This memoir/travel book is a slight but rollicking account of two love affairs; the first being an account of the writer’s happy marriage with his wife, Yvonne-Marie. The second is of their decades-long flirtation with the country of Greece, where her family originated. The first began as extremely circumspect flirtations, but ripened into courtship and finally commitment. And so did the second, but it just took slightly longer; about thirty years of family visits and treasured vacations in the Greek Islands before circumstances allowed John and Yvonne-Marie to pack up all their remaining worldly goods into a battered second/third/fourth hand Mitsubishi L300 van. They drove the trusty, rusty van across Europe, intending to take up residence in a partly finished duplex on the island of Rhodes, and thereby hangs the rest of this tale.

Most of “Feta Compli” is an episodic account, much tinged with nostalgia of how they got to that point. John was seduced by the eccentric and beguiling charms of Greece as he encountered them; erratic infrastructure, incomprehensible official authority, eccentric local characters, non-existent road signage, totally insane drivers and all. Many such local peculiarities drive long-term visitors or residents in Greece beyond the far edge of exasperation, but those who have come to love Greece madly and irrationally have a way being indulgent about such shortcomings.

To someone in love with a country, the shortcomings are small things, insignificant against those pure moments of pleasure in a marvelous view, a splendid evening at a taverna with friends, a day at a perfect beach, or an orange grove in bloom, and ancient stone-built villages baking in the sun, under a pure blue sky. Mr. Manuel writes vividly of these perfect moments; anyone who has visited Greece for long has similar mental souvenirs. These episodes are interspersed with accounts of misadventures with suspiciously decrepit rental vehicles, strangely scheduled inter-island ferries, erratic electrical service and hungry goats. He writes in a wry, self-deprecating style that is very engaging, although I would have liked to have heard rather less of how recent developments in mass tourism had spoiled Greece, and rather more about the challenges of finishing the house on Rhodes, and living there as a full-time resident.

The author does hint that another volume will deal with exactly that, which is to be eagerly anticipated. On the strength of this prelude, it will be like a mad combination of “A Year in Provence” and “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse”… set in Greece The only thing needed to make it perfect, would be to include a couple of recipes.

Feta Compli is available from www.lulu.com

A reminiscence of my own, about living in Athens, here and here.

Sgt. Mom is a freelance writer who lives in San Antonio and blogs at “The Daily Brief”. More about her own book projects is at www.celiahayes.com

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