Polly Samson

    A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson (Books 2022, 13)

    Greece is probably the best place to read this novel, which is good, because that was where I was when I read it. It’s a work of fiction mostly set on the real island of Hydra during 1960-61. There was a famous community of anglophone expats there at the time, one of whom was Marianne Ihlen. They were notably joined by Leonard Cohen.

    The first-person narrator is fictional, but nearly every other character is real. It’s an unusual approach for a contemporary novel, though perhaps not for historical fiction. Which, at sixty years distance, you could consider this. Some of the people are still alive, though, which is probably what makes it feel a bit odd.

    Not Leonard or Marianne, though. The books starts with the narrator visiting Cohen’s old house on the morning after his death was announced. Which — and I had forgotten this — was just after Trump got elected. Everything else is flashback.

    It’s very good. Captures the feeling of a Greek island summer, the listlessness of the young drifters, and the bitterness of the older writers who still struggle for success.