Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Richard reviews: Dying Phoenix by Loretta Proctor

The author, has kindly agreed to gift a signed paperback copy of her book to each of two lucky winners. If you would like the chance to win a copy, please leave a comment below. The Winner will be drawn on 20th October!

Dying Phoenix, by Loretta Proctor, opened a window for me on a slice of modern history I knew almost nothing about - Greece, in the months surrounding the generals' coup of 1967. In recent months, Greece has once again been forefront in international news, and although the main issues today are economic rather than political, I came to understand something of the passion that fuels debate there.

A Greek army tank on the streets of Athens following the Junta coup; 21 April, 1967
A Greek army tank on the streets of Athens following the Junta coup; 21 April, 1967

There's a lot of background that needs to be conveyed to the reader, and this is done largely through dialogue. Many different points of view are portrayed here. Indeed, there is a whole spectrum from those who supported the right wing army position, right through to those who were implacably hostile to it. Although the opinions of the central characters are clear, the author presents the diverse range of opinions credibly and sympathetically.

I discovered before long that Dying Phoenix follows on from a previous book, The Long Shadow. Broadly speaking, this second story follows the fortunes of the generation living in the legacy of the first. I am sure that familiarity with that earlier book would give extra depth to some of the characters, especially the older ones. However, the two works are self-contained, and this one can be thoroughly enjoyed in its own right.

A Junta poster depicting their emblem and the date of the coup: 21 April, 1967
A Junta poster depicting their emblem and the date of the coup: 21 April, 1967

Dying Phoenix - appropriately enough given the mythological reference - holds out the possibility of future hope against the background of disappointment in the present. Indeed, a main theme of the book is how people face failure, both their own and that of others. Idealism is a powerful force, particularly amongst the young, and seeing one's ideals being crushed remorselessly by superior strength is a terrible thing. In among the violence and intolerance, however, there are signs of rebirth, as the fires of destruction exhaust themselves. Also, those with longer memories can see that this struggle is only the latest in a very long series of similar ones. There is a continual hope that this time it might be consummation rather than recapitulation - a worthy dream, but one that is not yet fulfilled.

Geography plays a key role in the story, ranging from English locations such as Brompton Cemetery and Kensington in London, via urban Greek settings in Athens and Thessaloniki, through to rural havens in the Macedonian mountains. Each place has its own character, and its own inhabitants, who blend self-interest and self-sacrifice in different measures.

Dying Phoenix presents these key events in the life of modern Greece through the eyes of quite ordinary people. You will not find here a historical analysis of the generals' actions or motives, but rather the personal perspectives of those caught up in the turbulence. Some are eager for direct involvement, while others are anxious to avoid it, fearful of the consequences for their family. It all makes you wonder how you would react if you had been there.

In short, I found this a fascinating account of a turbulent time for many individual Greeks as well as for Greece as a nation. The difficulties and pains of those days are not avoided, and this struggle brings the characters to life. If you like to immerse yourself in the details of a situation, as seen through the eyes of ordinary people, Dying Phoenix may well be for you.

To be in with a chance of winning two signed paperbacks just leave a comment below or on our Facebook page


Loretta Proctor is an Anglo-Greek now living in Malvern, UK.   She published articles, short stories and won an award in the late 1960's for a one act play, The Ikon of Mileos.  Greece has always provided inspiration and on retirement to this lovely part of England she returned to writing novels. Her first, The Long Shadow, is set in WW1 during the Salonika Campaign and has since been translated and published in Greece as O Iskios tou Polemou. Dying Phoenix, which is set in the 1960's, is the sequel.
To read more about her books, you can go to her website.

Richard Abbott is the author of In a Milk and Honeyed Land, Scenes From a Life and The Flame Before UsHe can be found at his website or blogon Google+Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter.


  1. I would love to win this from my dear college friend Domna Pissalidou Naylor,(after I read it). Leaving Greece was hard for her. When she was back in the 60's when her mother was ill , she was appalled by the oppression.

  2. It was a hard era for many Greeks, who already had suffered exile and torture to be chased and send to infamous Island of Makronissos again.
    The title, I found, is a clever indication to the Junta's Symbol of the so-called "Greek Christian Rebirth", an unfortunate similarity to Nazi party. Hope to be able to read the book.

  3. Great.....thanks for sharing your thoughts mate

  4. It was an amazing book. I have a copy so I'm not angling for another, just want to add my praise. The Long Shadow and Dying Phoenix are two of my favorites, with characters that have remained vivid in my memory for years. Dying Phoenix is a poignant, shining book, hard to read sometimes, but ultimately filled with hope.

  5. Well done, Loretta. The Greek people have suffered so much over the last couple of years. Let us hope that the economy will soon improve, and everyone can be happy again.

  6. Hello everyone, I have done the draw and the two lucky winners are...
    Linda Root and
    Diana Milne
    If these two ladies can contact me through Facebook or something similar I will put them in touch with the author