The Embroiderer

Reviews of The Embroiderer

A great book and addictive page-turner! Greek history through the eyes of three wonderful women: It begins 1822 during one of the bloodiest massacres of The Greek War of Independence in the island of Chios where a young Greek woman unsuccessfully tries to escape. We follow the path through World War I and the Catastrophe of Smyrna to the Greek resistance against the Nazis, suffering, crying, empathizing with those women who despite the odds have the courage to stand out. “The Embroiderer” is a fascinating family saga spanning several generations, allowing glimpses to a world we don’t really know. A “must” for everyone who loves historical novels!

Dean Kalimniou gives an insightful review of Kathryn Gauci’s debut novel The Embroiderer

Kathryn Gauci and her début novel, The Embroiderer.

24 Mar 2016


Κόκκινη κλωστή, δεμένη, στην ανέμη τυλιγμένη, δώσ’ της κλώτσο να γυρίσει, παραμύθι ν’ αρχινίσει.

The above traditional saying, when beginning a tale in Greek, signifies the fact that in the Greek context, a tale is not woven but rather embroidered.

Embroidery, one of the most ancient of the Greek arts and one of the most renowned handicrafts of Byzantium, enjoying an extraordinary flourishing between the middle of the 17th and the end of the 19th centuries, is thus deeply interwoven within the Greek psyche as a constituent of the expression of identity, in a manner as flexible as no other. For although styles and designs were transmitted either through commerce or marriage, strong regional patterns and techniques were preserved that persist in the common consciousness to the present day.

Greek embroidery was thus traditionally a vehicle for a community aesthetic. As such, embroidery is a means of study of the political, cultural and economic influences on the different regions of the Greek world and more besides. The decorative motifs were generally arranged horizontally, vertically, diagonally or in a circle with patterns repeating or alternating.

Kathryn Gauci, in her first novel The Embroiderer, has been able to capture not only this tradition as a phenomenon, but also its methodology, which she expertly employs in the embroidering of her own tale. Thus, a story of breathtaking intricacy arises from the various silken word-threads that she loops over, under and through generations of Greek history. At the time of reading, some of those strands appear disparate or unintelligible. Some recurring patterns take us on a journey of hope, renewal and almost inexpressible beauty. Others are dark, convoluted and dyed with the anguish of pain, fear and loss, so much so that their threads seem tortured and stretched, almost to the point of breaking. Read more

*Dean Kalymniou is a Melbourne-based solicitor and freelance journalist.


By David Ebsworth
This is Kathryn Gauci’s début novel – but I would never have known that from the writing and telling of her tale. It occurred to me, instead, that if Tolstoy had been able to produce a historical fiction based on the complex relationships between Greeks and Turks during the final days of the Ottoman Empire, it would have very much resembled The Embroiderer. Read more

By Eleanor Parker Sapia
Gauci’s ‘The Embroiderer’ is an amazing debut novel about love, loss, and women’s courage in the face of adversity in exotic lands. Meticulously researched and a joy to read, this book will appeal to historical fiction lovers who are looking for something a little different. Wonderful book. I highly recommend ‘The Embroiderer’.

By The Just-About-Average Ms. M (North Florida)
I adore sagas, big, fat epic stories covering generations of family members across a nice chunk of geography. Even better when said saga is a single book, hefty in your hands, weighty with promises made and promises delivered, without the jolt of a cliffhanger ending requiring me to wait—and purchase—the next installment. Instant gratification, please, and a lot of it. Alas, these wonderful sagas are thin on the ground.Read more

By Alan Hamilton
This is the first self-(indie) published book I have reviewed on my web site. When I looked at and opened the book, my reaction was ‘It’s a saga. Not the kind of book I normally read’. What a lesson I had. The adage, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, in my case is replaced by, ‘don’t judge a book by its blurb or its publicity’.
As I read it, it did everything the best novels should do.Read more

By Jenny Greenwell
Loved this book from start to finish. This book has it all mystery, romance, history and intrigue. It is a must read for even the novice reader, very easily explained. I just loved the plot and the wonderful characters portrayed throughout the book.

By Richard Vella
This is a fantastic and gripping read. I thoroughly enjoyed its plot and characters, all of whom are set against the backdrop of Ottoman society and Orthodox Greeks in the 19th and early 20th Century history. The detail to history, culture and artefacts is excellent. A great read.

By Leonie Coleman
Kathryn Gauci is a naturally gifted author. Her first book is a gripping story set amongst the struggles and bitter wars between Greece and Turkey over a long period of time and the families involved – from 1822 to well beyond 1919. Her vivid characters leap from the pages of expertly researched history and are beautifully intermingled throughout the entire book. It left me with a sense of satisfaction and did nothing but impress. I have no hesitation in recommending this enjoyable book.

I love historical fiction set in Greece and Asia Minor, and this book was not just a fine specimen in my opinion, but one of the best and most memorable books I’ve ever read in this genre. If you loved ‘Birds Without Wings’ by Louis de Bernières, this is unmissable! I was amazed by the intricate detail in the author’s descriptions of all different eras and places. I can only imagine the kind of thorough research this feat must have taken. The story was both compelling and enchanting, and I parti …more
James Michener, one of my favorite authors, could have written a tale set in an Ottoman world, for he was fond of complex human identities and even spoke of the Golden Men in his best-selling novel, Hawaii. Kathryn Gauci’s The Embroiderer has much of the Golden Men in it – but here though, we should speak of Golden Women. Eleni Stephenson, the first woman we meet, is after all an impressive blend of Greek, French, Russian and English. Meanwhile, her Greek heritage bears an undeniable Ottoman inf …more
“The Embroiderer” by Kathryn Gauci has been a marvellous find for me. It is just the kind of historical novel that I like to read. It is highly informative with a lot of political and cultural insights about a theatre of war I knew little about: The Ottoman Empire between 1822 and 1944 with a special focus on Greece and Asia Minor from 1912 onwards.
The story is spread out over several generations and illustrates multiple conflicts. An array of well-drawn characters make the wider picture person