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Destination Reads: The Best Holiday Reads to Take to the Greek Islands

Posted on 18th June 2019 by Mark Skinner

Be it Crete, Corfu or Kefalonia, there is something almost impossibly idyllic about the Greek Islands. Swirling around the Aegean in clusters, just how many of them there are is open to debate – a conservative estimate suggests over 200 are inhabited – but they make the perfect holiday destination for those who want to combine hot sun and clear sea with a unique culture and a depth of history unrivalled anywhere else in Europe. Whichever island you choose to visit these deliciously evocative reads will entertain and inform, and are best read whilst basking in the shade of a conveniently placed olive grove.

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With the character of Alexis Zorba, Nikos Kazantzakis created a living embodiment of the earthy passion and Mediterranean swagger of Greek self-image. Our narrator’s relationship with the eponymous Cretan roustabout is a hard won lesson in seizing the moment and living life to the full.
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Acclaimed novelist and elder brother of the naturalist Gerald, Lawrence Durrell was a highly accomplished travel writer, and this incisive guide to the Greek islands, originally conceived as a picture book, is an essential companion for any traveller in the Mediterranean.
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A Mediterranean love story transformed by its unique setting, The Island possesses both romantic sweep and a very intimate sense of place and community. The novel’s true star is the titular isle of Spinalonga - home for half the 20th century to a leper colony - and the skillful way Hislop contrasts its closed community with the more cosmopolitan Greek mainland.
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For millions of readers Durrell’s idyllic childhood paradise stands as the defining image of Corfu, so embedded have this trio of reminiscences become in the national psyche. Detailing the narrator’s exploits amongst the wildlife of the island as well as his family’s vast array of eccentricities, The Corfu Trilogy remains a beloved slice of sun-kissed biography.
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A rampaging novel of ideas set on a fictional Greek island, The Magus revels in deceit and deception, illusion and identity. Schoolteacher Nicholas Urfe finds himself under the spell of the exotic Conchis in a delirious psychological game rendered with customary maverick style by the great John Fowles.
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Plotted with clockwork precision by the master of the unexpected twist, Into the Blue follows hapless everyman Harry Barnett’s search for a young tourist who vanished on a Rhodes’ mountain top. From the crystal clear waters of the Aegean to the smog and shadows of England, Goddard keeps the reader guessing until the very last page.
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Daniel Klein dips a toe in the life affirming waters of the Aegean to discover the secret of growing old gracefully. With the aid of Epicurus and a community of octogenarians on the island of Hydra, this delightful book will make you look at ageing in an entirely new light.
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One of the great architects of literary farce, Frayn excels himself with a dizzyingly constructed tale of mistaken identity and conflicted characters. A distinguished academic and a slippery young chancer swap roles and locations in a richly layered comedy of errors set on an idyllic Greek island.
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Taking the eponymous house built by Sir Arthur Evans, the famous archaeologist of Knossos, as its focal point, Powell’s radiant meditation on all things Cretan is a marvel of travel writing. Much like the archeological digs that she describes, The Villa Ariadne unearths much colourful local detail and fresh ways of looking at the ancient myths.
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de Bernieres’ evocative novel is both love story and social realism, sun-bleached elegy for the Greek islands and bomb-blasted condemnation of war. A sweeping examination of love’s ’eternal triangle’ set in wartime Cephalonia, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a literary gem that has become a popular classic.
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