The Last Day of Paradise
Reviewed by SHAZNA NESSA (The Associated Press)
- Kiki Denis' debut novel, "The Last Day of Paradise," is a family saga that highlights the magic of language and the cycle of generations. Sunday, 15, abruptly discovers that her "baba" may not be her biological father. She narrates the events that led to her birth in a small Greek town and takes the reader back in time to understand her present situation. The story unfolds as Sunday zips blithely from one end of the timeline to the other - from the bawdiness of ancient times to the raw sexual nonchalance of today's youth - although she sometimes gets ahead of her storytelling. Sections are helpfully labelled "current era" and "ancient era" to keep the reader from becoming confused by the multigenerational cast. There's Olga, the feminine feminist; Kyra Vana, her lesbian mother; and wicked Yiayia, who has only one breast. And there's Bo, Sunday's friend in the U.S., who tells them all about the wonders of America, such as 24-hour help lines for domestic violence. "It's a public service. Amazing stuff, eh?" he says. "It sounds like the first part of a science fiction sequel."
Most striking is Sunday's language. She uses English, a "second-hand" tongue, as a way to keep her enemies - who speak only Greek - from understanding her. Her English is a little odd and a little brash, and some of her translations from Greek lead to hilarious hyperbole. Sunday and her friends keep a tally of how many lovers they've had, or "jumped," as they call it. It's a very modern novel, but the writer's style is reminiscent of much older works - a little bit like Dodie Smith in "I Capture the Castle" and Miles Franklin in "My Brilliant Career." Spunky. Sassy.
By the end, it becomes clear that the Paradise of the title isn't the great hereafter, but a small bar in the ancient era, which is referred to as Loo’s in the current one.
Thus the story comes full circle. Past and present are united and Sunday matures emotionally as she crosses a threshold where adult themes such as the ambiguity of truth lurk. -