Review and launch of John Charalambous Two Greeks – September 2011

Publisher: University of Queensland Press RRP: $24-95

Family stories sometimes stay untold until one of the members dies and then those who remain sit together in the hours after the death or the funeral and recount them  or recreate them to make them more palatable as is the case in the opening chapter of John Charalambous’ new novel, ‘Two Greeks’.

Father, Cypriot Haralambos (Harry) Stylaniou has died and his children, Andy and Angela and their Australian mother, Carol, now divorced from Harry, sit remembering the man they would rather have had for their father and husband than the one who felt out of place in the lands of Australia and fatherhood.

The family’s story is recounted by the quiet and thoughtful Andy, whose imagination ‘pours out blood, Cypriot blood’. Although sounding melodramatic we learn that his fears aren’t unfounded and meet Harry and his temper at many points in the novel.

We learn early on that each family member has their own way of surviving.  Our first glimpse of the family in their home has Carol making Greek coffee, ‘the 33rd way’ with a secret ingredient which gives the family some peace; it is one way for her to escape until the ‘no fault’ divorce becomes law.

Angela manages to survive her father’s overbearing ways by being rebellious, while Andy tilts between staying under the radar embarrassed by his father’s Greekness and exhibiting bravado to try to to win his father’s approval.

But it is meeting a second Greek, the new neighbour Alex Voreadis, that Andy not only learns that there is a strength in civility but also comes to know something of his father’s heritage and what has made him the man he is.

An aspect of the novel I really enjoyed was the thread of cultural references of the time: the songs, the television shows and the music. While I might not connect with a family of mixed culture these were connections I easily made.

This was an effortless read with John Charalambous’ skilful writing drawing the reader into the centre of this family impacted not only by cultural influences, but also the social changes in Australia in the 1970’s.

I’m delighted to be introducing John Friday 9 September at 5pm at the Albury LibraryMuseum for the launch of ‘Two Greeks’ as part of the Write around the Murray festival.  He will be available to sign books at the end of the session.

John’s other novels include ‘Furies’ UQP 2004 and ‘Silent Parts’ UQP 2006 which was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2007.

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