|(Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book!)|
In April of 1960, a young Leonard Cohen arrived on the beautiful Greek island of Hydra, dreaming of completing his first novel under the warmth of the island sun. Just twenty-five years old, the charismatic poet was welcomed into the community of artists and writers who also made their home on the island, including the Australian writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, the Norwegian painter Axel Jensen, and Axel’s gentle, doting wife Marianne, who would soon become Leonard’s muse, inspiring his classic songs “So Long Marianne” and “Bird on the Wire.” Now, based on this bohemian community and their legendary exploits, Polly Samson’s A THEATER FOR DREAMERS (Publication Date: May 11, 2021; Hardcover; $26.95) transports American readers to the idyllic, sun-soaked island of Hydra in the same way that Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins took readers to the coast of Italy. Hailed as “an impressionistic, intoxicating rush of sensory experience” by The Sunday Times and as “a blissful piece of escapism… [and] a surefire summer hit” by The Guardian, A THEATER FOR DREAMERS debuted as an instant UK bestseller upon publication last May, and was named a best novel of the year by The Times and The Sunday Times, The Spectator, The Daily Mail and many more.
When eighteen-year-old Erica arrives on Hydra, the world teeters on the edge of cultural, political, sexual, and artistic revolution. Fresh off the boat from London, with nothing but a bundle of blank notebooks and a burning desire to leave home in the wake of her mother’s death, she is embraced by the troubled queen and king of bohemia, Charmian and George, and by the proto-commune of poets, painters, and musicians that revel in dreams at the feet of their unofficial leaders. Among these artists, she will find an unraveling utopia where everything is tested—the nature of art, relationships, and her own innocence.
Both a writer of fiction and a lyricist, Polly Samson has also worked as a journalist and in publishing, and her words have appeared on four number one albums, including Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell and her husband David Gilmour’s On an Island. She was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2018, and her 2015 novel, The Kindness, was named a Book of the Year by The Times and The Observer. “It was Charmian Clift’s 1959 memoir Peel Me a Lotus that set me on the path to the Greek island of Hydra, and to a fascination with Charmian,” she explains. “My (extensive) research uncovered a cache of over 1500 photographs of the community she and her husband fostered on the island, which included the young Leonard Cohen, Gregory Corso, Axel Jensen, Goran Tunstrom, and Gordon Merrick. I became fascinated by identifying all the people in the photographs, and began immersing myself in this bohemian circle, dreaming my own novel set among them into being.”
Roiling with the heat of a Grecian summer and based on true events, A THEATER FOR DREAMERS is a spellbinding tour-de-force about the beauty between naïveté and cruelty, chaos and utopia, artist and muse—and about the wars waged between men and women on the battlegrounds of genius.
What an interesting story. I absolutely enjoyed spending the weekend with A Theater for Dreamers by Polly Samson. Her writing was lyrical, her characters were fascinating (Leonard Cohen), and her story was just captivating. Plus, it's set in Greece - Hydra island to be exact. So, just imagine soaking up the sun surrounded by the gorgeous blue sea and befriending a group of artists and writers - talk about bliss! Or is it? Yep, that's pretty much the plot to this story. We have eighteen-year-old Erica traveling to Hydra after her mother has passed away. She's feeling all alone, just gotten an inheritance, and received a book from her mother's friend, Charmian Clift. So, her only options are to stay in England with her horrible father, brother, and boyfriend; or to escape from it all. She's soon caught up in this bohemian lifestyle in this beautiful city that is chock full of excitement, drama, and even more drama than she could ever have imagined. Talk about growing up fast!
Samson has written a terrific story that will grab you from the start. It will pull you in with its delicious descriptions and flawed characters. This is a story that will definitely have you adding Greece to your travel bucket list, and jotting down names of artists and musicians to look up later. A Theater for Dreamers is a treat of a book that you will savor long after you turn the final page.
I'd definitely recommend Polly Samson's latest novel, A Theater for Dreamers to fans of her works and to anyone looking for a great summer read - you will LOVE this book!
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book!