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Book Review: The Good Greek Girl by Maria Katsonis

Bethany Nevile

“Looking at it all, I felt not a shred of emotion about my possessions.”

“I felt nothing because they meant nothing. They belonged to another version of me, a version from a lifetime ago, pre-Harvard and the death of my parents. I could no longer see a future with the objects that had once defined me….impulsively, I rang the Salvation Army and organised for them to take the lot.”

Maria Katsonis has heard a lot of advice in her life – from her extended Greek family, her cohort at Harvard University, co-workers in the Victorian public service, doctors during her stay in a psych ward – but the simplest and purist words Maria received came from her young nephew: “be good, play nice, make friends and don’t die.”

In her frank memoir, Maria describes embracing her inner rebel, discovering her loves for theatre, spin class and women, the pitfalls of perfectionism and the stigma of mental illness on her way to becoming her own version of a ‘good Greek girl’.

Maria’s large and loving Greek family jump from the pages, particularly the clan of aunts and uncles and her boisterous nephews and niece.

Early on we meet her beloved mother Tina, never seen without her rose coloured lipstick, always keeping updated on the family news and gossip while preparing a mouthwatering pot of fasolatha.

Tina’s sudden death, less than halfway through the book after Maria has successfully graduated from Harvard, becomes a catalyst for change in her life.

The loss of Maria’s father a year later is heartbreaking but peaceful, as she comes to terms with their difficult and at times estranged relationship.

While it has a lot to say about family, The Good Greek Girl is also a raw, unflinching and sorely needed portrait of mental illness.

Maria lays her struggle with depression completely bare, we see the days she cannot bring herself to move, the doctors’ appointments and psychiatric assessments, the haunting thoughts of self-harm.

As readers, we are by her side as she journeys back to recovery, from her five weeks in a psychiatric hospital; forging important friendships and trying to identify mysteriously indistinguishable food, to months spent readjusting to work, family and daily life with the occasional lingering “gray haze” of her medication.

In the book, Maria writes that she aims to do more than just “break the silence” in this country surrounding mental illness. She “wanted to smash it to smithereens.” The Good Greek Girl does just that, and Maria’s story is honest, touching, and incredibly readable.

Hear Maria speak in conversation with Frank Quinlan (CEO, Mental Health Australia) at Muse in Kingston on the 17th of November.

Tickets are $10 and include a glass of wine or soft drink. Visit the website for more info and to book tickets. You can purchase the book from your favourite local bookstore or online.

the essentials
What: Maria Katsonis
Where: Muse, East Hotel, Giles Street Kingston
When: Tuesday 17 November from 8pm-9pm
How much: $10 per person

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Bethany Nevile

Bethany Nevile is a Canberra local and recently graduated from the ANU with an honours degree in English Literature. She loves op shopping, baking, binge reading, live music, theatre, trashy TV and thinks there is always room for dessert. More about the Author