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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Resistance And Romance - Cyprus In The Nineteen Fifties

Swimming to Ithaca - Simon Mawer

Set in Cyprus against the backdrop of the struggle between the British colonial authority and EOKA, the Cypriot independence movement, Swimming To Ithaca is the story of Deirdre (Dee) Denham, the wife of a British officer, as pieced together after her death from fragments of evidence and disjointed memories by her son, Thomas, a history lecturer in a modern university.


Never entirely at home in her role as officer's wife, Dee is seduced by the hidden life of Cyprus and begins an affair with a young Cypriot taxi-driver who also turns out to be involved in the resistance movement.  It's a situation that can only end badly, and it does.


Thomas is never sure of the whole story and he follows the  trail of his mother's former acquaintances, asking questions and getting half-answers. At the same time, he is conducting an equally doomed and unprofessional relationship with one of his students.


The evocation of Cyprus in the nineteen fifties is well-done and the plot unravels cleverly, with a nice twist saved for the end. However, I did not find any of the characters easy to empathize with and Thomas, in particular, irritated me. Moreover, as with Mawer's The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, I found the treatment of sex a bit obsessive and uncomfortable. Mawer is an interesting and skilful writer but I never quite warm to him.