Before Cartes Postales from Greece I had only read one Victoria Hislop novel. Crete has always been a special place for me. As someone who has always felt out of place easily, it’s one of the few places I have felt at home. Reading The Island brought to life a part of it’s history, something more recent than the Minoan temple of Knossos or the Venetian fortifications still evident at Spinalonga. It was vivid, immersive and I hoped Cartes Postales from Greece would hold me in the same way that The Island had, and was disappointed when it didn’t.
Cartes Postales from Greece is not quite a novel or a short story collection, and so it sits somewhere awkwardly between the two. Ellie, a young women living in a dreary basement flat receives postcards from Greece intended for the previous inhabitant. Instead of throwing them away she keeps them, becoming more and more enraptured by the picture perfect places that make the city and her life seem dull. Chasing the feelings the postcards give her, she decides to set off to Greece and visit the locations depicted. On her way to the airport a package is delivered from the mysterious sender. It is a notebook, a diary, filled with his experiences on the road throughout the Mediterranean country and the stories of the people he encounters.
It is these stories that take up the majority of the book. Ellie fades into the background as the sender, known only as ‘A’ writes entries in his diary and then relates the story of someone he happens to meet on his travels. There is no flow, ‘A’s entries feel like introductions to each story, rather than a narrative in their own right. It felt formulaic. One or two stories held my interest but the rest were bleak and made me question why ‘A’ would chose to stay in a country that seemed devoid of hope.
When Ellie returns at the end of the book and decides to track down ‘A’ it takes her hardly any time at all to find him, and her decision to stay in Greece seems sudden when the reader spent little time with her in the country.
The pictures that accompany the stories are beautiful it seems as if that the stories were based around them and perhaps that is why they feel so forced.