Title: Greta & Valdin
Author: Rebecca K Reilly
Siblings Greta and Valdin have, perhaps, too much in common. They’re flatmates, beholden to the same near-unpronounceable surname, and both make questionable choices when it comes to love.
Valdin is in love with his ex-boyfriend Xabi, who left the country because he thought he was making Valdin sad. Greta is in love with fellow English tutor Holly, who appears to be using her for admin support. But perhaps all is not lost. Valdin is coming to realize that he might not be so unlovable, and Greta, that she might be worth more than the papers she can mark.
Helping the siblings navigate queerness, multiracial identity, and the tendency of their love interests to flee, is the Vladisavljevic Maori-Russian-Catalonian, and as passionate as they are eccentric.
Rebecca K. Reilly’s exploration of love, family, karaoke, and the generational reverberations of colonialism will make you laugh, cry, and fall for the whole Vladisavljevic bunch.
Greta & Valdin is a humorous, entertaining novel about two siblings: Greta and, you guessed it, Valdin. The novel follows them as they attempt to navigate relationships, family dynamics and their queer identities.
The book centres around their chaotic love lives, and we flick between chapters told from both perspectives (and sometimes other people’s too). We follow Greta trying to get over her colleague, fellow tutor Holly, who she realises does not return her feelings, and Valdin as he attempts to get over his ex-boyfriend Xabi, who now lives abroad. In between we learn more about their family’s history, particularly how their father came to New Zealand, the siblings’ Maori-Russian racial identities, and what it means to feel like you don’t entirely fit into either ‘background’.
I loved the quirky, acerbic wit in this novel. Greta was particularly amusing, coming out with some great lines (or thoughts, as we’re often inside her head) and I really liked Rebecca K Reilly’s writing style.
However, there is a big cast of supporting characters, some of whom have very similar names, and I often found myself confused as to who was being spoken about, which had me having to go back at points and re-read certain pages.
Overall, I found this an entertaining, funny novel which, in some parts, felt very relatable and in other parts felt like satisfying escapism. I’d happily read more about these engaging characters!
My rating: 4/5
Many thanks to the publisher, Penguin, for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest review.