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Return to the Aegean by Emma Russell-Review

Here is another great first novel set on Paros by one of the island's ex-patriot, art colony daughters, Emma Russell.  Available in digital and hard-copy. Google:

 Return to the Aegean E.J.

Return to the Aegean E.J.

The heart of a "return" story is homecoming. The story's hero leaves his or her home driven by inner, or outer demons of circumstance. An eternity later, by virtue of his, or her trials and tribulations in the outside world, our character returns home to set things right.

In Return to the Aegean, Emma Russell's heroine, Thalia returns to the Greek island where she was raised by expatriate parents. Island life is an idyllic existence of diving and dancing and home-schooling. But late in her youth, Eden loses its glamour after the deaths of both her brother and mother, under inexplicable circumstances. It is a turning point in the young Thalia's life that drives her away from the place of her childhood.

Ten years later, she appears again on the island as an accomplished young woman who, in the outside world, has made a name for herself as a professional diver and treasure salvager.

The island itself has changed little in her absence. Thalia's ten years abroad seem only gone a day, once she reaches the island. It has changed little, and the flood of familiar sights, sounds and smells, at first, send Thalia as near giddy as she gets. Gradually, however, things get real. Thalia discovers that her B.F.F. still bears a wound from her abrupt exit, what seems so long before. Thalia struggles to repair damaged friendships, and rediscover forgotten loves. All the while, she is applying her decade of outside experience to sleuth out what looks more and more like a conspiracy of silence among the good islanders, both friends and officials. Though the bloom threatens to go off her island bud again, Thalia is determined to penetrate mystery of her mother's and brother's deaths. But at what cost…?

Emma Russell is another of the ex-pat progeny from the Paros art colony of the Seventies. Her childhood, growing up there, in those times, has endowed her with bottom-up insights into island life, both Greek and ex-patriot. Yet Russell's insights are by no means through rose colored glasses. In one, wise-beyond-her-years, instance Thalia reflects on the type of gormless romantics who come to the Greek islands determined to share the life of simple villagers, farmers, and fishermen; "and two years later (end up) a complete alcoholic, and has a nervous breakdown…."

"Return" is a first novel, and has the quirks of one; yet the picturesque setting; the adventures of homecoming; and a mystery that unfolds to a shocking revelation, makes the story compelling. Emma Russell is a story-teller to keep an eye on.

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