For anyone feeling stir-crazy after weeks cooped up in self-isolation, A Theatre for Dreamers offers an appealing escape, a virtual vacation on the Greek island of Hydra. Dive into these pages and you can swim vicariously in a perfect horseshoe-shaped bay, dry off in the summer sun, admire countless young, scantily clad men and women, and end the day with a glass of retsina while you watch the moon set and listen to a young Leonard Cohen enunciate profundities about life and art.
Polly Samson’s novel is set in 1960, when eighteen-year-old Erica Hart travels from England to Hydra with her lover Jimmy and brother Bobby. Her pilgrimage is inspired by opening a copy of Charmian Clift’s book Peel Me A Lotus sent by the author, a friend of her mother’s, which arrives soon after her mother’s death from cancer. Clift’s writing about her creative, bohemian family life in Greece offers a vision of life beyond the stifling conformity of suburban England, an existence that Erica’s mother might have longed for, and one that Erica has the chance to embrace thanks to a surprising legacy of money that her mother sequestered from her weekly housekeeping allowance.