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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
At the dawn of 1960s a vacationing English couple spied a choice bit of real estate from the deck of their cruise ship and wondered: Why shouldn't they transplant themselves and their family from U.K. drizzle to Greek sun? A House in Corfu is their daughter's memoir of that unsettled time of settling anew.
To tell the story of the house they built -- Rovinia, named after the land it sits upon -- Emma Tennant relies on her deepening connection to Corfu and its community. The massive undertaking of homebuilding in a foreign language, as it were, is replete with the expected unexpected, all recounted with wry hindsight. But the home's emerging physical structure is also a metaphor for the family's assimilation into the life of the island. Through christenings and military coups, funerals and "For Rent" signs, Tennant reveals the unforgettable human players in the domestic drama necessary to hang stone flesh upon her parents' dream.
Tennant also retains her keen impressions as an exuberant xenoi (or "outsider") -- a perpetually refreshing state, replacing the workaday with a holiday outlook upon each new return to the island. From this perspective, we too welcome the sea breeze on the terrace at sunset, cool drink in hand, impatient for Maria the cook's legendary casseroles, made with the first pressings from Rovinia's own olives. Gustatory pleasure is seldom as vivid and immediate as presented here.
Tennant is honest enough to acknowledge the tension of her position as a "resident tourist." The frangible, one-step-ahead-of-the-crowd nature of the paradise her family seems to have found has in some ways foreshadowed the inevitable modern march of tourism.
To that end, though, A House in Corfu is both the poison and the antidote: Reading it will make you yearn for life as it is lived at Rovinia, and rereading it will make staying put bearable -- but only just. (Janet Dudley)