Helena: an Odyssey is an absorbing saga of myth and obsession, of a family haunted by their illustrious Byzantine past and a compulsion to redeem it. Bittersweet love stories are set against wars and forced population exchanges, ethnic confusion, and immigrant struggles. Woven throughout lies the power and symbolism of hair.
Helena’s daughter Georgia, narrating the tale, begins in 1908 when her great grandparent, the Greek Yiannis Kouvalis, and two sons set out on an epic journey from a poor Turkish village to glittering Smyrna on the Aegean Coast. Eventually succeeding as prosperous merchants, the sons marry and have children.
But the Young Turks are rising, and the ensuing Greco-Turkish wars culminate in the fiery destruction of Smyrna. Ethnic cleansing follows. Surviving remnants of the Kouvalis family are reduced once more to poverty and forced into what, to them, is an alien Greece.
The burden of redemption passes down the generations and falls, finally, on the unlikely Helena who longs only to create beautiful hair and through it, achieve international fame. But she is distracted by her intense love for local boy Stephan. Thwarted in her attempts to follow him when he leaves for the coal mines of Australia, she travels instead to her sister in Toronto. It is here where her real heartaches begin.
5-star Amazon review:
“It is a historical novel with a brave, broad and epic sweep across centuries and events, human strivings and triumphs, disillusion and disappointments, marriages, births, old age and death; and one historical apocalyptic disaster, carefully researched and vividly depicted.“