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by Margarita Karapanou
Translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich
Reviewed by Akeela Gaibie-Dawood

Is there any word more ambiguous than "love", asks the much-loved Greek author, Margarita Karapanou. Three characters declare their undying love for the object of their affection and proceed to play out their passion in the most bizarre and, sometimes, disturbing ways.

Louise marries Alkis, a dazzlingly handsome man with icy eyes and an aggressive but sophisticated manner. What follows from inception is a nightmare of humiliation and betrayal that she finds repulsive and strangely attractive. Too soon, the story ends. And Karapanou tells the story again, from a different perspective.

Again Louise is the narrator. This time she perpetrates untold pain and horror on her doting husband. He pines for her love and waits at home for her attention while she's away with her lesbian friend, Vanessa, wandering through Venice and the States in a bid to drive him to despair, and to still the boredom, anger and emptiness she feels.

Louise is a bag of contradictions. She claims that she loves Alkis but is "deeply happy" when he's away. Then there are the moments when she yearns for him. She adores children and delights in the joy she finds in them. Yet, more than anything, she wants to deny Alkis the bliss of having a child.

Karapanou explores the ulterior motives in relationships, and the limits to which lovers push their partners. Both stories reach a point of rien ne va plus, the point in roulette, when the wheel is spinning and the ball is endlessly flying around before settling into a numbered slot, and there is nothing anyone can do to affect the outcome. The choice has been made and there is nothing to do in those nail-biting seconds but to wait, and hope.

The book moves skilfully between a host of distinct opposing notions like angels and demons, truth and lies, love and hatred, and master and slave, as Karapanou explores the big questions of love, and life. Add to the mix the depth of the characters' love for their cats, and dogs, and the story becomes more interesting.

This is the first translation into English by the distinguished author, who died just before the publication of this volume. Karapanou is adept at her skill. She reels one in with her stories and as the tale unravels one begins to understand the motivations of the characters, or perhaps not, because soon the distinction between the truth and deception blurs again...

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