On the blog today, an interview with Georgios Manolas, the central character in ‘The Last of the Moussakas’ by Fearne Hill. I’m particularly excited by this interview and the book because, as you know, I moved to live in Greece 19 years ago and live on a small island. Not Aegina, the island of the story, but one where traditional family values and the views of the church are obstacles to gay people and therefore love. So, I’m interested in seeing how Georgios’ story unfolds and reading the delicious details of life on his Greek island.
Here is the interview. Enjoy!
Georgios Manolas is a character created by author Fearne Hill.
Fearne Hill, lives deep in the southern British countryside with varying numbers of hens, a few tortoises and a beautiful cocker spaniel.
When she is not overseeing her small menagerie, she enjoys writing MM contemporary romantic fiction. And when she is not doing either of those things, she is working as an anaesthesiologist.
First a short introduction – where do we first meet Georgios?
Georgios’s story begins on the Greek island of Aegina. We first meet him clearing the tables at the end of a busy evening working in his uncle’s restaurant, where he is a chef and general dogsbody. His lifelong best friend, Max, is drunkenly slumped at one of the tables. As always, even in his inebriated state, Georgios knows Max is the most beautiful man he has ever seen.
What is your full name?
My name is Georgios Manolas. I’m named after my grandfather. My brother and cousin forget my name sometimes and call me faggot or homo. My best friend, Max, calls me Georgie boy. I kind of like it.
Where and when were you born?
I was born and raised in the same ramshackle house where I live now, hidden amongst the backstreets of Aegina town. A dwelling ideally suited to a family of four but accommodating an extended family of ten. Privacy and solitude are rare commodities. My family have lived here for generations. The furthest abroad I have ever travelled is on the ferry to mainland Greece.
Tell us a little more about your home
Our stone house is built on three floors, bits of each floor added in a higgledy-piggledy fashion at varying intervals over the last two hundred years to accommodate the growing family. My older brother Dion and I share the tiny attic space. The current permanent residents, in order of apparent importance are: my great grandmother Noni, my uncle Papa Marcos and his browbeaten wife Cynta, my taciturn grandmother (who slavishly cares for Noni), and my own, downtrodden gentle mother Simone. Then there is my spiteful cousin Nico (although he sometimes lives with a girlfriend and their child until she periodically gets fed up with his laziness and throws him out), my permanently depressed teenaged cousin Agatha, my brother Dion, me and my younger sister Ava, who is still in nappies. Which in itself warrants a mention, given that my father died of a heart attack eight years ago and my mum has never remarried. And I don’t actually recall my slender mother ever looking pregnant or giving birth and I’d like to think it’s something I’d notice. Sixteen-year-old Agatha, however, did look fairly tubby a couple of years ago, then took a trip to see some other relatives (we literally seem to have hundreds of them) in the Peloponnese and she lost the weight spectacularly quickly. But we don’t talk about that.
What is your occupation?
I have been the chef at Papa Marco’s restaurant since I left school at fifteen. Along with everyone else, I am paid a pittance. One day, I’d like a restaurant of my own.
Turning to your physical characteristics, what colour are your eyes?
What does your voice sound like?
I am Greek, quietly spoken. My English accent is embarrassingly bad.
What three words would others probably use to describe you?
My brother would describe me as a faggot. My mother would say I was kind. Max would tell me I was beautiful.
Do you have any physical traits that stand out?
I am slight of build with typical Mediterranean olive-skinned looks. I probably look younger than I am.
Let’s talk about your past, how would you describe your childhood?
I can’t recall a time when Max and I weren’t best friends. He has been a constant my whole life. We are actually second cousins, although that doesn’t mean much on this island, as it seems that everyone is related to everyone else at some point along the family tree. He spent every single holiday on the island and all my memories are filled with weeks and weeks of glorious sunshine and Max. Swimming and snorkeling in the sea, day and night, cycling all over the island, camping on the beach under the stars, or hiking up in the mountains. Endless strawberry gelatos and gyros, sleepovers, and sun cream.
