Roxanne Reviews Niki
Roxanne reviews Niki by Christos Chomenidis
Told from the point of view of the ghost of Niki Armaos, this epic historical WWII fiction is set in Greece starting with the life of her socialist father, Antonis Armaos. What unfolds is a stoically resilient journey reminding me of Ai Weiwei's memoir 1000 Years of Years of Joys and Sorrows.
If you know about Greek culture and its people, you know how passionate they live their lives and the lengths they are willing to go to fight for both country and family. Chomenidis captures the feeling of fear and moral conviction through beautifully drawn complex characters.
In Niki’s (which means Victory in Greek) case, this meant eight years of cloistered hiding while her father was wanted for treason. Chomenidis’ rifles his protagonist’s story with vigor and I found myself unable to stop reading this 450 plus page Prix Du Livre Européen Winning novel. In isolation, her father homeschools her with strict goals to become multilingual and culturally sophisticated.
As her family resumes normal life after government exoneration, Niki’s life blooms into a coming of age discovery with the pleasures and pitfalls of dating as she waitresses at a high end restaurant. I’ll leave the rest of the story for the reader, but let me just say I haven’t read a book with such specificity in regards to food and relationships in quite some time. Niki becomes not only a character, but a friend.