A Good Year

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Pub Date 01 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 01 Apr 2022

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Rural Cyprus, 1925. Despo is recently married, heavily pregnant and deeply afraid. The twelve days of Christmas are beginning – the time when, according to local folklore, creatures known as kalikantzari come up from Hell to wreak havoc. Meanwhile, her husband Loukas has troubles of his own. Struggling with dreams and desires he doesn’t understand, he finds himself irresistibly drawn to an Englishman, a newcomer to the island. In a village wreathed in superstition, Despo and Loukas must protect themselves and their unborn child from ominous forces at play.

Rural Cyprus, 1925. Despo is recently married, heavily pregnant and deeply afraid. The twelve days of Christmas are beginning – the time when, according to local folklore, creatures known as...

Advance Praise

‘With beautifully paced, rich prose, Loizou conjures the heady sights, sounds and smells of Cyprus, while exposing the horror that resides in her superstitions and traditions.’ – Lucie McKnight Hardy, author of Water Shall Refuse Them

‘A story of illicit passion wrapped in a Cypriot folk tale, A Good Year is spellbinding from start to finish, and confirms Polis Loizou as one of our boldest young writers. Evocative and resonant beyond its final page.’ – Dan Coxon, author of Only The Broken Remain and editor of This Dreaming Isle

‘A Good Year is an intense and harrowing folk-horror novella, set in the wilds of rural Cyprus—a beautifully crafted meditation on the light and shade of the human psyche, twisted out of shape by isolation, religious dogma and tradition. Loizou explores one of the darkest of human fears—that of being ourselves. This tale is full of gargoyles and grotesques and is written in an addictively stylish prose that remains in the mind long after reading the last sentence. The power of Loizou’s ornate storytelling in this third book should not be underestimated; he’s only just getting started.’ – Justin David, author of The Pharmacist

‘With beautifully paced, rich prose, Loizou conjures the heady sights, sounds and smells of Cyprus, while exposing the horror that resides in her superstitions and traditions.’ – Lucie McKnight...

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ISBN 9781914148057
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Featured Reviews

A Good Year was a quick but intense and interesting read that blended emotional drama with gothic folktale. It's one of those stories where it will be up to the individual reader to decide if the folklore aspects are 'real' or an elaborate metaphor. I personally viewed it as the latter, and interpreted the book as such. Essentially, this is a story of secrets threatening to bubble over in a small, rural community still steeped in the old ways as the modern world tries to seep in. Despite the short length of the piece, both Despo and Loukas came across as well-drawn characters with emotional depth, and the narration held my interest from start to finish. Well worth a read if you are looking for a darker drama with a folkloric twist that you can read in a single sitting.

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I really enjoyed A Good Year by Polis Loizou. I went into the book with absolutely no expectations, and discovered an interesting piece of writing that charmed the heck out of me. Set over the course of the twelve days of Christmas in a small town in Cyprus in 1925, this story of a woman and her husband facing fear, desire, and mystery managed to be enchanting, claustrophobic, and powerful.

The superstitions and folklore of the townfolk inform the story and create a feeling of heightened reality. Despo and Loukas, husband and wife and parents to an unborn child, both deal with isolation and secret fears as the days pass and Despo comes closer to giving birth.

I really loved this book.

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Fantastic book.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the chance to read a digital arc in exchange for my feedback.

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‘A Good Year’ was a fantastic read! It has a great concept, with different story threads coming together to make a really beautiful book. It was tense, emotional and captures the different journeys of the characters, really well. Loizou’s future work will definitely be added to my TBR!

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Well written account of a interbellum man struggling with his sexuality and his pregnant wife’s struggle with a loveless marriage. Set in Cyprus, magical thinking and folklore play a major part
Was she crying for him, for fear for his welfare, or was she crying for herself, the idiot, for the loss of something she’d never had?

