Growing up half-wild in a village outside Keryneia in northern Cyprus, Loukis Economidou cares more about his mother Dhespina and his childhood sweetheart Praxi than he does about the outside world. But it is 1955 and the British presence in Cyprus is causing increasing tensions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots – tensions that will erupt into violence. Shaken by the death of one of his four brothers and stung by Praxi’s apparent rejection of him, Loukis runs away to join a terrorist cell, with consequences that will last for decades.
Aphrodite’s War is by no means a badly written book, but occasionally it felt as if two very different stories had been bolted together – one a down-to-earth family saga, the other a passionate love story. Both halves are equally well written but somehow don’t quite gel to form a coherent whole. Clearly we are meant to draw parallels between Loukis and Praxi and Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw, but because Busfield’s characters are less feral than Brontë’s, the novel loses some of its power and narrative thrust in the central section, where attention veers away from the lovers and is dissipated between rather a large cast of secondary characters. Once or twice, it even felt as if some scenes had been inserted to illustrate the author’s research into Cypriot history rather than contributing to the overall shaping of the plot.
Nevertheless, I would still recommend this book for its unusual setting and strong characterisation.