The book begins with the warning “Never meet your heroes”, since they have a tendency to turn out rather disappointing in real life, and initially that definitely seems to be the case for the narrator of this book. He has travelled to Greece to meet his idol, the Greek author Irakles Bastounis. Bastounis is an era-defining author who has brushed shoulders with many others and been married to Miss Venezuela, amongst other wives. Not surprisingly our young man, whose name we never learn, is daunted when his dream actually comes true and so he fluffs up his initial meeting with the literary giant. However, he gets a second chance when Bastounis commands, not asks, him to drive him somewhere. This one somewhere becomes many as the two form an unlikely partnership as they travel through Greece together to places with significance in Greek mythology. “Myths are our roots,” according to Bastounis.
Another quote from the book is “Acclaim is a dangerous currency”, but I hope the author won’t mind if I acclaim his work. It’s compulsive reading and is rich and multi-layered. Throughout this excellent story are references to the twelve labours of Heracles (Hercules). Bastounis and his chauffeur share the same physical journey but embark on separate spiritual journeys, both facing their own labours – challenges they need to tackle. It’s probably our narrator who gets the most out of them, but Bastounis isn’t far behind. They learn more about each other too, and initially what the young man learns about his companion isn’t flattering. Opinionated, rude, privacy-invading, outspoken – other than an amazing way with words Bastounis doesn’t seem to have much going for him. However, perhaps this is another one of our young man’s challenges: to see beneath the surface, to see what’s really there in front of you.
As we and Bastounis discover, our narrator isn’t as insipid as he might first appear. He’s witty, wry, very observant and while it’s true he has a lot to learn, he’s definitely the man for this job as he’s receptive to all that Greece and Basounis have to offer him. He realises neither family nor friends will appreciate the enormity of what he’s going through with his irascible companion. They just think he’s wasting his time bumming around in Greece but he’s aware that it’s them living the vacuous, shallow lives.
This book gives you much to think about. Who actually is the real hero here, the Heracles? Our narrator or Bastounis? And who’s Cerberus? Cerberus was the three-headed Hound of Hades. It was his job to stop the dead escaping from the underworld. So if he’s collared, that means presumably that these lost souls can break free. They can live again. Does collaring our young man to act as his chauffeur allow Bastounis a last chance to make his mark, or by befriending and de-clawing Bastounis is it our narrator who can run from the shadows into the light?
As well as such fascinating teasing, there are wonderful, vibrant characters and vivid settings in the book that captivate. You’ll find the sights and soul of Greece within these pages. A marvellous novel.
(Published by Thistle Publishing, available from Amazon stores.)