Review Blog

May 06 2016

The first third by Will Kostakis

cover image

Penguin, 2013. ISBN 9780143568179
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Greek Australia, Immigrants, Humour, Relationships, Food, Homosexuality. Bill's Greek grandmother is a larger than life figure, prominent in the day to day routines of their lives, and he recounts her entanglement with an excruciatingly real and very funny eye for detail. One of three brothers with a single mother, Bill goes with Yiayia to church on Easter Sunday, part of the Greek tradition which neither of his brothers observe. Here he has arranged to meet a girl he first saw twelve months ago and they race off to a prearranged date. But returning to church they find that Yiayia has fainted and so Bill must go to hospital with her, trying desperately to phone for help but knowing that mum is at a speed date evening. Yiayia pushes dome money into his hand and tells him to go to an address in Melbourne and taking Sticks along for company, he finds it is the house of someone he has not seen for a long while, his father. They flee.
Back in Sydney the two find solace in a pub where it becomes obvious to the reader that Sticks has hooked up with another man, but when he realises that Sticks is disabled, the link evaporates. At their next meeting Yiayia gives Bill a list of things she wants done. At first he is dumbfounded, but with the help of his friends finds that this is a bucket list, things Yiatia wants done before she dies. Yiayia's bucket list is not your usual bucket lists of flying off somewhere or eating at a top restaurant, Yiayia's bucket list is all about family.
The reader is always made aware of the importance Greeks place on family, and Yiayia's quest to make her family happy once more is tantamount to all the action that follows. She wants her grandsons to see their father again and have relationships that make them happy, her daughter to remarry and find happiness, and her bucket list tells Bill what he must do for her.
This is a wonderful story of family and tradition, of the Greek culture that is so much a part of the Melbourne scene, of multiculturalism and diversity. Humour underlines much of the action, as Bill finds ways to satisfy all that his beloved Grandmother wants to achieve and along the way that includes himself and his friend, Sticks.
I loved this book, and Kostakis displays Yiayia with all her eccentricities so endearingly, with such love and humour that all readers will feel wrapped in the warmth of the family life that she so values.
Fran Knight

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