Whilst on holiday in Crete earlier in the year, we visited Elounda and found a typically expat book shop. Yvonne Payne just happened to be there signing copies of her book Kritsotopoula, so after chatting to her, we bought a copy of the book and I said that I would do a book review for her once I had read the book. It was a very interesting read with a good insight into some of the troubles that Crete has had over the centuries.
In 2001, Yvonne and her husband Alan bought a small house in the back streets of Kritsa, a village that nestles in the foothills of the Dikti Mountains in the east of Crete. Their breath-taking view looks out across cluttered rooftops, a huge church, olive groves and the distant sea, all framed by the Thripti Mountains.
They were initially going to spend a few weeks each year in Crete, but like so often happens, things changed dramatically. Yvonne was made redundant so decided to take longer breaks in the sun. This additional time in Crete provided the opportunity for Yvonne to explore the countryside, legends, and customs which gave her the inspiration to write creatively instead of disciplinary policies! As a regular contributor to Crete related forums, she finally decided time was right to tackle a novel.
Luckily this coincided with the opportunity for Yvonne to watch a fellow Kritsa resident, the English sculptor Nigel Ratcliffe, work on his beautiful stone monument dedicated to ‘Kritsotopoula’, Girl of Kritsa, who along with her rebel comrades, fought against the Ottoman oppression in 1823. This carving became Yvonne’s ‘muse’ as she researched and wrote her first novel.
In 2014, Yvonne and Alan took another life enhancing decision which allowed them to split their time more evenly between the UK and Crete. Yvonne says that although it is lovely to spend time with family and friends in the UK, it is while they are in Kritsa that they enjoy a real sense of community.
This lively historical adventure, based on the real life of Rodanthe, a young woman from the village of Kritsa in Crete, depicts her courageous rebellion against Ottoman oppression.
Throughout her childhood escapades, Rodanthe, feisty daughter of the pappas (priest), yearned for her father’s approval without appreciating how hard he worked to keep her and the rest of his Christian flock from harm.
Years later, the ruling Pasha ordered Rodanthe’s kidnap, intent on making her his wife. Determined not to yield, Rodanthe tricked the Pasha before fleeing to the mountains dressed in his clothing, taking with her secrets to inflame the rebels. After gaining acceptance by a fierce rebel leader she lived and fought as a remarkable young man nicknamed Spanomanolis, meaning Beardless Manolis.
Now honoured as Kritsotopoula (Girl of Kritsa), villagers celebrate Rodanthe, and her comrades, annually in front of a poignant stone carving. This monument portrays the moment in 1823 when brave Rodanthe’s secret was exposed, a point mirrored in this novel as it culminates with a twist.