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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Four Walls

Vangelis Hatziyannidis

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To purchase Four Walls

Title: Four Walls
Author: Vangelis Hatziyannidis
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 213 pages
Original in: Greek
Availability: Four Walls - US
Four Walls - UK
Four Walls - Canada
Le Miel des Anges - France
  • Greek title: Οι τέσσερις τοίχοι
  • Translated by Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife

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Our Assessment:

B+ : odd, but has its charms

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 3/6/2006 Catherine Taylor

  From the Reviews:
  • "Vangelis Hatziyannidis' first novel delightfully blends the serious (if overemphasised) themes of imprisonment and solitude with humour, humility, horribly violent deaths, coincidences and miracles -- all of which add up to a witty fable, satisfyingly replete with the essential ingredients of magic realism." - Catherine Taylor, The Guardian

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Four Walls is an engagingly told if decidedly off-kilter story. The main character is Rodakis. His father, S.Rodakis, was a successful beekeeper on the Greek island where they lived, until a devastating fire wiped out the local vegetation. After his father's death young Rodakis set out to see the world, travelling for seven moths before settling down back home. He took work as a builder, but eventually resurrected the family business, producing and selling honey.
       Four Walls is a novel in which several characters find themselves locked in their own four walls -- sometimes by others, but as often of their own accord. Rodakis is the king of his small castle, and satisfied within that realm. Even when a stranger joins him, he doesn't let it upset his lifestyle very much, keeping to himself -- as does his new housemate.
       This woman who enters Rodakis' life is Vaya. It is the local priest who asks Rodakis to take her in: she's on the run, and needs a place to hide. Rodakis doesn't mind -- but also doesn't get very involved, leaving her be and barely seeing her for quite a while. She, meanwhile, is glad just to have sanctuary. Eventually, however, he discovers she didn't come alone: in one of her huge trunks she is keeping one of the things keeping her on the run: a baby.
       Eventually, Rodakis and Vaya form a sort of family - at least for outward appearances. Vaya remains within these four walls, still scared of what's out there (with quite good reason), and also does what she can to insure that Rodakis will let her and her daughter, Rosa, stay. Part of the plan is finding the perfect honey-recipe -- which they do.
       The book glides over the years, but eventually Rodakis is producing a sublime and perfect honey: "It was immortal, more than immortal: it was powerful." And:

It has a property that sets it apart from other honeys, something other than the taste itself.
       Rodakis makes a good deal of money with his honey, but it also attracts the attention of others, who are willing to go to great lengths to get their hands on the recipe.
       It's a meandering sort of adventure: leaving the safety of one's four walls is rarely advisable (the first time Vaya sets out on her own is also the last time ...) and it's no surprise that a teenage Rosa only feels safe when someone locks her in her room at night. Rodakis and Rosa each wind up more and less unwilling prisoners in other four walls, and part of the charm of the novel is both the humour in even these situations and the way they put up with it (though Rodakis does get fairly annoyed).
       Rodakis never takes too much interest in Vaya, but he is taken by Rosa from the first, setting about to educate her and eventually forming a bond that -- especially to those who believe them to be father and daughter -- seems far too intimate. But Hatziyannidis' light touch keeps even this from becoming or appearing too sordid.
       Four Walls is enjoyable and often amusing, with an appealing cast of characters both good (the completely innocent Rosa, for example) and bad (Rodakis' sister and a whole gallery of others). The story moves peculiarly freely about, jumping over much and then focussing in on certain details, and there's a grab-bag element to some of the storylines Hatziyannidis throws in. Often it doesn't even seem he's quite sure where the story is going next -- but it's enjoyable enough getting wherever, too.
       Four Walls sometimes feels like a pared-down translation of a bigger work, but what there is is certainly appealing enough.

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Four Walls: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Greek literature

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About the Author:

       Greek author Vangelis Hatziyannidis (Βαγγέλης Χατζηγιαννίδης) was born in 1967.

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© 2007-2008 the complete review

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