An Australian best-seller: A book about the adventures of an Anglo-Greek marriage

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By Kathy Karageorgiou

The adage of “it’s all Greek to me” seems to be manifesting at the moment – in a positive way. There are record bookings of tourists to Greece this year, post COVID-19. Yet, this major influx of tourists to Greece, does not only stem from the ‘freedom’ that comes with countries opening their borders.

Escapist tendencies of a fantastical, imaginative nature during the boredom that more often than not came with lock down, and perhaps exaggeratedly cultivated and accompanied by varying degrees of COVID-19 anguish, led to wanting to get away from it all; to sun, fun, dancing, romancing and a general good time. What better place than Greece, many obviously decided.

The theme of seeking and often finding ‘good time Greekness’, has been covered in many modern books – and films before, such as ‘Mama Mia’, or the last of the trilogy of films by director Linklater – ‘Before Midnight’, for example.

Yet, there is a renewed interest on the part of the movie industry post COVID-19 for films in, or about Greece, or both. Filming has recently begun in Thessaloniki, on a movie starring Robert DeNiro called ‘The Tin Soldier’. And what is more, ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3’, is about to be shot in Corfu.

And, along the lines of Greek-Anglo marriage unions upon which the aforementioned My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s third film is based, there comes a book, which has incidentally become a best seller in Australia, called: ‘A Parthenon On Our Roof’, subtitled ‘The adventures of an Anglo-Greek marriage’ by Peter Barber.

Speaking with Peter Barber from Athens, he refers to having been already approached for film rights for his book, apart from telling me that he’s English, and is married to a Greek woman – Alexandra, or ‘Alex’ as he refers to her in his book, The couple live in Greece for much of the year, with time in England. The author’s background includes being a managing director and founder of a London based company. Insofar as his writing is concerned, he informatively briefs me:

“I have been writing for many years; indeed, my first book was published in 1992. It was a specialist textbook, but no longer in publication. Since then, I have written a few magazine articles.

“During the Covid lockdown I accidentally wrote a book. My daughter was having a tough time and couldn’t leave home. She has four children and needed cheering up a little. So, I sent daily funny texts to make her laugh.

“She posted these to her Facebook page. These texts started to go viral on social media. My daughter kept them and arranged to publish. The book was released and still sells. Its not my best work, just a humorous diary of Covid. ‘A Parthenon On Our Roof’ was started over 10 years ago.”

He enthusiastically tells me why he considers this book unique:

“I had such a wonderful time adjusting to Greek life from within a Greek family, I had to put this in a book!

Most of the recent successful books of this type are from a perspective of foreigners living in the country and mixing with the locals, but viewed as an outsider. This book is a unique perspective of experience told from within a Greek family looking out as a family member.”

Placing his relationship with and love for Alexandra as the main theme, another unusual or original sub-theme differentiating the book from similar genres, concerns getting a new home built – an apartment block at that, in Athens. The author expresses the trials and tribulations of the process in a comical and sometimes almost tragic way.

‘The Parthenon On Our Roof”s popularity in Australia as well as in many other countries, suggests that most readers are able to relate to the ‘mixed marriage’ premise of the book. Many of Peter and Alex’s life adventures colourfully captured in the book, shed light on the highs and lows, that come with a union consisting of the intermingling of different customs and ‘norms’.

There are comical, though moving accounts of Peter’s encounters with Alex’s extended family, (not to mention outer social, Greek world experiences) resonating throughout this heart warming book. Without coming across as patronising, nor naive, Peter Barber gives sensitive and acute observations of his life in Greece with Greeks.

In hindsight, after reading the book and considering its ‘sunny’ disposition, I make an analogy with the ‘sun’ to describe ‘A Parthenon On Our Roof’.

Some of its references seemed blaringly hilarious. Other themes (extending my ‘sun’ analogy), seemed hidden behind clouds; triggering mixed emotions. These stemmed from identifying with the couple’s adventures, and ranged from a spectrum of delight to sadness, to the point of even being moved to tears.

The sun can be harsh, pleasant, gentle, bothersome or desired. But it is necessary, and just is.

Perhaps the sun’s light, prompting popular allusions to the unique “Light of Greece” accompanied and inspired the author’s soulful musings about his life with his Greek goddess Alex, in a country he loves.

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