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Summary

Do you sometimes feel like the music you're hearing is explaining your life to you?

When Pete's parents moved from Cyprus to Birmingham in the 1960s in the hope of a better life, they had no money and only a little bit of English. They opened a fish-and-chip shop in Acocks Green. The Great Western Fish Bar is where Pete learned about coin-operated machines, male banter and Britishness.  

Shy and introverted, Pete stopped speaking from age four to seven and found refuge instead in the bittersweet embrace of pop songs, thanks to Top of the Pops and Dial-a-Disc. From Brotherhood of Man to UB40, from Abba to The Police, music provided the safety net he needed to protect him from the tensions of his home life. It also helped him navigate his way around the challenges surrounding school, friendships and phobias such as visits to the barber, standing near tall buildings and Rod Hull and Emu.  

With every passing year, his guilty secret became more horrifying to him: his parents were Greek, but all the things that excited him were British. And the engine of that realisation? 'Sugar Baby Love', 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart', 'Tragedy', 'Silly Games', 'Going Underground', 'Come On Eileen' and every other irresistibly thrilling chart hit blaring out of the chip shop radio. 

Never have the trials and tribulations of growing up and the human need for a sense of belonging been so heart-breakingly and humorously depicted. 

©2020 Pete Paphides (P)2020 Quercus Editions Limited

Critic reviews

"Tender, clever and as funny as it gets...a heart-piercing joy." (Lauren Laverne)

"I adore this utterly wonderful coming-of-age memoir. Joyful, clever, and a bit heartbreaking." (Nina Stibbe) 

"Heartfelt, hilarious and beautifully written, Broken Greek is a childhood memoir like no other." (Cathy Newman)

What listeners say about Broken Greek

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Pop and chips

This is a very unusual memoir - like a patchwork quilt of pop songs sewn together to make the fabric of Pete Paphides' life. He's the son of a Greek mother (hugely loved) and Cypriot father who came to England on the promise of a job at Birmingham's Longbridge factory when Takis (as he was) was very young. There was no such job and Pete's parents ran a series of fish and chip shops, always hoping to return to the country they loved. But the 1974 war and partition scotched those hopes, casting a pall of yearning, discord and sadness over his hugely hard-working parents. The book is a staggeringly detailed life led through the words of pop songs from the 70s onwards - words which spoke to Pete even if he couldn't fully understand them, feeding his mind and soul as the gulf between the cultures in his family yawned ever wider as he became more English and his parents' relationship came under greater strain. It's astonishing how Pete can remember so much of his child-self (including 4 years as a selective mute in the early years of his life in England). The music, Dial-a-Disc, record shops and Pete's love for his mother were the anchors in his fractured home, where he remained Takis to his broken parents. Pete / Peter / Takis has a self-deprecating laugh-aloud wit and a sharp, incisive writing style with a startling immediacy. I gave it 4, not 5 because it's too long. Great chunks about football and some of the details of songs, music & singers are ill-disciplined: excessive and merely detract. But it's well worth listening to and in places (particularly concerning his parents) very moving, and it gave me insights into all those songs I've heard but whose mind-blowing messages I must admit have largely passed me by. Pete's mother would be working until late at night every night; finally Pete's father said he could never visit Cyprus again because he could never bear the pain of leaving.Through those songs Pete came to terms with living with the effects of loss suffered by his totally work-absorbed parents leaving their beloved country and never returning.

3 people found this helpful

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If you remember Geno the first time....

A fantastical journey through adolescence in Brum. Authors narrative and music combined brilliantly. So many triggers for a South Wales boy. Evocative like freshly cut grass. A must read.

3 people found this helpful

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Wholly engaging

High expectations more than met. Charged through 18 hours in a few days, going to miss the company of young Pete.

2 people found this helpful

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Wonderful

A wonderful story of growing up to immigrant parents in Birmingham and a lifelong love of pop music

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Growing up with two cultures

I had heard excerpts of this on Woman's Hour on the BBC and was curious to hear more. I really liked the parts about being a child/teenager adapting quickly to British life and being out of sync with his Greek culture. Pete describes this beautifully, but the audio book is too long, too detailed and needed serious editing.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant!

Anybody growing up in the ‘80s will love this and relisten to some of the songs from the era that you knew and some you didn’t.

1 person found this helpful

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Memories

Took me straight back to childhood.. ah the Rubettes and just juice! Thanks. A great trip down memory lane

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It ended and I felt as though I’d lost a friend

Loved this book. Written beautifully echoing my childhood. The music, the music the music. Evoking so many memories. I loved hearing about the 70s and 80s and the soundtracks that defined those eras. I want to hear this all over again. I’m really hoping there’s a sequel. As the child of immigrant parents I felt everything.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant listen !!

Fantastic listen - honest, warm & funny. Found out after there is a playlist of all the songs in the book on Spotify - wow ! Can’t wait for the next instalment. (I celebrated this book by treating myself to a large cod & chips - the photo of an elderly Greek couple proudly displayed behind the counter almost had me blubbing into my chips..).

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Absolute dross

Why does this person think we care? Why? Why? Why? Just simple ego. Is it possible to get a refund?

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Profile Image for J.E.Joyce
  • J.E.Joyce
  • 30-04-20

Perfect

Τέλια τέλια τέλια τέλια τέλια τέλια τέλια τέλια τέλια τέλια τέλια τέλια τέλια τέλια τέλια Dang how many words do I need? Thank you, loved it.