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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Georgi's Greek Tragedy is history and fiction at it's finest !

Title: Giorgi’s Greek Tragedy
Author: Pauline Hager
Author’s website:
Genre: Historical –Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-7414-6034-9

Reviewed by Cindy Taylor originally for



To take a period in history and weave it into a fictional account of the survival of a family through three generations of their struggles and successes and still create an interesting and exciting page- turner is not an easy feat. However, to Pauline Hager it is like second nature in Giorgi's Greek Tragedy as she tells us the story of Giorgi Papakalos and his family and their lives in the beautiful mountains of the Peloponnese region of Greece during the final years of the Ottoman Turks´ occupation of Greece. So many periods in history such as World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, Slavery, and the Russian Revolution, to name just a few, have been written about in abundance and depicted in movies, but I found this riveting account of Greece's struggle for independence to be very refreshing because it was a period in history that I was not at all familiar with. It became not only a pleasurable read but also a history lesson that kept me engrossed in the story from start to finish and left me fascinated and yet deeply disturbed and thoughtful. However, the historical aspect of the story was not overwhelming because it was chronicled in an easy to understand manner with a nice mixture of the history lessons and the personal stories of the characters.
The story centres on the Papakalos and Leonidis families as they struggle to raise their families by strict Greek tradition during turbulent times. They all work incredibly long hours in the fields to be able to save a little money even after paying heavy taxes to the Turks. Even when Mother Nature wreaks havoc on their crops or Turkish officials kill one of their own, they still endure and carry on through their intense pain and suffering and find some measure of contentment in their everyday lives. After finding his parents murdered by Turkish scouts who take his older brother away to be trained for the Janissary Corps, Giorgi Papakalos vows to join the freedom fighters, known as kleftes, to fight for the freedom of his people and to avenge his parents´ deaths. Giorgi's brother, Yianni, joins Giorgi on his adventures, and we follow them as they endure severe hardships training as kleftes and grow into two very different personalities, but still with the common dream of freedom and an intense dedication to and love for each other.
Hager takes the themes of struggle and survival and challenges us to consider the struggles that all groups of people go through to differing degrees and to ponder where human beings get the undying will to survive. What keeps people fighting even when up against the greatest adversities? It also gave me great admiration and respect for the tenacity of these strong, resilient and yet impoverished and downtrodden Greek people who toiled and endured every day in the fields just for basic survival and gained great satisfaction from their accomplishments, no matter how small. Through it all they never gave up on their dream of independence and still managed to live by ancient Greek traditions and raise loving and moral families.
Hager is a very gifted writer, creating rich and memorable characters who we never stop rooting for throughout the story. We watch their patience and dedication to their traditions and their cause and want them to achieve their goal of freedom from the Turks. Hager is skilled at making the reader experience the whole gamut of emotions from anger when the Turks kill innocent Greek peasants, frustration when everything seems futile, happiness when something goes right, guilt, shock, heartbreak and anticipation of freedom near the end. When The Great Powers of Europe finally pressure the Sultan into recognizing Greece as an independent nation and the Treaty of Adrianople is signed, it is heart-warming to see how the years of struggle, loss and persistence did eventually lead to the fulfillment of a family's dreams.
Another aspect of this book that I found invaluable considering the vast cast of characters was the list of characters grouped by family, the map of Peloponnese, and the bibliography iof books and website consulted for anyone who wishes to learn more about this incredibly important time in history. Hager definitely leaves no stone unturned to her research and her finished masterpiece.
I am extremely impressed by this first novel from Pauline Hager, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys epic historical novels. You will not be disappointed, and I personally look forward to Hager's future work.

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