Recently published by Jonathan Cape, I'm not too sure how I came by this copy of The Birthday Party by Panos Karnezis but I'm really grateful that I did because having started to read it I just had to finish it.
The plot sounds bizarre, an ageing Greek shipping tycoon and his over-indulged and problematic daughter who has a birthday coming up.Marco Timoleon plans a party for her on his private island and, having discovered that daughter Sofia is also pregnant, he invites his personal physician along to the celebrations and sets up a private operating theatre in the house so that she can have a termination.
That's a kind thought isn't it?
But Panos Karnezis then controls his material well as he seamlessly moves between past and present to bring you the back story on a man with a very chequered past.Full of his own importance and treading on whoever he needed to along the way, Marco has risen from humble beginnings to a position of immeasurable wealth
"In the end, his success came not from the stars but from his ingenuity, his talent for challenging tradition and his messianic powers of persuasion"
A life built on falsehood, imitation and fakery,
"All his life Marco Timoleon liked to confuse friends, associates and strangers who thought they knew him or what to expect from him"
and everyone jumps to his command, except his daughter who sort of hops around it all trying to be defiant but quite enjoying the benefits of a filthy rich father.
Little imagination needed to make the leap to real life characters, I can only name one Greek shipping tycoon.
It is Marco's biographer who starts to make some inroads on the reader's behalf as he "peeled off the layers of deception slowly, one by one"
Sympathies extracted kicking and screaming from this reader who grudgingly felt sorry in the end for this deeply religious yet spiritually impoverished and lonely man left sitting in his Biblical arboretum (every genus of tree mentioned in the Bible) as his grip on life starts to wane.
Drat, I wanted to hate him right up until the final page but I just couldn't do it in the end, life's too full of angst without expending energy hating a fictional character in a book, so thanks to Panos Karenzis for sparing me that.
A good read and one that I think will do even better when it gets into paperback.
Meanwhile as we're on the subject of Greeks and Jonathan Cape, it's not long until they publish God's Behaving Badly by Marie Philips.I'll be posting about this nearer the time because I read it as one of the novels for last year's Long Barn First Novel Prize. Although it was wrong for Long Barn, in the interim it has proved very right for Jonathan Cape and it will be brilliant to see it on the shelves in gargantuan quantities at last. Check out Marie's now less aptly named blog, Struggling Author for updates and news of her website.This book will be worth every penny of a hardback purchase.If you can't run to that no worries, just start nagging your library now, you will laugh until you drop when you read it.