Corfu, Ireland, Rome by Character, History

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 17, 2002 | Go to article overview

Corfu, Ireland, Rome by Character, History


Byline: Ann Geracimos, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Two islands and a city that sees itself as a world apart- Corfu, Ireland and Rome, all legendary places in the traveler's imagination replete with complex histories and character. How could any writer go wrong with such subjects for an audience likely to be sympathetic in advance?

Well, they can. At least one author here does. Admittedly, Emma Tennant's A House in Corfu: A Family's Sojourn in Greece (Henry Holt, $23, 207 pages, illus.), a memoir of her family's life on Corfu, invariably will be compared with the classic written by Gerald Durrell long ago about growing up on that Ionian island on Greece's western flank. Alas, in spite of great efforts to make her experience come alive for the reader, the author falls short on many counts - mainly, I suspect, because of some awkward stylistic choices.

It's tempting, though hardly generous, to say that the best thing about the book is the jacket: a decorative blue border evocative of Greek embroidery patterns atop the photograph of a blue-shuttered white-washed dwelling in a grove of greenery and geraniums. Surely, this is every expatriate's dreamhouse, all the better when we learn it sits on about 14 acres overlooking the sea. The owners are the author's parents, a British financier and his wife who fell in love with the property in 1964. Her story is mainly about the labors involved in building what became their retirement home and about the many friends they made among the locals.

Shades of Peter Mayle in Provence, whose success in evoking a sanitized upbeat spirit of place the writer may be trying to emulate. A sentence chosen at random could have come from either book: "Dominated by seasons, spring planting, late-summer harvest of olive and grape, and in months punctuated by celebrations and farewells, we come and go (though I more frequently than others) to this place that has mysteriously become home."

The parenthesis is jarring and, unfortunately, typical of the prose. In the next paragraph the author has jumped ahead five years to tell of her father's death. Some 20 pages later, we are back again in time - "Inflation haunted Greece in the 1970s and 1980s" - and then lurching forward with a description in the present tense about a visit to Corfu town that she limply calls "a pleasurable experience." There is too much of this lazy, hazy writing throughout. Worst of all, nearly every scene is written in the present tense, which is confusing when it isn't downright annoying.

The book's three sections are prefaced with small black and white photographs of the land the Tennant family adopted but none of the people that made their stay so memorable. Travel-cum-memoir books depend one way or another on the personality of the writer to convince us of their merit. As one who has been to Greece several times over the years, I found myself yawning at yet another description of folk dancing at a wedding site and wanting instead to know more about Tennant family relationships.

"House" is beautifully produced: a hand-friendly size with deckle-edged pages and a detailed map. It might be a good present for the first-time traveler in Greek lands who knows nothing at all about the place. Just be sure to choose the recipient carefully.

* * *

G. Franco Romagnoli's A Thousand Bells at Noon: A Roman's Guide to the Secrets and Pleasures of His Native City (Steerforth, $25, 272 pages, illus.) by contrast, is bound to entice both old and new Roman hands: the former for sentiment's sake and the latter for cultural enlightenment and useful information. It helps that the author is a native of the city - one who apparently made use of his heritage in later life by writing a cookbook and developing a television show about Italian cooking while living in the United States. He treats his "outsider" (pelligrino) status with aplomb - someone whose family does not go back seven generations.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Corfu, Ireland, Rome by Character, History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.