Taverna by the Sea is an account by Jennifer Barclay of her summer spent working in a taverna on Karpathos and a welcome new book of Greek travel writing.
Taverna by the Sea is the latest of Jennifer Barclay’s books about her life in Greece. We reviewed her previous one, Wild Abandon, which was an evocative account of her visits to abandoned places around the Dodecanese. Her first two books, Falling in Honey and An Octopus in my Ouzo, tell of how she came to live on the island of Tilos, while still managing to run her career in publishing remotely.
Taverna by the Sea adds a new twist to the author’s adventures in Greece – and a new book for fans of Greek travel writing (like us) to enjoy. If you can’t be in Greece you may as well be reading about it.
If you’ve read Wild Abandon you’ll know that the author developed a great love for the island of Karpathos. In Taverna by the Sea she’s offered the chance to work for the summer at a taverna on Karpathos. It’s located on a beach near Olympos, and the author also helps look after a few rooms to rent up in the town. It's an opportunity she finds too good to resist. She's certainly a person who enjoys seizing the moment, and having new experiences.
The book is a fascinating account of what it takes to build up and run a taverna in a remote location. How do you keep it stocked? How do you anticipate demand? How do you handle it when a rival taverna opens up and adopts underhand tactics? How do you find staff? How do you deal with staff relations? What happens when the kitchen roof falls in?
At the same time, Jennifer Barclay is still running her career in publishing, as an editor and as a literary agent. Fortunately the taverna seems to have a good internet connection, and the author manages to juggle all her responsibilities while sleeping in a tent on the beach, or working at the back of the taverna during quiet periods.
Another interesting aspect of the book is how the author gets on with the taverna’s owner, Minas, who is so typically Greek. He’s full of wild enthusiasms one minute, and then immediately forgets them and falls asleep on a bench after too much wine. He loves cooking and coming up with new dishes, and gathering wild herbs to use in them, but then will get moody and the author doesn’t know what he’s going to do next.
The author is very observant, of both people and places, and captures those observations in a writing style that is very simple and straightforward yet full of fine detail that brings everything to life. I enjoyed her accounts of her trips up into the town, and her encounters there with the locals, as well as the descriptions of the taverna’s customers.
No spoilers, but the ending to the story surprised me, as I’m sure it will surprise other people… and certainly made me want a follow-up to the excellent Taverna by the Sea.