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A magical and hugely captivating journey – filled with such beauty, wonder and surprise. A simply marvellous read, hugely recommended – Stephen Fry

A real-life journey through the fantastical world of The Odyssey

It started with a boy, of course. Seeking solace from the pain of heartbreak and her father’s illness, Laura Coffey embarks on what was meant to be a simple holiday. But her newfound fascination with ancient Greek myths transforms her trip into a six-month odyssey, around tiny archipelagos and mystical Mediterranean islands thought to be the setting of Odysseus’s epic journey. As she chases one of the most conflicted, flawed and yet beloved heroes through his fantastical sea-kingdoms, looking for the places where geography and mythology collide, she discovers the wild beauty of the islands, and the redemptive powers of travel and nature, cold-water swimming, long hikes up mountains, and luminous star-lit skies.

But her quest to find happiness, safety and the true meaning of home is overshadowed by the deepening illness of her father. Returning as he’s dying, forced to confront the very things she was running from, Laura reflects on what she has lost, how to live between story and reality, and the way we craft our own mythologies. Slipping between the mythical realm and the real world, she finds enchantment and healing in the magic of both.

“If you love memoir and Greek mythology, this is a delight. A spellbinding book about growing up, grieving and the gods.” – Clare Pollard, author of Delphi

Reviews

Enchanted Islands deftly combines memoir, escapist travelogue, and meditations on the Greek classics. It's also wryly funny and deserves to be widely read by travellers and lovers alike.
James Crabtree, author of The Billionaire Raj and former Financial Times journalist
Laura Coffey's personal Odyssey is a magical and hugely captivating journey into journeys. Like the original Odyssey and all that follow it, Enchanted Islands is about finding one's way home. But the adventures on the way are filled with such beauty, wonder and surprise. The journey changes the meaning of the destination. A simply marvellous read, hugely recommended.
Stephen Fry
I raced through this book, heart hammering, in a single sitting. It's about a death, and about the pandemic, love and loss and yearning. But as much, if not more, it's a book about the joyful, agonising, complicated business of being alive. The words sing of sun on the skin, of cold water and ripe fruit. The ideas are profound, the language exquisite.
Marianne Levy, author of Don’t Forget to Scream
Enchanted Islands is beautifully written, moving and heartfelt, but also funny: sharply observed travel-writing cleverly interwoven with memoir and myth. Laura Coffey writes with sensuous vividness about Mediterranean islands, Homer's Odyssey and her father's illness and death. If you loved H is For Hawk or Grief is the Thing with Feathers, this book is for you.
Nick Higham, author and former presenter, Meet the Author, BBC News
Lovelorn and escaping lockdown, Laura finds solace in her bridge between myths and science, the melding of maps and poetry, and the healing power of the natural world. Weaving joy and heartbreak, this bittersweet, lyrical memoir is a truly moving odyssey - it will make you yearn to jump on a ship and let the winds pull you away...
Beth Morrey, Sunday Times bestselling author
Sparkling and changing like the sea in all its shades of darkness and light, Laura's beautifully written odyssey is about embracing your freedom, becoming the goddess and enchanting yourself, weaving and unweaving your story. It gently reminds us that in life, we don't get to choose the route, but we can find islands of enchantment.
Jennifer Barclay, author of An Octopus in My Ouzo
This is travel writing at its finest. Local colour, history, memoir, and an emotional journey through grief and joy weave together beautifully. It is literary without pretension, informative while entertaining, moving and heartfelt while also being sharply funny. The best travel writing inspires us to journey ourselves, and this book made me long for warm Mediterranean islands. A triumph of a first book from an enchanting author.
Noah Charney, bestselling author and BBC presenter
The Odyssey is the perfect guide for this bold and personal, honest and witty journey of reflection and discovery, grief and recovery.
Michael Scott, Professor of Classics & Ancient History at the University of Warwick
Enchanted Islands beautifully captures the places where the distant past pushes up against the immediate present. Coffey takes us with her on a sensory tour of the islands of the Mediterranean, enhanced by charming inclusions of mythology and history. You can feel the cool of the October sea and taste the bittersweet burn of well-sugared espresso. Coffey's skill as a travel guide does not end there, however. The inclusion of her father's end-of-life experience elevates and centers the story, taking the reader on an exploration of that most mysterious of countries - grief.
Luna McNamara, author of Psyche and Eros
If you love memoir and Greek mythology (as I do) this is a delight. Coffey escapes a grim and lonely pandemic for volcanos and orange-blossom brioche, kingfishers and tales of Circe. But life lies ready to sting, like the Medusa jellyfish she encounters on her evening swims. A spellbinding book about growing up, grieving and the Gods.
Clare Pollard, author of Delphi
So engrossing - I was right there with Laura on her travels and in her grief. Enchanted Islands is mesmerising and moving, a feast for the senses and the soul.
Joanne Mallon, career coach and author of Change Your Life in 5 Minutes a Day
Numinous - like Cezanne's oranges, this is full of the magic of daily realities. A journey that proposes a way to navigate between the sadness and joy of our complex lives.
Maria Balshaw, CEO Tate Galleries
I read Laura's journey in a single day. An intimately shared voyage of grief and hope - stunning!
Freya Bromley, author of The Tidal Year
Inspired by Emily Wilson's new translation of The Odyssey (the first into English by a woman), Laura Coffey interweaves mythology, feminism, memoir and travel writing - with a gleeful bias towards swimming and the island settings of Homer's original. This thrilling read embraces freedom and escapism - and you don't have to know anything about Greek myths to enjoy it. It's a true modern female odyssey: daring, funny, self-aware and magical.
Viv Groskop, author of The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature
A stunning book about how art and storytelling enable us to make sense of our place in the world - exploring the complexity of grief, and how we can find value and create meaning.
Hermione Norris, actor
Like Odysseus, it took Laura Coffey much longer than she expected to find her way home, but her adventures were poignantly halted when her father became very unwell. This book will make you wander islands of myth, herbs and tiny birds, and cherish those you love.
Tom Mustill, award-winning film maker and author of How To Speak Whale
What a wonderful book. I loved it all the way through. Laura's writing makes me feel present: I can hear the sea, smell the herbs, savour the sunsets. I don't want our journey to be over...
Dr Kathryn Mannix, palliative care consultant, psychologist & author of With The End In Mind
This book forces you to look at life - and what it means to be human - in a brand new way. Add in a dash of mythology and you have a dazzling tale of how stories have the capacity to heal our lives. An utterly glorious achievement!
Jasmine Elmer, author of Goddess with A Thousand Faces
Blimey. This is one of the most gorgeously written books I've had the pleasure of reading for a long time - hats off to Laura Coffey. Enchanted Islands is filled with honesty, humility, vulnerability and wit. It's a portrait of tragedy, that though steeped in sadness, doesn't feel heart-stopping in its pain - rather it feels human and humane. It's a portrait of travel, past and present, and of loneliness and connection at a time when those two themes dominated the world, yet were so hard to name or explain.
Claire North, author of Ithaca and House of Odysseus
I loved this for so many reasons. The writing is eloquent, lyrical, it has the capacity to conjure up sea breezes, the chill of an early morning swim, coffee in a bar on a remote island, the sting of a jellyfish.
Sally, @salboreads

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