Thursday, 19 May 2011

Greek Holidays & The Cat of Portovecchio by Maria Strani-Potts

The Arillas sunset
The best thing to come through my letter box this month was our holiday tickets.

We fly to Corfu tomorrow morning for two weeks, and I'm very excited.  It's been a very long and at times, tough year.

Working in the voluntary sector has brought lots of changes, worries about future funding and feelings of despair at times.

We've been holidaying in Greece for the past 12 years, visiting different islands, and sometimes returning to the same place.

Three years ago we discovered the tiny resort of Arillas, on the north west coast of Corfu and fell in love with the place.  It's tiny as resorts go, with just a few tavernas and bars, a couple of shops and a beautiful beach.

The people are friendly, the food is great and the sun usually shines.  So, it's off we go for our longed for break, hoping for peace and quiet and a time to relax, and looking forward to the wonderful sunsets.

Not only do I love Greece as a place, I also love to read about it.  I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction and over the years have read some wonderful books set in different parts of the country.

Earlier this year I managed to get hold of a copy of The Cat of Portovecchio by Maria Strani-Potts, and I finished reading it today.  It's fairly difficult to get hold of in this country, I believe it was published in Australia as the author lived there for a while, but I'd recommend it as a wonderful taste of the island of Corfu.  Reading it brought back so many memories of times on the island and especially visiting Corfu Town.

Subtitled 'Corfu Tales', the novel is set in a small coastal village called Portovecchio in the 1950s.  It's a novel, but not in the traditional sense.  The story is made up of short tales about the inhabitants of the village, but all linked together to create a story of a community.

The main character is Louisa - a small girl whose mother has recently died, she lives now with her father Tony and his new wife Blossom in Portovechhio.

The sense of Corfu is so wonderfully written, the characters are so lifelike and jump from the pages.

The peasant-like Blossom with her bowed legs and big appetite, the wicked priest Father Anthony who is bad to the core, and innocent Theodora who is badly treated yet nursed with love by the women of the village.

And in amongst these character is Mamee - the cat of the title.  Abandoned by her owners, loved by Louisa, the little cat brings the villagers together, stealing food and causing a nuisance, but also protecting them and comforting them.

It would have been so easy for this to be just another twee little story about the good old days, but instead Maria Strani-Potts has created an enchanting story about a community that has it's bad parts and lots of good parts.  With a theme of traditonal greek cookery in each chapter too, this is a perfect read.


  1. I also love Greece but haven't been for many years until I went last month with David to Crete. He had never been anywhere Greek before and fell in love with the people and the lifestyle.
    I love books that are based on the places you visit, like "The Island" by Victoria Hislop. I am now just looking for one based on Italy and Corsica. Any ideas?
    Loved your review of this book.

  2. I have an award for you here