Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
RAINEY-SMITH NOVEL SHINES NEW LIGHT ON LOST GREEK GIRLS
Daughters of Messene Maggie Rainey-Smith, Makaro Press
When almost 300 unmarried Greek women arrived in
Wellington in the early 1960s, the established Greek community feared the
scandal that might follow. Instead the women settled into life here and the
event has largely been forgotten. Inspired by this migration, Maggie
Rainey-Smith’s powerful third novel Daughters of Messene, explores the
complex interweaving of family and political events that caused oneyoung woman to
flee Greece after the Civil War, and half a century later motivated her
daughter to return.
Wellington writer Rainey-Smith’s idea for Daughters
of Messene started with a friendship with her neighbour Maria, one of the original
‘Greek girls’ to settle here.
“My father was in Greece during the Second World
War and was captured on Crete, spending four years as a prisoner of war in
Poland,” saysRainey-Smith. “As a result,
he was awarded a medal and certificate by the Greek Government in the 1980s. My
neighbour at the time was Greek, and she helped me to apply to the Greek
government on behalf of my dad.”
“We became good friends and I discovered that she had
immigrated from Kalamata in Greece as part of a deal done between our two
countries. The girls all had to be under thirty, unmarried, and they came to
work in the hospitality industry. I became fascinated by their stories.”
Maggie’s two previous novels About Turns and Turbulence
(Random House) are set in NewZealand, but research for her third novel –
published by Wellington’s Mākaro Press working in collaboration with
Whitireia publishing students – took her to Greece for three months in 2007.
Although the trip wasn’t quite what she had expected.
“I spent most
of my time in Kalamata searching for stories, but found that people were
reluctantto speak of the Civil War. In desperation I caught a bus to the Mani
and ended up staying ten days in picturesque Kardymili, where I had the great
good fortune to meet eminent travel writer Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor. It seemed
like a blessing on the story, and so I persevered with working through the
secret and sometimes shocking stories of what was a terrible time for
The book has taken seven years to write,
and has been released as part of NZ Book Week this week.
Daughters of Messene has been described by Owen Marshall as “A strong, fresh novel, dense with closely observed and
convincing detail of life in Greece and aspects of its history.”
Greek-NZ poet Vana Manasiadis
says, “In many ways Daughters of Messene is a tender love poem dedicated
to a place and its people, to the profound bonds of blood, and the legacies
such bonds leave us. The tale is both touching and vivid, the unfolding
masterful, and the novel's heroines, spirited, huge-hearted and tough (in the
very best sense).”
Daughters of Messene will be officially launched by Dame
Fiona Kidman – who has Greek connections through her son – on 23 November.
Available now at all good bookstores.- ISBN 978-0-9941172-6-7 • RRP $35 - Makaro Press