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4.0 1
by Barry Unsworth

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"His keen understanding of history and legend...illuminate[s] his visits." —Publishers Weekly

"A vivid picture of the island." —Associated Press

"It is hard to think of anywhere on earth where so many firsts and mosts are crammed into a space so small," Barry Unsworth writes of the isle of Crete. Birthplace of the Greek god Zeus, the


"His keen understanding of history and legend...illuminate[s] his visits." —Publishers Weekly

"A vivid picture of the island." —Associated Press

"It is hard to think of anywhere on earth where so many firsts and mosts are crammed into a space so small," Barry Unsworth writes of the isle of Crete. Birthplace of the Greek god Zeus, the Greek alphabet, and the first Greek laws, as well as the home of 15 mountain ranges and the longest gorge in Europe, this land is indisputably unique. And since ancient times, its inhabitants have maintained an astonishing tenacity and sense of national identity, even as they suffered conquest and occupation by Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Venetians, Ottoman Turks, and Germans.

Throughout this evocative book, now in trade paper, Unsworth describes the incredible physical and cultural proportions of the island—in history, myth, and reality. Moving and artful, Crete gives readers a comprehensive picture and rich understanding of this complex—and indeed, almost magical—world of Mediterranean wonders.

With the same keen eye and clear, eloquent prose that distinguishes his acclaimed historical novels, Barry Unsworth delivers his readers a two-fold traveler's reward, at once a wonderfully detailed panorama of Crete's many layers of history and an evocative portrait of an island almost literally larger than life.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Thanks to [Unsworth's] warm, sometimes cheeky style and the inclusion of several telling photographs, Crete reads like a smart travelogue from a friend, with historical elements added to make his personal adventures richer and more intriguing. — Wayne Hoffman
Publishers Weekly
Booker Prize-winning novelist Unsworth (Sacred Hunger, etc.) travels with his wife to the ancient island of Crete, where, according to the Greeks, "everything began." The island's history is gruesome due to centuries of occupation by Venetian, German and Turkish conquerors, so Crete can "sometimes seem a patchwork of stories, from primal myth to heroic legend, to the embroideries of local gossip." Just as the "Cretans love stories," so does Unsworth, and on visiting the wonders of the island the "holy cavern of Psychro" (the supposed birthplace of Zeus), the gorges of Samaria and Therisso, the Lasithi Plateau he infuses his narrative with historical facts, mythic lore and a deep appreciation for nature. His keen understanding of history and legend also illuminates his visits to the island's churches and monasteries, and particularly the ruined palace at Knossos, where the hero Theseus was said to have defeated the "monstrous Minotaur." A reverence for Crete's flora and fauna pervades Unsworth's exacting prose ("the scrub glows with a soft burnish, flame-colored, forming a landscape almost too beautiful to be quite believed in"), and he often couples these descriptions with sadness over Crete's invasive, oppressive tourism industry. The people of Crete, Unsworth notes more than once, are "of great spirit and generous hospitality [but also possess an] implacable vindictiveness," often still upholding "blood feuds" that originated centuries ago. Despite Unsworth's bouts of melancholy and occasional frustrations, the author's thoughtful journey eventually finds peace and comfort in "the vitality and warmth of the people and the unfailing charm of the landscape." (Feb.) Forecast: With the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens, Greece will be the focus of significant attention, which Unsworth's book could benefit from. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
National Geographic's "Directions" series features travel narratives by some of the finest contemporary writers, and Unsworth's account of Crete is another worthy addition. Author of the Booker Prize-winning Sacred Hunger, Unsworth is strongly attuned to both Cretan mythology and its 8000-year-long history. His musings zigzag from speculations about Sir Arthur Evans and the discovery of the Knossos, to the occupation of Crete by the Venetians and the Ottoman Turks. The narrative is laced with an anecdote here, a legend there about the cave where Zeus was born, the cave sacred to the goddess Artemis, or the one inhabited by the Cyclops Polephemus, and recounts a trek through the famous gorge of Samaria. Unsworth laments the growth of tourism and the culture for "megaluxes" (vast hotels), comparing the trappings of tourism to the modern-day Knossos labyrinth. This literate pastiche of history, mythology, and impressionistic writing, full of descriptions of monasteries, frescoes, and goats clambering on hillsides, is sure to delight the S traveler and provide background information for the tourist. Recommended for all libraries.-Ravi Shenoy, Naperville P.L., IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

National Geographic Society
Publication date:
Literary Travel Series
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Product dimensions:
5.48(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

Barry Unsworth won the Booker Prize in 1992 for Sacred Hunger; his next novel, Morality Play was a Booker nominee and a bestseller in both the U.S. and Great Britain. His other books include Pascali's Island, which was made into a feature film, and Losing Nelson, a Publishers Weekly Best Book and New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Unsworth lives in Umbria with his wife and was recently a visiting professor at Kenyon College in Ohio.

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Crete 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
mobcritter More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. The writing gives history and context to the places, objects and people mentioned in the book. It is casual and informative without being chatty or instructional. It is the first travel book I've read on my Nook Tablet, so this review is as much a review of the Tablet reading experience as it is this book. I have of course used the look-up feature of the Tablet in the past. I used it extensively with this book. When He mentions a flower or plant I just highlight the name of the flower and touch Look-Up > Google > Images and I have dozens of pictures of the flower in question. In one chapter he mentions the Cretan wild goat or Kri-Kri. What I pictured was just a extra hairy goat. but I highlighted Kri-Kri touched Look-Up > Google > Images and I saw images of this animal with huge arching horns. Not what I had imaged. He tells about walking down a gorge so I did a Look-Up on the name of the gorge and watched a couple of videos that people had shot of the gorge. It is then a single touch to return to the book and continue reading. So, while the book itself isn't enhanced you can still get an enhanced reading experience by using the built in features of the Nook Tablet. This can, of course, be done on any book you're reading on the Nook Tablet.