The Green Shore
On April 21, 1967, a right-wing gang of colonels overthrew Greece’s elected government and installed a military dictatorship. On that April day forty-five years ago, the first to be arrested were the poets, artists, students, writers, and politicians. Suddenly Athens was hushed as tanks converged on its central plazas. The radio carried only military music, and people rushed home, avoiding soldiers and checkpoints.
The Green Shore is a big, old-fashioned, and intelligent novel that tells a big, old-fashioned, intelligent story: that of this coup, from that day in 1967 to the student uprising at Athens Polytechnic in November 1973 and its aftermath. Bakopoulos, in this, her debut novel, shows the junta’s effect on individual lives and families by focusing on one particular family. The characters include the older daughter, brave, rebellious Sophie; the younger daughter, quiet, fearful, and to begin with apolitical Anna; the conservative son who only wants to go to America; Eleni, their widowed mother, a physician who is keeping company with a conservative friend (is he to be trusted?); and Mihalis, Eleni’s radical and irresponsible poet brother, who remembers prison from the suppression of communists after World War II.
The important elements of people’s personal lives – love, marriage, children, careers – typically go on despite politics, whether the government is totalitarian or progressive. That’s true in The Green Shore, but Bakopoulos also shows how authoritarian governments insidiously deform lives.
Politics aside, these characters come to life; they won my affection. I also loved the settings – Athens, of course, but also the island of Hydra, Athens’ far suburb of Kifissia, and Paris, a cold and rainy counterpoint. I was satisfied too with the slightly open ending. I hope Bakopoulos is writing a sequel. Recommended.