she loved and rebuilding her life once again. What her writing does best for me is the detail she reveals of the places that she passes through and the people that she meets. It is evocative travel writing though and she captures the moments that the country is changing before and after the war.

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