Thursday 20 October 2022

She Came To Stay by Eleni Kyriacou #SheCameToStay @elenikwriter @HodderBooks #BookReview #50sLondon #Cyprus #HistoricalFiction


In a city of strangers, who can you trust?

London, 1952. Dina Demetriou has travelled from Cyprus for a better life. She's certain that excitement, adventure and opportunity are out there, waiting - if only she knew where to look.

Her passion for clothes and flair for sewing land her a job repairing the glittering costumes at the notorious Pelican Revue. It's here that she befriends the mysterious and beautiful Bebba.

With her bleached-blonde hair and an appetite for mischief, Bebba is like no Greek Dina has ever met before. She guides Dina around the fashionable shops, bars and clubs of Soho, and Dina finally feels life has begun.

But Bebba has a secret. And as thick smog brings the city to a standstill, the truth emerges with devastating results. Dina's new life now hangs by a thread. What will be left when the fog finally clears? And will Dina be willing to risk everything to protect her future?

A story of friendship, family, love and loss set against the grimy and glittering streets of fifties Soho. For fans of Kate Furnivall and Rachel Rhys.

She Came To Stay by Eleni Kyriacou was published in paperback by Hodder in February 2021. I bought my copy online. 

I absolutely adored this book. I was lucky enough to read it whilst in Cyprus last month, which was perfect as the story revolves around a young Cypriot woman who leaves the island in 1952 to travel to London for a better life. 

The 1950s era is one of my favourite periods to read about and I especially love stories set in and around Soho, London. Add the wonderful Cypriot people and traditions into the novel and I'm won over from the beginning. 

Dina has arrived in Soho with hope. She's left behind the small community on Cyprus where everyone knows everything. She's nursing heartbreak and disappointment and London seems like the place of opportunity, somewhere that she can turn her life around and be just what she wants to be. Dina shares a run-down flat with her brother Peter who takes on the traditional male Cypriot role. Peter holds old fashioned views about women and marriage and has plans for Dina, however these beliefs do not stop him from taking his own risks. Peter is a gambler and Dina knows that no matter how much she loves him, and despite his assurances, she has to make sure that she will survive. 

Dina's job in a local cafe gives no hopes for her future, but when she takes a position in a local theatre, repairing the costumes of the dancing girls, she is in her element. Peter must never know though and Dina does this in secret, squirrelling away any extra cash that she can. 

When Dina meets Bebba, her life changes completely. Whilst Bebba also hails from Cyprus, she is so different to the women that Dina is used to. She's glamorous and daring and soon shows Dina the brighter lights of Soho and London. Dina is dazzled by Bebba, but when she introduces her to her brother, things change once more. 

This author brings Soho to life, her descriptive prose add so much to the intriguing storyline, with an air of menace that begins to run through it, alongside the all pervading and ever present smog of the city. 

As long-held secrets are revealed and Dina's life begins to spiral out of control, the reader becomes engrossed in the multiple threads, not really knowing what is the truth and what is fantasy.

A fine historical novel that I enjoyed very much and that exposes the darker side of what appears on the surface to be a glittering world. 

My parents travelled from Cyprus to England separately in the 1950s, met and - after knowing each
other a few months - got married. It always struck me as a brave move to come here, especially for my mother who was a 26-year-old seamstress from a rural background, with no English. My parents’ story was a happy one, but I’ve often wondered what would have happened if they’d fallen in with the wrong people, or taken a wrong turn? This is that story.

Myself, I’ve never quite felt completely British or Cypriot, but I’ve always felt a Londoner.

I grew up always knowing I was different. This was confirmed by everyone I met, from classmates to strangers and teachers. I had a funny name for a start, and I read too much. I had parents who hardly spoke any English and shoved koftes and halloumi into my packed lunches (1970s Elephant & Castle was still reeling from the wonders of instant hot chocolate). And then there was the red hair – an aberration that confounded everyone.

Today, I’m an award-winning editor and journalist and my writing has appeared in many publications, including the Guardian, the Observer, Marie Claire magazine and Red, among others. I’ve written on a wide range of topics including adoption, relationships, travel, self-development, the arts and women's health. I’ve also edited national magazines and am now a freelance writer/editor.

You can find me on Twitter, Instagram and FaceBook @elenikwriter and also on my website where you can join my Readers' & Writers' Club for free fiction, reading recommendations, advice on getting published and writing tips.

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