In the Great Fire of Smyrna (1922), Kivelli lost everything: her family, her friends, her social position, and her future. Stranded in the Greek city of Piraeus, populated by gangsters, prostitutes, fortune tellers, and other refugees, she finds herself living in the broom closet of a brothel. Luckily, the sound of her singing voice captures the attention of a local taverna owner, who suggests she come with him and perform for his customers.
Kivelli’s time at the bar is short-lived, but gives way to a recording career and her slow climb up the economic and social ladder of this foreign city. Although life is certainly better for her — no longer the object of an auction at a brothel, no longer a singer in a disreputable taverna — Kivelli misses the magical world of her youth in the great port city of Smyrna.
“Fragoulis sidesteps the expected, then adeptly creates lives that wither or are remade: characters breathe, voices populate smoky rooms, and music leaks into the streets…Where (the novel) stands out is in its ability to recount past as timeless “now”; it could be a story happening today in any number of places, rather than in Greece 90 years ago.”
“The sights and sounds of Smyrna, Piraeus and Athens are brought to life by Fragoulis’s finely crafted prose. The cast of characters – manghas, manghissas, and the girls in Kyria Effie’s brothel, are fully realized. The result is a novel which is as tough and intelligent as Kivelli herself.”
“[The Goodtime Girl] is foreign, surprising because it lets the reader see, in its details, the mix of cultural history in the land that is often called the cradle of Western civilization while, at the same time, letting us know that gangsters are kind of like gangsters wherever they are — strutting cockerels with a peculiar sense of social harmony.”
“Against [the] dominant male figures, the developing friendship between Kivelli and Marianthi, forms the novel’s backbone. This female bond provides a counter-narrative of Kivelli’s growth as she shifts her loyalties from the men who can help her survive to the women who can teach her to forge an identity for herself beyond her culture’s patriarchal strictures.”
“The Goodtime Girl is an epic and very Greek book: passionate, lush, visual, sometimes melodramatic … If you know Greece, you will see and hear it while reading. If you do not, doors and worlds will open to you.”
“It is Fragoulis’ almost frightening ability to get us to feel for her characters that makes this book work…Kivelli is a young woman who survives against all odds, leaving her charmed past behind to make it big in a man’s world of brothels and brawls, ouzo and hashish and rebetika. You aren’t likely to forget her journey.”
“Tess Fragoulis offers a wealth of exotic imagery … Reading The Goodtime Girl is like watching a visually vibrant movie with the sound turned off.”
“If you can’t afford a trip to Greece this summer, The Goodtime Girl is the next best thing. Escape guaranteed.”