Rachel is finding it increasingly difficult to ignore her sister's derision, society's silent wagging finger, and her father's advancing years. She's traveled the world, but now finds herself at a crossroads at an age where most people would stop globetrotting and settle. Perhaps she could find the time for one last adventure, however. She moves to Greece to escape a life of social conformity and finds a country of unconventional characters and economic turmoil. The last thing she expected was to fall in love with the chaos that reigned about her.
Part memoir, Girl Gone Greek is a contemporary women’s fiction novel by author Rebecca Hall, whose film script version of the story won best screenplay at the Santorini Film Festival this summer.
Observing that the chaotic nature of her adopted country suits her personality very well, Hall continues to live in Greece, where she teaches English and contributes to numerous publications, often adding stories to her own blog, Life Beyond Borders.
Hall is often asked what drew her and keeps here in Greece.
The simplicity of Greece, and a certain energy she cannot define in words, is what binds the author to the country. “It’s a magical country,” she said. “Greece is a very embracing country. It’s like the earth itself embraces the people.”
When Greece was gaining negative attention on a global scale almost a decade ago, Hall decided to use her personal experience and background in writing to shift inaccurate perceptions and stereotypes about the country and its people.
“I wanted to stick up for Greece in my writings because I wasn’t liking the headlines at the time … I am not a political columnist, so I thought I’d write a semi-memoir to reach a wider audience, to get them to love the real Greece that I do,” she said.
Growing up with a father in ship brokering, Hall said she and the family would visit Greece on holiday at least twice a year. “I remember being thoroughly spoiled by the people and loving the sun,” she said. “In retrospect, it was the community feel and acceptance that just seems to be lacking in northern European countries.”
In 2008, Hall decided to teach English for what she expected to be a year in a small Greek village. The rest, as she said, is history. “By the year’s end, the country had waved its magic wand at me,” Hall said. “I came to learn more and more about the country, meet more people, and hear their stories. I was sold.”
In her book, Hall describes the magical essence of Greece through interactions with the country's people, culture, and pace of everyday village life. Girl Gone Greek is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paperback and Kindle format.
The National Herald interviewed Hall on her award-winning film script and her experience discovering Greece as an expat.
The National Herald: You went from novel to script. What are you hoping for next in terms of a possible film?
Rebecca Hall: The script has won Best Feature Fiction Script at the London Greek Film Festival (2018) and recently, Best Script at the Santorini Film Festival (2020). I hope it will be taken seriously and optioned for production. Things are hard at the moment due to COVID. Everything has slowed down or stopped and I don’t know if new projects are being considered, but ironically, it could be a good time to get this out there too. COVID has turned much around, and offered more opportunities, conversely enough. Even if Girl Gone Greek was released on Netflix or Apple TV, I would be more than happy to get some joy out there to people.
TNH: What will readers learn from Girl Gone Greek?
RH: Hopefully that it’s more than just a “lighthearted read.” I wanted to stick up for Greece in my writings because I wasn’t liking the headlines since 2012, but I also am not a political columnist so I thought I’d write a semi-memoir to reach a wider audience, to get them to love the real Greece that I do.
And maybe something about Greek history, the characters of its people and some fun useful tips i.e.: a raised voice is not necessarily in anger.
TNH: What would you say has been your greatest challenge as an author, and how have you worked toward overcoming that challenge?
RH: Primarily, I wrote Girl Gone Greek for me, not really expecting anyone to really buy it, but it seemed to grow in popularity. Now I have a fear that there is an expectation of me to continue to write to on a high level and produce quality work, and I fear I will let my ‘fans’ down. I haven’t really found a way to overcome this block, so if anyone has any tips, please pass them on!
TNH: What do you love most about living in Athens?
RH: I feel safe in Athens. I have lived in smaller cities around the UK and still feel safer in Athens. There’s a vibrancy about the place. I love the pockets of neighborhoods where one can walk and sit in the square and watch the world go by, or drink a coffee and watch people play tavli.
TNH: What do you love most about Greece?
RH: There’s so much to love about this country. I often get asked by Greeks why I stay if I am not married and am from the UK. There is a mistaken notion that economics plays a bigger and better role in a country, but I often tell people they need to leave Greece in order to appreciate what it is they have.
To me it is the simplicity of the place. Yes, there are extremes of wealth, but it’s a country where a politician and farmer can be found sitting at the same taverna. There is not this stratification in society that I am used to back in the UK where you certainly wouldn’t find people mixing together like that.
I’ve picked up on a certain energy in Greece that is hard to define. Lovers of the country will know what I am talking about. Maybe it is because of its geopolitical position, its geographical position, its quality of light, or all of the above. It’s a magical country. To me, Greece is a very embracing country. It’s like the earth itself embraces the people.
TNH: What, if anything, would you change about Greece?
RH: Well, now we come to the down side. I feel Greece is like dealing with bipolarity. It’s all of the above on the positive side, and yet being faced with bureaucracy is the extreme negative and makes me want to pull my hair out at times.
And laws never seem to stay the same i.e. taxes. They constantly seem to be changing so it’s hard to keep up! And yet ironically, I also recognize that this is what makes the country uniquely Greece. Maybe if it became very ‘Germanic’ in its organization, we wouldn’t love it so much.
TNH: If you gave a foreigner a tour for a weekend in Greece, what would you show them?
RH: I like quality over quantity, so I wouldn't rush them around many islands, etc. I’d probably recommend a city break in either Athens or Thessaloniki.
In Athens, there’s so much to see beyond the obvious sites, for example Anafiotika, the very hidden ‘Greek island’ neighborhood located in Plaka under the Acropolis, as well as a street tour of the capital. In recent years, the street art, owing to social circumstances, has really taken off and reflects current times.