A delightful novel that brings out the excitement and depth of the creative process.
The Water and the Wine is a treat for the lovers of Greece and the 1960s. It tells the story of a group of young musicians, actors and artists who live on the Greek island Hydra. Tamar Hodes tells the fictionalised version of real-life characters like George Johnston, Charmian Clift, Leonard Cohen and his muse Marianne. As they join this creative community, it’s soon revealed that relationships are sometimes complex and loving someone isn’t always enough. However, it makes things easier to know they aren’t alone in their struggles. As excitement builds up in the Greek island, a military regime takes over and the artistic haven is put at risk.
Hodes has a lyrical style of writing, brought together with the rich and detailed descriptions of the setting. As the story rolls in a slow pace, the reader is taken on a trip through the island, observing the daily lives of its inhabitants, almost tasting the typical gastronomical flavours and feeling the sea breeze and the sun on their skin. It’s easy for the reader to feel the admiration the author feels for this island. The artistic references make music come out of the pages and it gives colour to the story and the characters. The author creates the perfect landscape painting with her words. At the same time, the author manages to make the reader fall in love with the characters from the very beginning of the novel, both the real and the fictional. They are so well blended together that it’s hard to distinguish them. The characters are explored in depth, details of each relationship laid bare to the reader to dive deep into, allowing a deeper connection with each couple. As the reader gets to know them, it slowly becomes clear that these people are a piece of the puzzle that in the end comes together perfectly, leaving no detail loose.
The author approaches a number of themes in this novel, the main one being the creative process and its consequences on the personal and social life of the creators. Can an artist, a writer or a musician find the perfect balance between their creative process and their family life? Do they have chosen one over the other? These are questions Hodes raises in this novel and answers them through an in-depth analysis. Secondary characters are also relevant to the story. People that are usually unseen in novels, like cooks and chambermaids, take a step forward in the plot. Hodes brings them to the front stage describing perfectly how their small actions have a meaningful impact on the victories of the main characters.
Another theme identified in this novel is the continuous advantage that men have over women. Considering the time the plot takes place, it’s not shocking but it’s clear that male creatives are given more freedom and space to emerge themselves in their creative process than women creatives. As characters like Charmian and Frieda come very close to the description of “modern women”, they still don’t manage to achieve their full potential due to their family lives.
This 250-page novel is a thought-provoking narrative that goes into the creative mindset. It’s an unforgettable work with just the right length to make this story intense, fun and filled with life lessons.
It’s a read that deserves recommendation.