Format:Paperback, 248 pages
Yes, ok, I admit it. I may well be one of the last few teacher-librarians in Australia who hadn’t read The First Third – until the past couple of weeks. I knew, from all the glowing recommendations and recognitions that it must be a brilliant read and so I knew I must put it on the Premier’s Reading Challenge list I was compiling, but I hadn’t yet read it.
And now I have. And I laughed and empathised and cringed all the way through it. What a marvellous storyteller Kostakis is! This vibrant story of contemporary Australian family life interlaced with Greek culture is so well-written and so genuinely engaging. Throughout, I was reminded of every Greek person I have ever known from Sophie, my Community Officer at Marrickville Public Library, to my current library cleaner, Kathy, as I recognised expressions and attitudes and the warm wonderful humour.
Of course, the setting resonated with me – as a Sutherland Shire girl – suburb names like Brighton-le-Sands and Rockdale send a pang right to my heart. But it was the people – the characters who are not really characters at all – but real people who might have been my neighbours that bring this story to life with such vivid clarity.
Billy (Bill) Tsiolkas is your pretty average 17 year old boy with a fiercely Greek yiayia (aren’t they all?) and a moderately dysfunctional family – single mum and two brothers at odds with themselves and the rest of the clan. He falls in love fairly regularly, he loves his family despite their oddities, he wants his Mum to be happy and he doesn’t want to lose his yiayia. When his grandmother gives him what is essentially her ‘bucket list’, Bill finds himself battling all the quirks of his family life to realise the list and in the process discovers much about himself, his family circle and life.
This is such a warm, funny and endearing book that it will no doubt remain on my bookshelf for re-visiting. It has such a ‘feel good’ vibe to it and as one who has often been the ‘glue’ in the family I can completely relate to it.
Of course, you already have it on your shelves but if you haven’t yet taken time to read it – YOU MUST!!!