The Clover House

While learning about World War II in school, very little was covered about how the war affected Greece. Of course it was assumed that the impact of the war was harsh, and that life for the Greeks was a struggle, but there was nothing that made such an understanding “real” for me as a student. The Clover House by Henriette Lazaridis Power made it real. Here, when parts of the book went back to those times, was when I was able to experience as a reader what life must have been like during that part of history. That part of the book is told through the POV of Clio Notaris, the eldest of four children in a wealthy Greek family. The Clover House does not actually begin with Clio’s story, though. It begins with her 30-something daughter, Callie, a single woman living in Boston who one day receives a phone call informing her that her Uncle Nestor has died. It is not Callie’s mother giving her this news; it is her cousin in Greece, Aliki. So why wasn’t Callie’s mother informing her of this death in the family? The two of them had a difficult relationship, as much can be said about it with her mother back in Greece, but even so, her brother was dead and she did not inform her own daughter of this news. Callie learns her uncle has left her something, and this is where things get interesting. Perhaps her mother was quiet because she didn’t want Callie to claim her inheritance? Or maybe she was afraid Callie would discover a terrible secret that her mother had tried to keep buried for all these years. This mystery pulled me into the story and kept me reading, because I wanted to find out what the big secret was.

Admittedly, this novel had a slow beginning and was even a little boring. But this big mystery about what was going on with Callie’s inheritance and why her mother was acting in such a way kept me reading. I wanted to know what Clio’s secret was and I wanted to know if the two women ever made up. Also, Callie is living in Boston, not Greece with her family. What was it that drove her away? Granted, she and her parents came to America, but why did she decide to stay instead of going back to Greece like her mother did?

This novel had a slow beginning, but it ended up being so fascinating. I was especially drawn to the stories of Clio’s life in 1940s Greece and everything her family had to go through during the war. The book actually gives readers two faces of Greece: The way it was back then and the way it was in 2000. We get to read about the customs, the language, the food and special holidays. The other characters in this story were also irresistible: Aliki settling into the role of a traditional Greek wife and mother, compared to the independent singleness that Callie chose for her life; Nikos as an “average” Greek man who tempers the marital storms he is going through with Aliki and still shows he is a loving husband and father in his own ways; the aunts who can’t quite agree on what really happened in the past, and the friends Callie makes who end up causing trouble for her later on in the story.

I enjoyed reading The Clover House. It offers such a realistic and true-to-life look at Greece then and now, placing readers right on the streets with Clio running for safety when the bombs come down or Callie researching her family’s old home to try to make sense of all the stories her mother told her, and trying to find out which of the stories are true. There is so much heart, honesty, courage and real life in this story that it ended up being a book I found so hard to put down and with an ending that had me wanting more.

One day, Calliope "Callie" Notaris Brown receives a phone call from her cousin in Greece that her uncle is dead, but her mother is acting like she has something to hide, especially since Callie stands to inherit something he left for her. Callie is forced to fly to Greece to claim her inheritance but she also ends up learning something more, a dark secret from her mother's past. Flashback to a time in Greece during a war, when life was scary and difficult for the Notaris family and when Clio Notaris, Callie's mother, becomes entangled with something that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

Book Blurb for The Clover House

Perfect for fans of Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key, this stunning debut novel brings to life World War II-era and modern-day Greece—and tells the story of a vibrant family and the tragic secret kept hidden for generations.

Boston, 2000: Calliope Notaris Brown receives a shocking phone call. Her beloved uncle Nestor has passed away, and now Callie must fly to Patras, Greece, to claim her inheritance. Callie’s mother, Clio—with whom Callie has always had a difficult relationship—tries to convince her not to make the trip. Unsettled by her mother’s strange behavior, and uneasy about her own recent engagement, Callie decides to escape Boston for the city of her childhood summers. After arriving at the heady peak of Carnival, Callie begins to piece together what her mother has been trying to hide. Among Nestor’s belongings, she uncovers clues to a long-kept secret that will alter everything she knows about her mother’s past and about her own future.

Greece, 1940: Growing up in Patras in a prosperous family, Clio Notaris and her siblings feel immune to the oncoming effects of World War II, yet the Italian occupation throws their privileged lives into turmoil. Summers in the country once spent idling in the clover fields are marked by air-raid drills; the celebration of Carnival, with its elaborate masquerade parties, is observed at home with costumes made from soldiers’ leftover silk parachutes. And as the war escalates, the events of one fateful evening will upend Clio’s future forever.

A moving novel of the search for identity, the challenges of love, and the shared history that defines a family, The Clover House is a powerful debut from a distinctive and talented new writer.

Night Owl Reviews May, 2013 5.00