Unhappy Loukas and pregnant Despo (Despina) form the backbone of this novella. Set in 1920's Cyprus over the 12 days of Christmas leading up to Epiphany, we get to know them, and the village life that keeps a strict surveillance on them.
Food and rituals, family and religion play a major part.
Also the fear of children dying (and polio), folktales and superstition being real is something prominent in A Good Year.

Kalikantzaro, supernatural forest dwellers with benevolent intent, form a central plot element. If they are real or just figments of imagination from island dwellers long under the rule of others is left open.
The British (Looks like the English have souls, too) are mentioned as having recruited Cypriot farmers for the First World War. William and his wife, English folk living in a fruit orchard nearby, are seen as fabulously wealthy to the main characters.

Loukas and William whirl around each other in the woods, making the relationship to pregnant Despo fraught with tension: With company gone, the house was filled with the silence of their marriage.
The characters are rendered in a believable way, and the conclusion is open ended. I really liked this book, it reminded me in stillness and shortness a bit to the recently published Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, and I'll definitely want to check out more of the writing by Polis Loizou.

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An enchanting novella about how folklore and religion can fuel fear and uncertainty during our most vulnerable moments. A Good Year is set during the twelve days after Christmas where a heavily pregnant Despo is riddled with nightmares, sleepless nights and visions of creatures from folkloric stories her father would tell her as a child. During this her husband, Loukas, is haunted by desires for the foreign newcomer who has enchanted his spirit and unveiled a deep longing he has forever tried to keep hidden. As the two battle against the fears instilled by religion and folklore, they are torn apart and unable to reach one and other to ensure the safety of their unborn child.

A hauntingly beautiful story which is filled with magic, tension and mystery. Polis Loizou create, in only 150 pages, a mystifying world where superstition prevails against reality. Terrifyingly he touches on a shared experience among all of us, no matter our age, gender or culture, which is the stories of our childhoods.

Set in 1925 in Cyprus, Loizou introduced us to the Kalikantzari, a goblin like creature which come up from hell during the twelve days after Christmas. These evil mythical beings lurk in the deep darkness of the wintery nights and act as cautionary tale for the children of the village. With Despo’s baby on the way, she fears that he may be born during those twelve days and may become a victim of one of the folklore.

The poetic prose and beautiful visuals juxtaposed with the grotesque creatures and heartbreaking reality allows us to bounce between the key ideas of the book. Love and fear in all their forms. A Good Year is a suspenseful story which offers a warm sadness beneath its magic and terror, and in the end softens it’s gaze as the twelve days pass and sunshine prevails.

Thank you to Fairlight Books for allowing me to read and review an arc of this beautiful book.

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DRC provided by Fairlight Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Representation: Cypriote protagonist, gay Cypriote protagonist, queer white English secondary character, Cypriote secondary and tertiary characters, Armenian tertiary character, Turkish tertiary character.

Content Warning: death, anxiety, violence, toxic masculinity, sexism, xenophobia, internalised homophobia, alcohol.

A Good Year by Polis Loizou is an intriguing historical novella tinged with Cyprian folkloristic tales and horror-ish vibes set in a post-World War I Cyprus, in the span of twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany, centring the questioning Loukas and his expecting wife Despo.
It is very fitting that the word “good” is in the title because this novella is so, so, so good! The word is there for other reasons, but still, so, so good!

I love reading new-to-me authors and savour their writing and Polis Loizou is no exception. He is not new to me as in I have never heard of him because I was already aware of his past works, but I had not yet had the chance to experience his writing style. His writing transports you to another time and a completely different place effortlessly as if you were astral projecting and watching the events happen before your own eyes. He crafted such a tense atmosphere and an emotional tale which captivated me from start to finish. I loved reading about Cyprus and some of its folklore, Despo’s journey to childbirth and Loukas’ internal turmoil.

A Good Year by Polis Loizou was definitely an intriguing reading experience. One which makes me excited about what he has in store for us next and the works he already gifted us.

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