BookBrowse Reviews Greek to Me by Mary Norris

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Greek to Me

Adventures of the Comma Queen

by Mary Norris

Greek to Me by Mary Norris X
Greek to Me by Mary Norris
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2019, 240 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2020, 240 pages

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An educational and entertaining ode to the Greek language, culture and history from the New York Times bestselling author Mary Norris.

Mary Norris' Greek to Me received an overwhelmingly favorable response from our First Impression reviewers, with 18 out of 23 rating the book four or five stars.

What it's about:
Part travelogue, part memoir, part tutorial, this book is an homage to the Greek language, culture and mythology, and their impact on the author's life (Carol C). Ms. Norris' new book chronicles her challenges in achieving (semi-)fluency in Greek, which she studied diligently by day while copy editing through the graveyard shift at the New Yorker to pay her bills. The book is also a paean to the richness of the Greek contribution to Western Civilization, as well as a travelogue documenting Norris' visits to multiple locales cited in Greek mythology. Here and there she alludes to elements of that mythology poignantly reflected in incidents from her personal life (Teresa R).

Morris' account of traveling and her love of Greek culture and history struck a chord with many readers:
I found the author to be a kindred spirit because I too fell in love with Greece years ago. Her memoir brought to mind experiences and memories from my past travels (Mary Ann R). I grew up loving Greek mythology, and this book reignited that interest. I enjoyed her enthusiasm about all things Greek and the history of the country (Linsay R).

The author was judged to be a wonderful guide on this journey:
Admittedly this book won't appeal to all, but what a fun romp through Greece with Ms. Norris! As a lover of language I am in awe of her story (Marganna K). What a fun book! It was like sitting down with a very down-to-earth chatty friend and comparing notes about all things classical - languages, literature and travel (Kathryn S). I was charmed. I loved traveling with her as an outsider who realizes that she will never fully understand life in this foreign land but loves it anyway (Courtney N).

Some readers did find the material challenging or offered caveats:
Her knowledge is so extensive that it's often overwhelming to absorb even a portion of what she offers. She made me dig deep, and I probably won't retain most of what I learned, but that doesn't matter. The book was fascinating and challenging (Christine P). It helps to have at least a smattering of knowledge about Greek and Roman mythology and geography, and the Latin and Greek languages, especially if acquired firsthand through travel in Greece (Kathryn S). Knowing NOTHING about the Greek language (save a few common crossword clues), the language parts were a bit lost on me (Carolyn D).

But most enjoyed the opportunity to learn something and related to Norris' love of language:
After reading Greek to Me, I am ready to reread the Iliad and the Odyssey, and a few classic Greek plays (Elizabeth K). If you neglected to take "Greek Civ 101" back in the day, this erudite but wryly entertaining book will nicely fill that gap (Teresa R). What a treat it was to encounter an author who admires language as much as I do! (Patricia E). Ms. Norris has written to a niche audience I think, but I am part of that select group—a lover of words, their origins and their roots (Marge V). A tribute to the written and spoken word, Greek To Me allows the reader the pleasure of meeting a writer who breaks all stereotypes for proofreaders, linguists and copy editors. Norris' sense of adventure and contagious love of learning for learning's sake shines through every page (Patricia E).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in May 2019, and has been updated for the May 2020 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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