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An Australian bestseller: A book about the adventures of an Anglo-Greek marriage

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By Kathy Karageorgiou

The adage “everything is Greek to me” seems to be showing up right now – in a positive way. There are record tourist bookings in Greece this year, after COVID-19. However, this major influx of tourists to Greece does not only stem from the “freedom” that accompanies the opening of borders by countries.

Escape tendencies of a fantastical and imaginative nature during the boredom that most often accompanied confinement, and perhaps over-cultivated and accompanied by varying degrees of COVID-19-related anxiety, led to wanting to get away of all ; sunshine, fun, dancing, romance and an overall good time. What better place than Greece, many have obviously decided.

The theme of searching for and often finding the “good Greek moment” has been dealt with in many modern books – and films before, such as “Mama Mia”, or the latest in director Linklater’s trilogy of films – “Before midnight”, for example.

Still, there is renewed interest from the film industry after COVID-19 for films in Greece or about Greece, or both. Filming has recently started in Thessaloniki, on a film starring Robert De Niro called “The Tin Soldier”. And what’s more, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” is about to be shot in Corfu.

And, in line with the Anglo-Greek matrimonial unions on which the third film of My Big Fat Greek Wedding mentioned above is based, comes a book, which incidentally became a best-seller in Australia, entitled: “A Parthenon On Our Roof”, subtitled “The Adventures of an Anglo-Greek Marriage” by Peter Barber.

Speaking to Peter Barber from Athens, he refers to having already been approached for the film rights to his book, in addition to telling me that he is English and married to a Greek woman – Alexandra, or “Alex” as he calls her in his book, The couple live in Greece for much of the year, with time in England. The author’s background includes being a CEO and founder of a London-based company. Regarding his writing, he informs me informatively:

“I have been writing for many years; indeed, my first book was published in 1992. It was a specialized textbook, but it is no longer published. Since then, I have written a few magazine articles.

“During the Covid lockdown I accidentally wrote a book. My daughter was going through a difficult time and couldn’t leave the house. She has four children and needed to cheer herself up. So, I was sending funny text messages daily to make her laugh.

“She posted them on her Facebook page. These texts have started to go viral on social networks. My daughter kept them and managed to publish them. The book is out and still selling. Not my best work, just a humorous Covid diary. “A Parthenon on our roof” was launched more than 10 years ago.

He enthusiastically tells me why he considers this book unique:

“I had such a wonderful time adjusting to Greek life with a Greek family, I had to put that in a book!

Most recent bestselling books of this type are from the perspective of foreigners living in the country and mingling with the locals, but seen as an outsider. This book is a unique perspective of experience told within a Greek family who consider themselves part of the family.

Placing his relationship and love for Alexandra as the main theme, another unusual or quirky sub-theme differentiating the book from similar genres, concerns the construction of a new house – one more building, in Athens. The author expresses the trials and tribulations of the process in a comical and sometimes almost tragic way.

The popularity of “The Parthenon on Our Roof” in Australia as well as many other countries suggests that most readers are able to understand the book’s premise of “intermarriage”. Many of Peter and Alex’s life adventures, colorfully captured in the book, highlight the ups and downs that come with a union consisting of the intertwining of different customs and “norms”.

There are comic yet moving tales of Peter’s encounters with Alex’s extended family (not to mention the outward social experiences of the Greek world) that resonate throughout this heart-warming book. Without coming across as condescending or naive, Peter Barber delivers sensitive and acute observations of his life in Greece with Greeks.

Looking back, after reading the book and seeing its “sunny” layout, I use a “sun” analogy to describe “A Parthenon on our roof.”

Some of his references sounded incredibly hilarious. Other themes (extending my “sun” analogy) seemed hidden behind clouds; triggering mixed emotions. These stemmed from identification with the couple’s adventures and ranged from a spectrum of joy to sadness, even to the point of being moved to tears.

The sun can be hard, pleasant, soft, annoying or desired. But it is necessary, and it is right.

Perhaps the sunlight, prompting popular allusions to the unique “Light of Greece”, accompanied and inspired the author’s moving reflections on his life with his Greek goddess Alex, in a country he love.