My father died when I was fourteen. My mother and I loved him very much. When he died my childhood ended.
When did you have your first kiss, and who with?
My first kiss was with Max. We were only fourteen years old, and a minute later he’d passed out cold on cheap Tsantali wine that we’d nicked from Papa Marcos’s restaurant when no-one was looking. Every time I kissed a girl, I wished it was Max. Max is openly gay and every time he kissed a boy, he says he wished it had been me.
What is your biggest secret?
My biggest secret is that I am homosexual, and Max and I are in love. I think we always have been. My dad used to say, ‘Georgios, if you grow up and finds yourself a wife you love as much as you love Maxi, then you’ll do very well for yourself.’ But I’ll never find a woman like that.
Something a little more personal, do you believe in the existence of soul mates and/or true love?
I have only ever had one true love, which sounds terribly soppy. Max is the soppy one, not me. He tries to be cool and suave but pampers me rotten.
Who is the most important person in your life, why?
Without my Max, I’d go insane on this bloody island.
The brilliant blue of the Aegean of course; it matches Max’s eyes.
What is your most treasured possession?
I have an ancient Vespa scooter that belonged to Nico and Dion before it was passed down to me. I have very few possessions to call my own.
Do you like to read? If so, what do you like to read?
I read cookery books. I fantasise about reproducing the recipes for my dream restaurant.
What makes you laugh?
My Maxi, when he sings very badly.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Kindness and understanding. Is that too much to ask for? And patience, because for Max and me to have our happy ending, he’s got to unpick some family feuds going back to the second world war. The Nazis occupied our little island and the rift between Max’s German ancestors and mine is deep. Sometimes, I think it is insurmountable.
Do you like yourself?
Yes, although sometimes I wish I had the fortitude to stand up to Papa Marcos, Nico and Dion. To be gay and proud and hang the consequences. But I have so much to lose if I do.
Looking to the future, where do you see yourself in five years from now?
With my own beachfront restaurant in Aegina, packed with tourists and locals alike, because I serve the best food on the island. And after a hard night at work in the kitchen, Max will be waiting for me, in our home up in the hills overlooking the Aegean.
A boy can dream, can’t he?
If you could choose, how would you want to die?
With Max at my side, when we are both very, very old.
And finally, some questions just for fun, what do you have in your pocket?
The keys to my scooter, my wallet and a paring knife.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Saffron. Specially imported from the Middle East. I use it sparingly.
Who would you like to invite to your fantasy dinner party?
A British chef, now dead, named Keith Floyd. He was a flamboyant rule breaker, a drinker and a raconteur. And while I am none of those things, he could teach me so much. Max would come along too, to keep the conversation rolling while I stare at my culinary idol. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever confessed that before! Not even Max knows.
Fearne Hill’s latest novel is available now, you can find her on Goodreads.
Last of the Moussakas
Max Bergmann is Europe’s hottest drum and bass DJ. From the outside, his life is a whirl of glamorous vodka-fuelled parties and casual hook-ups, whilst inside he craves the one thing he can’t have – his Greek childhood friend, Georgios Manolas.
Following a disastrous PR stunt and one drunken hook-up too many, Max realises the time has come to reassess his life choices. Returning to his childhood home on the Greek island of Aegina, if he wants any chance of having Georgios permanently in his life, he has to delve into the mystery of the longstanding hatred of the Bergmann’s by Georgios’s family.
Georgios is a chef and has spent his whole life on the tiny Greek island of Aegina. He has held the family restaurant together since he left school, with very little reward, and dreams of one day running a restaurant of his own on the island. Yet if he acknowledges his feelings for Max, he runs the risk of losing not just his traditional Greek family but also his livelihood.
As Max slowly uncovers the secrets of the past, he is left wondering whether a little Greek girl’s heart-breaking wartime diary could not only hold the key to his family’s history, but could it also unlock his and Georgios’s future together?
The Last of the Moussakas is a warm romance about two men’s quest for the truth about the past and unlocking a path to a future together
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