Thursday 9 April 2020

A Theatre For Dreamers by PollySamson @PollySamson @HydraDreamers @BloomsburyBooks #ATheatreForDreamers #RandomThingsTours

1960. The world is dancing on the edge of revolution, and nowhere more so than on the Greek island of Hydra, where a circle of poets, painters and musicians live tangled lives, ruled by the writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, troubled king and queen of bohemia. Forming within this circle is a triangle: its points the magnetic, destructive writer Axel Jensen, his dazzling wife Marianne Ihlen, and a young Canadian poet named Leonard Cohen.
Into their midst arrives teenage Erica, with little more than a bundle of blank notebooks and her grief for her mother. Settling on the periphery of this circle, she watches, entranced and disquieted, as a paradise unravels.
Burning with the heat and light of Greece, A Theatre for Dreamers is a spellbinding novel about utopian dreams and innocence lost - and the wars waged between men and women on the battlegrounds of genius.

A Theatre For Dreamers by Polly Samson was published in hardback on 2 April 2020 by Bloomsbury.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. I am delighted to share my thoughts here as part of the #RandomThingsTours blog tour.


The prologue of A Theatre For Dreamers is a reflection on life by lead character Erica. She looks around her as she walks the streets on the small Greek island of Hydra and her memories are evoked by every sight, every sound and every smell.

For someone who adores Greece, and has just had to cancel our annual trip, and whose favourite era to read about is the 1960s, this book was a beautiful and very welcome gift. As I read it, with the very unseasonal March Lincolnshire sunshine in the background, I was transported to those heady, lazy days that Erica recalls so well.

Erica arrived on Hydra in 1960. She was an ordinary girl, with an ordinary job. Since her mother's death her life has been a constant battle of will with her domineering father, and when she finds out that her mother has left her a small legacy, and a car, she is determined to escape. It is clear that there were secrets in her mother's life that Erica knew nothing about, and she is pulled to Hydra by the thoughts of finding out more, from her mother's old friend and neighbour Charmian Clift who now lives there.

Erica, accompanied by her brother and her boyfriend survive the long journey across Europe and find themselves among a mixed and charismatic bunch of creatives; writers, artists and musicians. They are living a bohemian lifestyle, so very different to anything that Erica knows. Sitting outside the local taverna; eating, smoking, drinking and creating.

A Theatre For Dreamers is a fictional story told about real characters and the author presents each one of these wonderfully. From the daily bickering of Clift and husband George Johnston, to the heartbreak and pain caused to Marianne Ihlen by her husband Axel Jenson, the reader becomes something of a fly on the wall as Erica's first person narrative so beautifully tells their stories. It is the arrival of charismatic Canadian Leonard Cohen that creates much of the story though. Polly Samson cleverly weaves  the traditional power structures, and controlling behaviour of the men into the plot.
The author's descriptive prose is beautiful, the island of Hydra becomes a character in its own right, and the smells and sounds of the neighbourhood are vivid and stunning in their portrayal.

I adored this book, it gave me a 'hit' of Greece, that I needed so very much at the moment.

Polly Samson is the author of two short story collections and two previous novels. 
Her work has been shortlisted for prizes, translated into several languages and has been dramatized on BBC Radio 4. 

She has written lyrics to four number one albums and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. @PollySamson 

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