A Good Year

Written by Polis Loizou
Review by Marilyn Pemberton

1925, rural Cyprus. This book tells of Loukas and his wife Despo, married only a year and expecting their first child—please God a boy—any day. Their life is simple; he tends a vineyard, and she keeps house and tries to keep their marriage together, not understanding why her husband seems so unhappy and unexcited about the imminent birth of their child.

Their story is told over twelve chapters, the twelve days of Christmas, this being the time, according to local folklore, when the kalikantzari are released from Hell to wreak chaos on good Christian folk, only returning underground on the day of Epiphany. Despo’s actions, like those of all the villagers, are dictated by superstition, and she is desperate that her child is not born while the demons are abroad. Her days and nights are plagued by fear and her disappointment at the lack of support from her husband.

But Loukas has his own internal demons to contend with. He is drawn to an Englishman, a newcomer to the island, and his guilt is tearing him and his marriage apart. The final chapter, “Epiphany,” is appropriately named.

This is a small book but an absolute gem. It’s a simple tale that tells of complex beliefs, fears and emotions in a language that is beautiful and lyrical. This book is a must for readers who are interested in folklore and superstition, in the history of Cyprus and its people, or who just enjoy reading a beautifully written book about a very different place and time. Highly recommended.