An Incredible New Voice

I have just finished reading Natalie Bakopoulos’ astonishing first novel, The Green Shore. It’s really a remarkable debut — and is an incredibly beautiful book, as well — with a deckle edge and a lovely jacket designed by Gabrielle Wilson at Simon & Schuster. The story’s bones are the 1967 military coup in Greece, and the way that this coup serves as a pressure of antagonism in the lives of a skein of characters.

What this book does so well is what the best historical fiction does: It takes a moment in history — departed, lost — and gives it a feeling of presentness, of life that’s identical to our own. It’s a mirror, then, that allows us to see our present moment, with its various crises, as it might be imagined in another time.

Here are all the joys of life, and its larger sufferings. In one particularly harrowing scene, a political detainee reflects on the process of his arrest: “Mihalis stared at the light on the ceiling. His hand burned, but he’d detached himself from the pain. Inside his chest he felt fire and when, once more, they told him to be quiet, he stood up, raising his arms as he sang.” This moment¬†reminded me of the images from Cairo this past year — where song and revolution were so irrevocably intertwined.

I wrote a piece for Salon about the Percys — Benjamin and Jennifer — a brother-sister team of young writers, both of whom have an abundance of talent. Now, beside them, we have another brother-sister combo: Natalie and Dean Bakopolous (one of my favorite fiction writers). What did these parents do to create such incredible storytellers?

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