Overcast Sunday by Christodoulos Moisa – 2016

Overcast SundayWell I was hoping there was going to be a good murder mystery in here somewhere – buried beneath at least two history books, one books of Greek philosophy and a small collection of extremely offensive Greek proverbs.  Moisa tells the reader up front what his novel does (never a good sign): “It explores the clash of mores as an outer majority, and inner-minority communities try to adjust to a near violent past and a prospering post-war economy”.  The setting is very promising; post-Second World War Wellington as experienced by the Greek and Cypriot communities, many of whose members are still suffering the effects of the war and the various other conflicts affecting Greece and Cyprus.  A fascinating period in New Zealand history and a complex migrant group – Greeks and Cypriots having different immigrant statuses.  And lots of the establishments named in the book were familiar to me from my Wellington childhood, and I would have enjoyed reading more of their owners and patrons.  Overcast Sunday has two main protagonists: Hari, a haunted war veteran and university student who at one time intended to become a priest, and who is now working for a tailor.  And Jimmy, also a veteran and a bit of a lad about town, with a reputation that makes him not that popular with many in his community.  The novel opens with Jimmy discovering the body of a young girl outside the Wellington Greek club – OK – but then we start to meet the various characters major and minor inside the Club.  And as each character appears he is introduced with a long history of his difficult past and how he ended up in New Zealand, and details of the wider political context of his history, all of which is exposition and not folded into the narrative.  These historical lectures require jumping about all over the place timewise – and remember this is while a young girl lies dead in an alley outside.  And such disrespect is not all that out of place given the misogynist banter inside the club.   When a short time later Jimmy and Hari are taken in by the police under suspicion of having something to do with the murder, I thought things were finally going to come together and the narrative would really get going.  But alas there is just more historical paragraphs triggered by more characters or snippets of information.  And there is no real murder mystery, just a death and a sad explanation.  And the latter nothing to get that distracted by, after all she was only “the town bicycle”.  I was obviously not the intended audience for this book, but it is hard to say who would be.  Those interested in the fascinating history of the period and the migrant group might enjoy the straight-out history – which makes up about 80% of the book.  But I have read lots of riveting fiction where you can enjoy the story while absorbing the history – and try to work out a mystery along the way.  This certainly isn’t one of those books.

 

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2 Responses to Overcast Sunday by Christodoulos Moisa – 2016

  1. C. Moisa says:

    Some other reviews:
    “I am reading it with great pleasure … so much more than the actual murder event. I love all the asides and unusual/informative details … diasporic life not only the Cypriots but all who were washed up there. Very graphic. Almost ready for a film.” RUTH KESHISHIAN – Moufflon Bookshop, Cyprus

    “While the main story is sufficient to hold the reader’s interest, it is embellished with a cultural richness that sets it apart from another ‘Whodunnit’ … The cleverly devised plot will keep you intrigued right through to the end … well worth purchasing.” MARION DAVIDSON – River City Press. 17 Novemebr 2016

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  2. C, Moisa says:

    REVIEW of OVERCAST SUNDAY
    Reviewed by Paul Brooks
    Midweek – Herald – 17 May 2017
    This is not your average crime novel, in fact, although the story features a crime- a murder – it is a story of a place, a time, and the characters who converge on both. It is about people and the stories they bring to the Greek community in Wellington 1950. The story opens with …
    Chris Moisa has written a fine story, crafted in such a way that may irritate and impatient reader, but rich in knowledge and understanding of the community in which the book is centred, and the forces that bring everything together at that point.
    The reader learns a lot and becomes intimately engaged with each character, their lives laid bare for us in the book’s unusual configuration.
    The author captured the time, the economics, politics and social ambiance of New Zealand in 1950, with the Greek community the focus of his attention.
    The story is not for me to tell but I really enjoyed it. The book is not laid out in a traditional format, and what I see it has challenged the odd critic. I found it enhanced the yarn Chris tells.
    I have read other works by Chris Moisa and I like his originality and storytelling skill. This latest book is a valuable addition to the repertoire of a superb writer.
    Overcast Sunday was nominated for the prestigious Ngaio Marsh Award.

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