As a reader, I was lulled into Soulla Christodoulou’s beautiful, heartbreaking and triumphant novel “The Summer Will Come”, which gives the reader a look into the idyllic life on the tranquil island of Cyprus in the early 1950s. An average day for these islanders wasn’t much changed from what their ancestors’ lives had been like a hundred years earlier. There were some automobiles and a few other modern conveniences, but for the most part, life was simple and life was good.
Though most of the inhabitants from the two separate villages in the story were living one day to the next, with just enough to feed and clothe themselves, they knew down inside that they were happy and loved and part of a larger community that would take care of them. They felt inherently safe and fortunate to have these simple gifts.
This tranquil paradise feels the first waves of turbulence when British soldiers start making arrests of those they feel are a threat to the British Crown. Suddenly, neighbors are being held up as traitors and hauled away to prisons. Others are shot for proudly hanging the flag they love. Life on Cyprus will never be the same; those families who can flee to England are the lucky ones. “The Summer Will Come” tells their stories.
It is my sincere pleasure to share Soulla Christodoulou’s story behind the story:
Hello Cynthia! Thank you so much for inviting me to share my inspiration for “The Summer Will Come” with you and your readers.
The one thing about writing and getting older is I’ve come to appreciate the many enriching experiences in my life which have opened my eyes to new things about me, the people around me and the canvas which is our world.
The seed which influenced the story “The Summer Will Come” came from this realisation and somewhere deep within me.
I saw how uncomfortably the concept of death and the fragility of life had affected me when my mum, having suffered from an illness which lasted over three years finally overcame her ordeal and became well again. During those shared darkest moments, I starkly and painfully realised everything comes to an end and I began to question my life’s purpose. What legacy would I leave behind once I was gone? How would people remember me? What is this life all about?
My Greek Cypriot roots and my sense of wonder and inquisitiveness of what came before filled my heart and my mind. What was life like before I was born, why were my parents living in the UK, what experiences made my parents the people they are and ultimately have shaped me and the person I am today?
My pique didn’t stop there and I began asking my mum and dad more and more questions and looked for opportunities to talk to my aunts and uncles and many other people across my Greek Cypriot community here in London.
I listened in awe at their recollections, their tales of escape, of heartache, of leaving behind their loving homeland, their hopes and dreams as they and their parents came to a foreign land with hopes of building a better life for their families. It was these stories and accounts which provided the historical thread and plot twists and turns in “The Summer Will Come”.
In addition, I undertook hours of secondary research. I ploughed through many books, internet sites, photographs, and images. I visited The National Struggle Museum in Nicosia, Cyprus and my pages and pages of notes began to unravel into a story idea.
I have been privileged too in that I have connected with an incredible woman and her family, now living in South Africa, through my Instagram account. It is through her father’s possession of a journal and notes and maps that I gained insight to not only their personal memories, thoughts and emotions and but to those of an EOKA hero. The woman’s father is the brother of the hero Evagoras Pallikarides, whose poem inspired the title of my novel. He was an EOKA recruit, a poet and was honoured as a hero of Cyprus’ 1950s history when he was hanged at the age of nineteen.
One key element ran through all my research and repeated itself again and again; it was determination, resilience, love and passion for traditions and culture that kept people going through their adversity and hardships. One reader commented, “Have you ever wondered what immigrants made of London in that period, coming from beautiful towns and villages to this smog ridden and dirty massive metropolis, but nothing is exaggerated here, our heroes suffer culture shock, family tribulations, but they also find new positives in the new life.”
The story revolves around two families, both Greek Cypriot living in different villages in Cyprus, one a small mountain village and another a coastal village in the south of the island. It is 1953; the year of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and the start of what becomes a momentous period in the island’s history; a time of turmoil, political conflict and slaughter of innocent people in the name of Enosis (unity with Greece) and freedom from British rule.
The reader is carried through their trials and the final push which forces them to leave their life, the only life they have ever known, to move to London, England. This is primarily a fiction novel set against some of the key moments in the history of Cyprus in the 1950s. It is a book of hope, new dreams, hardship, determination and overcoming adversity at a time when England too was going through lots of changes. Another reader has commented, “This is a heartfelt, tender story about how history has the power to shape the human experience and how world events can affect the most ordinary of lives. It’s about family, loyalty and having the strength and courage to start a new life, far removed from what you know.”
I wrote the novel as a multi-point of view story – a mother and daughter from one family and a father and son from the other family. Elena, the daughter and Christaki, the son are the key main characters in the story. This helps to explore how the story events and situations are perceived by different generations and both female and male voice which allows the reader to get a more rounded experience of all that happens.
I have visited Cyprus many times over, both as a teenager and an adult, and I use the sights and smells of village life as I remember them and as divulged to me through my research, to draw the reader into the setting.
Publishing this book has brought something very special to the book shelves of all those readers interested in Greek Cypriot life and traditions and 1950s Cypriot and British history. Readers have enjoyed strong characters, a well-paced plot with realistic and amazing storytelling. Many readers have cried, laughed and rejoiced with the characters in “The Summer Will Come”. One book blogger commented, “‘The Summer Will Come’ is quite the emotional book to read and I found myself getting very involved in these lives and missing the characters after I had finished reading.”
I hope my future readers do too! Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog Cynthia. It’s been my absolute pleasure.
Where to find Soulla: