rocketjk's stroll through Europe

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rocketjk's stroll through Europe

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1rocketjk
Editado: Ago 11, 2019, 2:11 pm

Hello! I just stumbled onto this group. While I have a "Reading Globally" group thread up, I thought it would be fun to also track my reading in Europe. I don't make my reading selections with a conscious thought to these threads in mind, but it's fun to document where my random reading selections take me. Since this is an "endless" challenge, I've decided to post-date my list to my membership in LT, back at the beginning of 2008. As you'll see, my reading is more or less an even split between fiction and non-fiction. Here's where I've been in Europe . . .

Non-Country Specific
The Secret History of the War, Volume 1 by Waverly Root

Austria
A German Requiem by Philip Kerr
Reigen, The Affairs of Anatol and Other Plays by Arthur Schnitzler
Madensky Square by Eve Ibbotson

Basqueland
The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky

Belgium
Under the Iron Heel by Lars Moen

Bosnia & Herzegovina
The Lazarus Project by Aleksander Hemon (also listed in Moldova)
The Cellist of Sarjevo by Steven Galloway

Croatia
The Jews of Dubrovnik: a Walk Through Space and Time from the Early Days to the Present by Vesna Miovic
Veli Jože by Vladimir Nazor

Czechoslovakia
Prague Winter: a Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright
The Tenor Saxophonist's Story by Joseph Škvorecký

Denmark
We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen

England
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by Dr. Montague Rhodes James
My Favourite Year: A Collection of New Football Writing edited by Nick Hornby
Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
Baseball for British Youth by Eric E. Whitehead
British Baseball and the West Ham Club: History of a 1930s Professional Team in East London by Josh Chetwynd and Brian A. Belton
Letters from Joseph Conrad 1895-1924 edited by Edward Garnett
The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters
Hot Money by Dick Francis
Nine Lives by Bernice Rubens
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
The Need of Change by Julian Street
Dragonmede by Rona Randall
What Maisie Knew by Henry James
Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh (read twice)
The Beatles: The Ultimate Album-by-Album Guide by Rolling Stone Magazine
The Norman Achievement: 1050-1100 by David Charles Douglas (also listed in Italy)
Naked to Mine Enemies: the Life of Cardinal Wolsey by Charles W. Ferguson
Murder in Steeple Martin by Lesley Cookman
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
Murder at the Laurels by Lesley Cookman
Life Class by Pat Barker
Murder in Midwinter by Lesley Cookman
All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot
Time of Hope by C.P. Snow
22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson (also listed in Poland)
Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson
The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth
Chance by Joseph Conrad
Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley
Murder by the Sea by Lesley Cookman
George Passant by C.P. Snow
The 39 Steps by John Buchan
The Wooden Shepherdess by Richard Hughes
The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
The Conscience of the Rich by C.P. Snow
Murder in Bloom by Lesley Cookman
Speak to Me, Dance with Me by Agnes de Mille
The Light and the Dark by C.P. Snow
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Miss Mapp by E.F. Benson
Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
Gilbert and Sullivan: A Dual Biography by Michael Ainger
Arkady by Patrick Langley
The Three Hostages by John Buchan

The British Army
Officers and Gentlemen by Evelyn Waugh (read twice)
The End of the Battle by Evelyn Waugh

Finland
What the People of the Wilderness Used to Believe In by Oili Räihälä
Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi
Under the North Star by Väinö Linna
The Uprising by Väinö Linna
Reconciliation by Väinö Linna

France
The Fables of La Fontaine by Jean de La Fontaine with illustrations by Marc Chagall
International Short Stories (Vol. III - French) edited by William Patten
Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac
No Man's Land by Kevin Major
Maigret and the Pickpocket by Georges Simenon
Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes
The Ides of May: the Defeat of France, May-June, 1940 by John Williams (non-fiction)
The Devil by Alfred Neumann
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
High Bonnet by Idwal Jones
Three Soldiers by John Dos Passos
Madame Curie by Eve Curie (also listed in Poland)
Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst
Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe Du Hoc - The Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day's Toughest Mission and Led the Way across Europe by Patrick K. O'Donnell (non-fiction)
The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan (non-fiction)
Honeymoon by Patrick Modiano
The Arrow of Gold by Joseph Conrad
The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

Germany
Great German Short Novels and Stories edited by Bennett Cerf
March Violets by Philip Kerr
The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz: Volume One 1829 - 1852 by Carl Schurz
The Pale Criminal by Philip Kerr
The Good German by Joseph Kanon
The Cleaner by Brett Battles
The One from the Other by Philip Kerr
A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr
The Fox in the Attic by Richard Hughes
The Wooden Shepherdess by Richard Hughes
Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada
Deductions from the World War by Baron Alexander von Freytag-Loringhoven
If the Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr
All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski

Greece
Back to Delphi by Ionna Karystiani

Hither & Yon
Slingshot by Matthew Dunn
Mr Standfast by John Buchan

Hungary
The Gates of the Forest by Elie Wiesel

Ireland
The Woman Who Walked Into Walls by Roddy Doyle
Blood-Dark Track by Joseph O'Neill
A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle
The Run of the Country by Shane Connaughton
Dolly's Cottage: The History of a Thatched House in Strandhill, County Sligo compiled and written by the Strandhill Guild of the Irish Countrywomen's Association
A Little Bit of Ireland by John Finan
Guerilla Days in Ireland: a First-Hand Account of the Black and Tan War (1919-1921) by Tom Barry
A Soldier's Wife by Marion Reynolds

Italy
The Medici by G. F. Young
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
The Norman Achievement: 1050-1100 by David Charles Douglas (also listed in England)
Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano di Torino - Pocket Guide by Daniela Orta (non-fiction)
The Ciano Diaries 1939-1943: the Complete, Unabridged Diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, 1936-1943 by Count Galeazzo Ciano (non-fiction)
The Child of Pleasure by Gabriele D'Annunzio

Kosovo
Under the Blue Flag: My Mission to Kosovo by Philip Kearny

Moldova
The Lazarus Project by Aleksander Hemon (also listed in Bosnia)

Northern Ireland
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
Milkman by Anna Banks
The Land of Cain by Peter Lappin

The Pale of Settlement
Selected Short Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer
Tevye's Daughters by Sholom Aleichem (also listed in Russia)

Poland
22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson (also listed in England)
Madame Curie by Eve Curie (also listed in France)

Portugal
Memo to a Firing Squad by Frederick Hazlitt Brennan

Romania
The Appointment by Herta Muller

Russia
An Anthology of Russian Literature in the Soviet Period from Gorki to Pasternak edited by Bernard Guilbert Guerney
Moscow Circles by Benedict Erofeev
Bystander by Maxim Gorky
We by Yevgeny Zamiatin
Selected Tales by Nikolai Leskov
The Hermitage: A Stroll around the Halls and Galleries by Sergei Vesnin, S. V. Kudri︠a︡vt︠s︡eva and Tatiana Pashkova
The War in Eastern Europe by John Reed (also listed in Serbia)
Sentinel by Matthew Dunn
Tevye's Daughters by Sholom Aleichem (also listed in the Pale of Settlement)

Scotland
St. Ronan's Well by Sir Walter Scott
Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott
Kidnapped by Robert Lewis Stevenson
The World, the Flesh and Father Smith by Bruce Marshall

Serbia
The War in Eastern Europe by John Reed (also listed in Russia)

Spain
Moorish Spain by Richard Fletcher
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Antony Beevor
Another Hill by Milton Wolff
War is Beautiful: An American Ambulance Driver in the Spanish Civil War by James Neugass
Sepharad by Antonio Munoz Molina
Blood and Faith: the Purging of Muslim Spain by Matthew Carr

Sweden
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

Switzerland
I'm Not Stiller by Max Frisch
The Lions of Lucerne by Brad Thor
The Castles of Bellinzona by Werner Meyer and Patricia Cavadini-Bielander
Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad

Turkey
Greenmantle by John Buchan

Wales
The Fox in the Attic by Richard Hughes

Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation by Laura Silber and Allan Little

2RidgewayGirl
Out 3, 2010, 8:59 pm

You have read some interesting books and I look forward to seeing where your reading takes you next. Weicome!

3rocketjk
Out 4, 2010, 12:00 pm

Thanks! These books only represent my Europe-centric reading over the past 3 years. Since the beginning of 2008, the period represented by this list of 28, I have read a total of 90 books. So just a little under a third of the books I've read have taken place in Europe (either historically or fictionally).

If by some chance you're interested in seeing all the places I've been around the globe, including the U.S., this year, you can take a look at my Reading Globally thread: http://www.librarything.com/topic/97835

All the best, and thanks for checking out my thread!

4rocketjk
Nov 3, 2010, 4:57 pm

Just popped back to England to read Letters from Joseph Conrad 18954-1924, edited by Edward Garnett. Garnett was the publisher's reader who first recommended Conrad's work to a major publishing house. The two stayed friends throughout their lives, with Garnett offering editing help and criticism of Conrad's works in progress (during Conrad's early career) and then mostly as a critic and advisor later on. Garnett published this large stack of Conrad's letters shortly after Conrad's death.

5rocketjk
Nov 15, 2010, 4:19 pm

Added Ireland to the list with the astounding The Woman Who Walked Into Walls by Roddy Doyle.

6rocketjk
Nov 27, 2010, 2:00 am

Still another visit to England via the thriller, The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters

7Trifolia
Dez 4, 2010, 2:38 pm

Wow, you have read a book on Belgium I haven't even heard of (I'm Belgian btw), but which looks fascinating (I've read your excellent review). I'll try to find a copy of this one. Thanks for mentioning it here.

8rocketjk
Dez 6, 2010, 2:25 pm

JustJoey4, You're welcome. I'm fascinated with memoirs and histories written during, or soon after, momentous events like WW Two. Under the Iron Heel certainly fits that category.

9rocketjk
Dez 30, 2010, 4:46 pm

Well, back to England for another mystery: Hot Money by Dick Francis. Lots of fun.

10rocketjk
Jan 28, 2011, 12:36 pm

Well, my fascination with the Spanish Civil War brought me back to Spain for the 5th time in the last few years for War is Beautiful: An American Ambulance Driver in the Spanish Civil War by James Neugass. This is an astounding and moving memoir.

11rocketjk
Mar 5, 2011, 4:46 pm

Wow. England again. I gotta get off that island. At any rate, I enjoyed the dark comedy Nine Lives by Bernice Rubens.

12cbl_tn
Mar 7, 2011, 7:13 pm

I experience the same problem with England. It seems like I read at least one book set there for every book I read set somewhere else.

13thornton37814
Mar 7, 2011, 9:31 pm

There are just too many great England books!

14AHS-Wolfy
Mar 8, 2011, 5:29 am

As it's my home country I ended up splitting the UK section into counties similar to the separate group for the US 50 states. The only problem with that is a large majority of the books are set in London.

15Mr.Durick
Mar 8, 2011, 4:03 pm

And some of the good ones are fictional.

Robert

16rocketjk
Editado: Abr 24, 2011, 9:24 pm

Well, I'm still on the island but now further north, in Scotland, and a couple of hundred years back as I read and greatly enjoyed Robert Lewis Stevenson's classic Kidnapped.

17pbadeer
Editado: Abr 24, 2011, 9:44 pm

I've had plenty of UK reads, but I'm always open to more. Nine Lives sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the review

18rocketjk
Abr 27, 2011, 11:17 pm

You're welcome! Hope you enjoy the book. It's some good, wicked fun.

19rocketjk
Editado: Maio 30, 2011, 1:47 pm

Finally made it to Portugal, with the anti-Nazi underground during World War II, with Frederick Hazlitt Brennan's Memo to a Firing Squad.

20rocketjk
Editado: Jun 3, 2011, 3:12 am

Back to Germany, this time circa 1938, for The Pale Criminal, the second of Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir detective series.

21rocketjk
Jun 21, 2011, 2:15 am

Sigh . . . another England book. Although I did enjoy it quite a lot. And I'm probably the last person on earth to read it: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot.

22cbl_tn
Jun 21, 2011, 7:03 am

I love James Herriot's books! I listened to most of them on audio and I highly recommend the experience. They're read by Christopher Timothy, who played James on the television series. He's very talented at vocal characterization.

23rocketjk
Jul 14, 2011, 3:07 am

Thanks, cbl_tn. I enjoyed All Creatures and will be reading the 2nd & 3rd books in the Herriot series sometime over the next few months.

24rocketjk
Set 23, 2011, 3:11 pm

England again for Julian Street's short comedy of manners, The Need of Change, first published in 1909.

25rocketjk
Nov 10, 2011, 4:10 pm

England again for Rona Randall's fun Victorian romance/mystery, Dragonmede.

26rocketjk
Jan 25, 2012, 4:28 pm

Hurray! Finally a new European country: Switzerland! I just finished Max Frisch's terrific classic, I'm Not Stiller. That makes 14 European countries if one may count Basqueland as a country.

27rocketjk
Editado: Abr 10, 2012, 11:14 am

England again for Henry James' little ditty of selfishness and cruelty, What Maisie Knew.

28rocketjk
Maio 28, 2012, 1:11 pm

Another new country, Kosovo, via the excellent memoir Under the Blue Flag: My Mission to Kosovo by Philip Kearny. The book is about Kearny's role prosecuting war criminals in Kosovo. Highly recommended.

29rocketjk
Jun 13, 2012, 6:07 pm

Back to Spain for the wonderful Sepharad by Antonio Munoz Molina. This is my first Spanish book over the past several years that didn't deal wholly with the Spanish Civil War.

30rocketjk
Jul 4, 2012, 1:06 pm

To Sweden to finish off Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy. Good but not great, in my view.

31Trifolia
Jul 11, 2012, 7:20 am

Hi Jerry, you've done some great European reading. I'd be interested to know your thoughts on I'm not Stiller by Max Frisch.

32rocketjk
Jul 11, 2012, 2:20 pm

Hi JJ4, Thanks for the kind words about my Europe reading. I enjoyed I'm Not Stiller quite a lot. I think it's considered a classic in Switzerland. You can find a bit more of my reactions to the book, plus a comment or two from other LTers, on my 50-Book Challenge thread (http://www.librarything.com/topic/130053) beginning at post 13. Cheers!

33Trifolia
Jul 13, 2012, 1:12 pm

Thanks Jerry, for the link. So this is where you're hiding the extras? :-)
Your review on I'm Not Stiller has convinced me to try to find a copy rather sooner than later.
Btw, I fully agree with your opinion on Stieg Larsson's books.

34rocketjk
Jul 23, 2012, 3:10 pm

To Czechoslovakia (it was still that country during the years this book covers) for Prague Winter: a Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright. Not as much a memoir as a history, this is still a very good book about the Czech (especially) national experience during the title years.

35rocketjk
Ago 26, 2012, 12:45 pm

A trip back to France for Maigret and the Pickpocket by Georges Simenon. This was my first Maigret mystery. I liked it quite a lot, plus I thought it evoked Paris quite nicely, although not in any depth.

36rocketjk
Ago 29, 2012, 3:16 am

OK, England for the 14th time since I started keeping track a couple of years ago, for Evelyn Waugh's enjoyable satire, Men at Arms. There'll be a couple more coming sometime soon, as I'm looking forward to reading the other two books of this trilogy. What a treat!

37cbl_tn
Ago 29, 2012, 7:01 am

I've discovered that it's very difficult to stay out of England. I've been there at least 14 times since I started this challenge!

38rocketjk
Editado: Set 19, 2012, 6:54 am

Went to St. Petersburg for two days out of our vacation to Finland this summer and visited the stunning Hermitage. When I got back, I actually sat down and read through the relatively detailed guidebook to the museum: The Hermitage: A Stroll around the Halls and Galleries by Sergei Vesnin, S. V. Kudri︠a︡vt︠s︡eva and Tatiana Pashkova.

39VivienneR
Set 19, 2012, 1:16 pm

What a wonderful trip that must have been. Lucky you!

40rocketjk
Set 22, 2012, 3:16 pm

Thanks Vivienne! And from that same trip, What the People of the Wilderness Used to Believe In by Oili Räihälä. This is a short history of the religious and folk beliefs of the people of northern Finland and Lapland from around the Iron Age until the 19th century. We spent a couple of days staying in a cabin (and hiking and rowing) at a parkland in Hossa which contains prehistoric rock drawings discussed in this book.

41Ameise1
Set 23, 2012, 12:09 pm

Oh rocketijk, what a wonderful trip. I've already visited Finland and enjoyed it very much but St. Peterburg is on the top of my travel-wishlist.

42rocketjk
Set 23, 2012, 1:53 pm

Thanks, Ameise! We were only there for two days, and unfortunately it rained the whole time, but it was quite fascinating to be there. There is such a contrast between St. Petersburg and Helsinki, too. Helsinki seemed to us such a calm and friendly place. There is much more of an edge to St. Petersburg, much more of a feeling that the people there have to struggle to survive, that the society in place is anything but benign. But that was just the feeling we got. We ourselves encountered no real unpleasantness (other than the constant rain). We did eat some good food in St. Petersburg, saw the Hermitage, as I've described here, and also spent some fascinating time at the only synagogue in the city (my wife and I are both Jewish), a beautiful building dating back to the 1890s. We also had a chance to see the house that Dostoyevsky lived in when he wrote Crime and Punishment and also the house that is believed to be the one Dostoyevsky was thinking of when he described Raskolnikov's apartment building. There's a frieze on the outside of the building commemorating that fact. Anyway, I do recommend a trip to St. Petersburg. Just don't expect it to be very relaxing. (And by the way, I grew up in New Jersey; to me, New York City is relaxing!)

43Ameise1
Set 24, 2012, 7:29 am

Hi rocketjk! Thanks for your detailed report. Don't worry I'm used to see behind the facade of a city. Living in Europe means also to see and get to know all different shades of social misery in West as well in East Europe. I've travelled in some East European states and have seen the beauty of the ancient time but also the struggle to get closer to the West side. It isn't easy for everybody. There is only a handful which will reach the target and those mostly in a corrupt way. What a pity.

44cyderry
Set 24, 2012, 9:30 am

My goodness, you certain have been visiting the European countries in many ways, you are far ahead of me on the challenge!

45rocketjk
Out 28, 2012, 2:18 pm

Finished and greatly enjoyed the excellent family history/memoir, Blood-Dark Track, by Joseph O'Neill. O'Neill goes in search of the stories of his two grandfathers, both of whom were imprisoned by the British during World War Two, one in Turkey for suspected espionage for the Axis, and the other in Ireland because of his IRA activities. Fascinating and well written. While the Turkish part of the story takes place in Asian, or Middle-Eastern, Turkey rather than in European Turkey, I am putting this down as another visit to Ireland.

46rocketjk
Nov 23, 2012, 11:19 am

Sort of strangely given its title (but not its subject matter), the third book in Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir detective series, A German Requiem, takes place mostly in Vienna, so I'm calling it Austria here. At any rate, like the first two books in the series, this is a very entertaining mystery, with the time and place, Vienna in 1947, brought to life very well, indeed.

47rocketjk
Dez 24, 2012, 12:48 am

I made my fourth trip to Scotland, but first in the 20th century, with The World, the Flesh and Father Smith by Bruce Marshall. This is a very nice, gentle comedy.

48rocketjk
Dez 31, 2012, 7:21 pm

I followed the marauding Normans through their 11th-century conquests in England, southern Italy and Sicily in the history The Norman Achievement: 1050-1100 by David Charles Douglas. Interesting history, but sort of dry in the presentation.

49rocketjk
Jan 27, 2013, 3:11 pm

I whirled around Eastern Europe, and through time, reading Aleksandar Hemon's amazing The Lazarus Project. The story takes place in 1908 Chicago, 1903 Moldova (at the time the Bessarabia province of the Russian Empire) during the infamous Kishinev pogrom, and Sarajevo, mostly during the bloody siege of that city during the 1990s. In my Reading Globally thread, I listed the book as Chicago and Bosnia, as those are the two largest portions, but here in the Europe thread, I'm listing it as Bosnia and Moldova. Anyway, I highly recommend the book.

50VivienneR
Jan 27, 2013, 3:26 pm

I'm also in Moldova at the moment with a biography No going back to Moldova by Anna Robertson. I have to admit that I am completely confused about the shifting borders in that area so I find it understandable that you can use the same book for different countries. Your review is excellent, I've given it a thumb.

51rocketjk
Jan 27, 2013, 4:52 pm

Thanks!

52rocketjk
Fev 11, 2013, 1:53 pm

Officers and Gentlemen by Evelyn Waugh. This one's a toughie. While the book takes place for the most part in Scotland, Egypt and Crete, the real dominant paradigm of the book is that it takes place in the British army during World War Two. The book is much more a statement about that organization, the British class system and the absurdity of war than any sort of literary visit to the countries in which it's placed. So that's what I'm doing, creating a new category: The British Army. Terrific book, by the way, in turns funny and dark.

53rocketjk
Editado: Mar 24, 2013, 2:08 pm

To England for the 17th time since I started keeping track here for the dense and excellent biography, Naked to Mine Enemies: the Life of Cardinal Wolsey by Charles W. Ferguson.

54rocketjk
Abr 29, 2013, 1:56 pm

Back to Spain for another history, Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain by Matthew Carr. This is a detailed and fascinating account of the long years leading up to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Muslims from Spain in the early 17th century.

55rocketjk
Maio 5, 2013, 12:35 pm

A second trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina with The Cellist of Sarajevo, which I found to be very good, but somehow lighter than I was expecting.

56rocketjk
Jun 8, 2013, 3:08 pm

Back to Germany for Joseph Kanon's excellent mystery/thriller, The Good German, set in Berlin during chaotic days immediately after the end of WW2.

57varielle
Jun 9, 2013, 5:05 pm

I'm glad the book version is good, now I may have to try it. I was severely disappointed in the movie version of the Good German despite a stellar cast.

58rocketjk
Jun 9, 2013, 6:55 pm

Varielle, I have read on another thread, or maybe in one of the LT reviews of the book, that the movie changes the plot of the book considerably, and, as is normally the case, not for the better.

59rocketjk
Out 12, 2013, 12:49 pm

I went back in time to Jewish shtetel life of pre-WW2 eastern Europe to read Selected Short Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer. I've always loved Singer, and this great collection, published by Modern Library in 1966, reminded me why. Singer's stories are exquisite, revealing the wonders and weaknesses of human nature. In these stories, Singer introduces us to the magical realism of Jewish mysticism and superstition, as demons and imps play major roles in many of these stores, and indeed even narrate a goodly number. I'm placing this book in The Pale of Settlement, which is described thusly by Wikipedia:

The Pale of Settlement was the term given to a region of Imperial Russia in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed and beyond which Jewish permanent residency was generally prohibited. It extended from the eastern pale, or demarcation line, to the western Russian border with the Kingdom of Prussia (later the German Empire) and with Austria-Hungary.

The Pale comprised about 20% of the territory of European Russia, and largely corresponded to historical borders of the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth; it included much of present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Moldova, Ukraine, and parts of western Russia. Jews were also excluded from residency at a number of cities within the Pale. A limited number of categories of Jews were allowed to live outside the pale.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_of_Settlement

60rocketjk
Nov 15, 2013, 12:29 am

Made another of my frequent stops in Engand, Kent to be exact, for a murder mystery: Murder in Steeple Martin by Lesley Cookman. This is the first in what seems to be an enjoyable if not great series, and I'll be giving Cookman and her character, Libby Sarjeant, a few more books to see if there's any development to be enjoyed.

61rocketjk
Dez 15, 2013, 2:56 am

I went back to Czechoslovakia, this time via fiction, reading Joseph Škvorecký's collection of inter-connected short tales, The Tenor Saxophonist's Story. Although told with a wry wit and a twinkle in the proverbial eye, these tales end up conveying a rather chilling message of life under a deepening, if absurd, totalitarian system.

62rocketjk
Dez 16, 2013, 8:45 pm

Brad Thor's thriller, The Lions of Lucerne, had enough going on in, and enough physical description of, Switzerland for me to count it as a return visit there.

63rocketjk
Jan 6, 2014, 2:28 pm

My final reading for 2013 was John Reed's amazing war journal, The War in Eastern Europe. Reed traveled throughout the Balkans in 1915, reporting about the effects World War One was having on the countries he visited and the people he came across. While Reed spent time in Greece, Serbia, Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and Turkey, the largest segments, and the most memorable, take place in Serbia and Russia, so I've counted this book for those two countries. That means I get to add Serbia as a new country, here, and add my seventh visit to Russia since I've start keeping track of my European reading travels as of 2008.

64rocketjk
Jan 11, 2014, 4:56 pm

Back to England for Joseph Conrad's hallucinatory tramp through early 20th-century London, via The Secret Agent.

65rocketjk
Fev 8, 2014, 3:58 pm

Back to 19th-century England again for Michael Cox's faux-Victorian Era crime novel, The Meaning of Night. Quite enjoyable though long.

66rocketjk
Mar 31, 2014, 1:12 pm

I just finished Reigen, The Affairs of Anatol and Other Plays, a Modern Library edition of a collection of plays by Arthur Schnitzler. Schnitzler was an important Austrian playwright in the late 19- and early 20th centuries. He wrote frankly about sexual matters and the furor over the content of his plays was evidently fueled by the fact that he was Jewish. Schnitzler died in 1931, but that didn't stop Hitler from having his books thrown onto the bonfires en masse during the Nazi's book burning heyday. The plays in this collection include Schnitzler's most famous, "Reigen," in which ten pairs of characters converse just before and after making love (note: not during), leading and ending with a prostitute. This play has been made into movies several times with the title La Ronde.

Although the first three plays could really take place almost anywhere in Europe, and the fourth takes place in Revolution-era France, Schnitzler importance as an Austrian playwright makes this, I feel, authentically enough a reading visit to Austria.

67rocketjk
Editado: Maio 27, 2014, 2:34 am

I returned to France, and the world of literature and speculative ideas, by reading the wonderful novel, Flaubert's Parrot, by Julian Barnes.

68rocketjk
Ago 27, 2014, 8:03 pm

In July, my wife and I went to Italy (Turin) and Switzerland (Lausanne and, mostly, Bellinzona) for a grand vacation. We had a great time in both places. One of the great days in Turin was our visit to a fascinating history museum, the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano di Torino, which details the approximately 150-year struggle to unify the Italian peninsula into a single nation. Reading-wise, I am including the nicely written guide book to this museum as a visit to Italy for the sake of this list.

69rocketjk
Editado: Ago 27, 2014, 8:07 pm

Went back to France again for the excellent history, The Ides of May: the Defeat of France, May-June, 1940, by John Williams. Hard to read because of the subject matter, but well written, detailed and informative.

70rocketjk
Ago 30, 2014, 1:00 pm

One more from our recent vacation is the guidebook, The Castles of Bellinzona, by Werner Meyer and Patricia Cavadini-Bielander. We spent close to a week in this beautiful town at the foot of the Alps in eastern Switzerland. There are three castles, and we visited two of them. Plus we took the walking tour of the town itself included near the end of the book. Great place, fascinating history, well-written guidebook.

71rocketjk
Editado: Set 3, 2014, 7:36 pm

My 21st reading visit to England since 2008 was Murder at the Laurels by Lesley Cookman, the second entry in Cookman's "Libby Sarjeant" series.

72rocketjk
Editado: Set 28, 2014, 1:15 pm

Boy, the England list is getting long. I went back there, circa WWI, for Pat Barker's very good Life Class. Much of the second half of the book takes place in Belgium during the war, but that is much more a visit to War than a visit to Belgium, so I'm just counting this as another England, as a majority of the book, especially the first half, takes place in London.

73rocketjk
Out 2, 2014, 8:12 pm

I finished The Devil, a novel set in 15th-century France, written in the 1920s by German author Alfred Neumann. It's really more a psychological study than an historical novel, but it is set in France. Lots of castle interiors (and dark interiors of the soul); very little countryside or culture presented.

74rocketjk
Editado: Out 12, 2014, 3:15 pm

My 23rd reading visit to England since 2008 was Murder in Midwinter by Lesley Cookman, the third entry in Cookman's "Libby Sarjeant" series.

75rocketjk
Out 21, 2014, 6:22 pm

I read to France again, modern day this time, via Muriel Barbery's enjoyable, erudite fairy tale, The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

76rocketjk
Nov 6, 2014, 12:06 am

My 24th visit to England since 2008 was the delightful All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot. He makes life in the Yorkshire Dales farmlands seem charming, but very, very hard. Let's put it this way: charming to read about; hard to live.

77rocketjk
Nov 17, 2014, 4:42 pm

Back to France for High Bonnet, Idwal Jones' delightful novel about the world of high-tone Parisian restaurant, and, more specifically, the cooks and kitchens therein, in the 1930s. Lots of fun and great writing.

78rocketjk
Jan 16, 2015, 3:08 pm

I took my fourth reading trip to Switzerland since I started keep track, beginning 2015 with Joseph Conrad's Under Western Eyes. The book, first published in 1911, is about (sort of) Russian revolutionaries hatching plots in Geneva. The first third of the book takes place St. Petersburg, but enough of the book is set in Geneva for me to call this Switzerland. Conrad's (or at least his narrator's) descriptions of Geneva are mostly negative, sad to say.

79rocketjk
Editado: Fev 7, 2015, 3:28 pm

I read to Denmark for the first time this month, via Carsten Jensen's epic-like We, the Drowned. I found this long saga of three generations of a Danish seafaring town and the sailors who venture out onto the cruel and dangerous oceans to be compelling and extremely readable.

I've now read to 22 "official" European countries over the last several years, plus Basqueland, the Pale of Settlement and my own somewhat whimsical category of "the British Army."

80rocketjk
Fev 28, 2015, 2:52 pm

In an historical visit to Italy, I just finished The Ciano Diaries 1939-1943: the Complete, Unabridged Diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, 1936-1943. I found it very interesting, if not exactly compelling reading. Ciano was Mussolini's son-in-law, as well as his foreign minister, so the level of his access to the Duce was complete. It was the day-to-day layering of events, sometimes repetitive but always intriguing, that really paint a picture of Mussolini's political corruption and willful disregard for the facts. How Mussolini ever got into such a position of power, given his extremely erratic thinking as described by Ciano, is unclear to me. Guess I need to read more about that period of Italian history.

81rocketjk
Editado: Nov 28, 2015, 2:09 am

I read to Russia via the espionage thriller Sentinel, the second in Matthew Dunn's "Spycatcher" series.

82rocketjk
Abr 18, 2015, 12:27 pm

Well, it was another reading visit to England via Time of Hope by C.P. Snow. It's a fine, insightful book about growing into maturity and the battering that ambition can take at the hands of life and love. This is the first in Snow's 14-book novel cycle, "Strangers and Brothers."

83rocketjk
Editado: Set 22, 2015, 2:09 pm

It's been a while since I got to Europe. This month it was back to the Jewish Pale of Settlement, and more specifically Russia during the last years of the tzars, via Sholom Aleichem's astounding stories, as gathered in the fine collection, Tevye's Daughters.

84rocketjk
Out 1, 2015, 3:35 pm

And now quickly back to Europe, Ireland specifically, via Roddy Doyle's A Star Called Henry, a compelling, though often brutal, fictionalized account of the Irish rebellion against the English in the 20th century, told through the eyes of a somewhat larger than life protagonist and including just a touch of magical realism.

85rocketjk
Out 20, 2015, 6:27 pm

I'm calling Brett Battles' espionage thriller, The Cleaner, a Germany visit. It's really a globe-trotting sort of spy book, but about the last third of it settles down to Berlin. Both the author and the protagonist seem to know the city well, and there's plenty of description of the city, so I feel OK about the call. Enjoyable book, by the way.

86rocketjk
Out 22, 2015, 9:12 pm

I've finished the violent but extremely well written and memorable The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville. The book takes place in the first decade of the 21st century, as the hostilities of the Troubles in Northern Ireland finally seem to be abating in the face of political compromise. But Gerry Fegan, a "soldier" for the Republican side a few years past his 12-year prison sentence, is being haunted by the ghosts of 12 people whose deaths he caused. Politically acute, and with a deft touch at characterization and dialogue, Neville has put together a compelling nightmare of a book. I couldn't put it down. I'm pretty sure it's my first reading trip to Northern Ireland, at least since I've been keeping track.

87rocketjk
Out 30, 2015, 3:17 pm

England just after World War Two and Poland during the war (via flashback) are the settings for the so-so (for me) 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson. Some parts were good, but in the end there were too many plot cliches for this to get more than three stars. It's my first reading visit to Poland since I've started keeping track here, but it was not all that satisfying a trip, as it's hard to discern whether the author was ever really there, herself.

88rocketjk
Nov 14, 2015, 3:39 pm

Although Philip Kerr is a British writer, his Bernie Gunter private detective series provides vivid noirish picture of Germany before, during and after World War II. I've just finished the fourth entry in this series, The One from the Other, set in 1949. Irritation with the American occupiers and, more to the point, menace from Nazi war criminals bent on escaping their crimes give Bernie all he can handle. Lots of atmosphere and history and a very enjoyable reading experience, all in all.

89rocketjk
Nov 28, 2015, 1:58 am

I took another reading trip to England, this time to read the enjoyable British comedy of manners, Queen Lucia, the first in E.F. Benson's classic "Mapp and Lucia" series.

90rocketjk
Dez 17, 2015, 3:21 pm

I took another reading trip to England, my 28th since I started keeping track here, this time via the enjoyable 1980s espionage thriller, The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth.

91rocketjk
Jan 23, 2016, 1:08 pm

England again! This time via Joseph Conrad's Chance. Not among Conrad's best, but still Conrad, so still enjoyable for me.

92rocketjk
Fev 28, 2016, 2:15 pm

I read to England once again via Point Counter Point, Aldous Huxley's "novel of ideas" about the intellectual/philosophical life of London's upper and high middle class between the world wars (or, as Huxley was experiencing it, since the book was published in 1928, after the Great War). It is interesting in places, with a generous supply of Huxley's sly wit, but also tedious for significant stretches. Your mileage may vary.

93rocketjk
Mar 11, 2016, 8:12 pm

I read A Quite Flame, the fifth entry in Philip Kerr's excellent Bernie Gunther noir series. About two thirds of the book takes place in Argentina, circa 1950, but enough of the story is told via flashback in Berlin, 1932, for me to consider this a reading trip to Germany as well as to Argentina.

94rocketjk
Editado: Abr 2, 2016, 2:24 pm

I took my fourth reading trip to Ireland since I started keeping track here many years ago (and I'm surprised it's only my fourth) via The Run of the Country by Shane Connaughton. This book delivers a very nice, and insightful, coming of age story about a teenager in Cavan County, Ireland, a rural area on the border with Northern Ireland. The novel, which takes place in the 1950s, includes plenty of lovely descriptions of countryside, human nature and longing, and life along a border.

95rocketjk
Editado: Abr 23, 2016, 1:15 pm

I reread the first two books of Evelyn Waugh's "Sword of Honour" trilogy, Men at Arms and Officers and Gentlemen so that I could fully appreciate the third book, The End of the Battle, (a.k.a. Unconditional Surrender). The first book takes place in England, but for the second, I created the category, "The British Army," for myself. I would will put The End of the Battle in that category, as well. The trilogy is Waugh's literary trip through World War 2, via his upper class character, Guy Crouchback. What begins in the first book as rather broad satire becomes, by the end of the trilogy, much more pointed, dour and very, very memorable.

96rocketjk
Maio 23, 2016, 10:33 pm

I read my way to France, during and just after World War I, via Dos Passos' second novel, Three Soldiers. First published in 1921, this book still packs a punch. Three Soldiers is about the absurdities and terrors experienced by American enlisted men during World War I in France. But even more, it is about the tedium, frustration and humiliations of military life in general, at least as experienced among the ranks. The grimness of the narrative is mitigated by Dos Passos' obvious affection for his characters, and by his often joyous physical descriptions of Paris and the French countryside, and the life to be found there. So while primarily a strong anti-war novel, Dos Passos has also provided here a love letter to Paris in particular and France in general.

97rocketjk
Jul 9, 2016, 4:58 am

I read back to England for the zillionth time via Murder by the Sea, the fourth book in Lesley Cookman's "Libby Sarjeant" series. These books are amiable and low-stress fun, although the two main characters have already gotten fairly repetitive by this point, only four books into an 11-book (so far) series.

98rocketjk
Ago 21, 2016, 3:39 pm

And to England again, this time via George Passant, the second novel of "Strangers and Brothers," C.P. Snow's long series about British life and mores from the 1920s through the 60s.

99rocketjk
Ago 26, 2016, 7:43 pm

And still once more back to England (and Scotland) via John Buchan's espionage classic, The 39 Steps.

100rocketjk
Set 26, 2016, 2:07 pm

I recently reread Richard Hughes' The Fox in the Attic, which takes the reader to Wales and Germany, and realized I'd never listed that book here, although I did read it after beginning to post here on LT. So, that book's now been added in both countries. My first listing for Wales, by the way.

101rocketjk
Out 8, 2016, 12:07 pm

I finished The Wooden Shepherdess by Richard Hughes. This novel provides an in-depth look at the Nazi's rise, taking the reader through 1934 and culminating with Hitler's brutal 1934 consolidation of power known as the Night of the Long Knives. Some time is also spent with British politics of the same era. This is the sequel to The Fox in the Attic (see above). So, Germany and Great Britain.

102rocketjk
Editado: Out 22, 2016, 1:27 pm

I took my second reading trip, and first via fiction, to Finland. First published in 1870, Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi is considered the first novel written in Finnish. Previously, Finnish novels had been written in Swedish, or even Latin. The seven boisterous, brawling Jukola brothers live in rural Finland. They are just entering adulthood when their mother dies, leaving them parentless. And while they bicker endlessly with each other, they remain fiercely loyal as well, presenting a united front to the outside world, which wants them to simmer down, to put it mildly. The adventures of these brothers as well as the evolution of their internal relations and their development into mature adults provide the novel's course. But the narrative seems almost as much to be a parable about life in general and Finnish rural culture in particular. While it took me a while to enter the flow of the narrative, in the end I enjoyed this book a lot.

103rocketjk
Dez 4, 2016, 2:48 pm

Took my 35th reading trip to England since I started keeping track back in 2010, as I finished up James Herriot's poignant and enjoyable "All Creatures Great and Small" series with All Things Wise and Wonderful.

104rocketjk
Dez 10, 2016, 6:30 pm

Made my eleventh reading trip to Germany since 2010 via the history, The Pink Triangle: the Nazi War Against Homosexuals by Richard Plant. This is an excellent if depressing overview of the harassment, arrest, torture and murder in thousands of homosexuals in Nazi Germany.

105rocketjk
Dez 18, 2016, 5:17 pm

Even 79 years after its original publication, Madame Curie, Eve Curie's marvelous biography of her famous mother, Marie Curie, remains a vibrant and important work. I consider this biography a reading visit both to Poland, as Eve provides an extremely vivid account of her mother's childhood and young adulthood, and France, where Marie Curie studied, undertook, along with her husband, Pierre, her ground-breaking, Nobel Prize earning research, and raised her children.

106rocketjk
Jan 19, 2017, 3:04 pm

Took a another reading trip to France, circa 1938, via Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst. This excellent espionage thriller is about two Spanish emigres in Paris attempting to buy arms for the struggling Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War.

107rocketjk
Fev 5, 2017, 4:03 pm

Read my way to Finland again via Under the North Star by Väinö Linna. This is the first book of Linna's trilogy of the same name, a classic of Finnish literature. I'll be returning to read the rest of the trilogy relatively shortly.

108rocketjk
Mar 8, 2017, 8:16 pm

I read once again to Finland via The Uprising, the second book in Väinö Linna's "Under the North Star" trilogy. This second book is even more gripping than the first. The Uprising brings us through the lead up to the Finnish Civil War of 1918, and then through the war itself, as characters we've come to care about endure some truly horrifying events while fighting in that war and then trying to survive during the conflict's truly gruesome aftermath.

109rocketjk
Abr 14, 2017, 2:48 am

I finished Reconciliation by Väinö Linna. This is the third and, obviously, final novel in Linna's "Under the North Star" trilogy, a classic of Finnish literature. This concluding novel takes us through World War 2, and the bloody conflicts between Finland and Russia. This trilogy takes an investment of time, but it is one of the most moving and memorable works of fiction I've ever read.

110rocketjk
Editado: Jul 28, 2017, 8:46 pm

Although John Buchan's classic spy thriller, Greenmantle, takes place in all sorts of places, most of the mayhem, and the climax, take place in Turkey, so I'm placing this fun book there.

111rocketjk
Jul 21, 2017, 3:33 pm

Wow! My first reading trip to Greece since I started keeping track of such things here in 2010. Back to Delphi by Ionna Karystiani explores the ways in which the inner despair of one generation can imprint itself unwittingly but inexorably upon the next is beautifully and powerfully written, but in places it is very dark. We also get a close-up look of urban, lower-middle class life in Athens. This book is very good, but often hard to read due to the almost relentless unhappiness of its characters.

112rocketjk
Editado: Ago 3, 2017, 1:45 am

Took a reading trip to England (my first this year), circa 1937, via The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell. In this non-fiction work of reportage and political and cultural reflection, written in 1937, Orwell brings his immense writing skills to bear on his descriptions of life in the coal mines and in the homes of the mining families, made squalid by poverty and overcrowding, is immediate, horrifying and unforgettable. Orwell also describes the terrible, rising hopelessness he finds as more and more people are thrown out of work by the Depression. The second section of the book, in which Orwell deconstructs the British class systems and the great difficulties he sees in overcoming its effects, is also very interesting. The final section, in which Orwell discusses the steps Socialists must take in order to hasten the rise and eventually world-wide acceptance of Socialism, is the book's least effective. I think this is still a very important book.

113rocketjk
Set 19, 2017, 3:13 pm

I just finished the entirely compelling novel, Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada, set in Nazi-era Germany (Berlin, to be more precise). The novel drifts down into the dark, dark heart of everyday life under the brutal Nazi regime, and explores the price of resistance. But the core of the story remains oddly uplifting. I have added a more in-depth review on the book's work page.

114rocketjk
Out 29, 2017, 4:27 pm

I've now finished The Jews of Dubrovnik: a Walk Through Space and Time from the Early Days to the Present by Vesna Miovic. This is a book I bought in Dubrovnik during the recent vacation my wife and I took to Croatia. By happenstance, the studio apartment my wife and I rented during our three days in Dubrovnik was on the street where, in the 15th through 17th centuries, the Jewish ghetto was located. The Synagogue dating back to those times is still there within the rooms of an old house as it always has been, and is now part museum as well. At any rate, this book is a brief but very interesting history of Jewish life in this fascinating city.

115rocketjk
Nov 17, 2017, 1:01 am

Another entry from Croatia, read during my recent vacation there, is Veli Jože by Vladimir Nazor. This charming short work is an allegory, written in 1907, about the plight of the peasants of the Istrian Peninsula as they labored for the benefit of the Venetian land owners/privileged class. The giant Veli Jože has become a symbol of Istrian independence and pride.

116rocketjk
Nov 17, 2017, 1:02 am

I finished Deductions from the World War by Baron Alexander von Freytag-Loringhoven. von Freytag-Loringhoven, Deputy-Chief of the German General Staff at the time, wrote this book in the waning days of World War One. As far as he was concerned, "The War to End All Wars" was just another chapter in the ongoing saga of the glorious German military. It's a chilling book in many ways.

117rocketjk
Jan 6, 2018, 3:50 pm

I finished the World War 2 history, Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe Du Hoc - The Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day's Toughest Mission and Led the Way across Europe. Although the Rangers' training took place in the U.S. and England, and they finished up their mission in Germany (where their most horrific fighting took place), I'm including this as a non-fiction visit to France, as their famous D-Day mission and a majority of their subsequent action too place in Normandy.

118rocketjk
Jan 15, 2018, 1:15 pm

My first reading trip to England for 2018 was the third book in C.P. Snow's "Strangers and Brothers" series, The Conscience of the Rich. This is an excellent novel about generational dynamics and the consequences of being wealthy and Jewish in England between the World Wars.

119rocketjk
Abr 7, 2018, 12:06 pm

Another reading trip to D-Day via the classic history of the event, Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day, which is a very readable and interesting book indeed. So another non-fiction visit to France.

120rocketjk
Abr 12, 2018, 1:42 pm

Back to England for the fifth entry in Lesley Cookman's "Libby Sarjeant Murder Mystery" series, Murder in Bloom. As I'm sure I've said above, these books are good-not-great cozy mysteries. Cozies really aren't my style, however, so others might like these books more. There are quite a few more books in the series, but I probably won't be reading them. I have no animus toward the series, just moving on to other things.

121rocketjk
Editado: Jun 7, 2018, 4:01 pm

More of the backstory of Bernie Gunther, with If the Dead Rise Not, the 6th entry in Philip Kerr's "Bernie Gunther" series. This time we go back to Berlin, Germany, 1934. More noir excellence from Kerr who, sadly, passed away this year.

122rocketjk
Jul 14, 2018, 4:01 pm

To England again for The Light and the Dark, the fourth book in C.P. Snow's "Strangers and Brothers" series. This time we get a brilliant look at a character struggling against depression as England edges closer to entering World War Two.

123rocketjk
Jul 21, 2018, 4:34 pm

I recently finished the entirely charming novel, Madensky Square, by Eve Ibbotson, about a perceptive and compassionate woman living in 1911 Vienna (so, Austria, of course).

124rocketjk
Jul 28, 2018, 12:43 pm

I forgot to include here Agnes de Mille's excellent memoir of her days as a struggling dancer and choreographer in England, Speak to Me, Dance with Me.

125rocketjk
Editado: Ago 7, 2018, 4:51 pm

I brought back A Little Bit of Ireland, a very slim book of short stories about rural life in County Mayo, from the recent vacation my wife and had there this July. We wandered into a pub owned by the author in the town of Charlestown. To give you an idea of this great pub, which you have to walk through a small hardware store to get to, take a look at this very short (1:30) youtube clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvtTWZtSUfE

Mostly (not entirely), these are charming tales about friends and couples who have reached a graceful old age, looking back with affection and a tear or two on good times gone by. Finan has a fine ear for conversation, a gentle touch with character and a lovely gift for descriptions of nature. A few of the stories are a little sappy. So be it.

126rocketjk
Out 22, 2018, 1:57 am

Today I finished The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot. This story of the life of a relatively small rural town in early 19-century England centers around Maggie Tulliver and her family. Although I sometimes found the storytelling slow, the characters and their relationships are, for the most part, artfully drawn, and the reflections on human emotions and motivations are often astonishingly insightful. Well, you don't need me to tell you about what a good writer George Eliot was.

127rocketjk
Dez 24, 2018, 2:35 pm

Well, it's been a very long time since I added a new country to my list, but today I finished The Appointment by Nobel Prize winning Romanian author Herta Müller. This novel takes us into the soul-numbing world of life in Romania under Ceausescu's totalitarian Communist rule. It is the details of a drab and fear-ridden life, which nevertheless cannot entirely suffocate the human spirit, that so skillfully build this harrowing world, rather than anything graphic or extreme. This is a beautiful if saddening book.

128rocketjk
Jan 7, 2019, 3:37 pm

My first book of 2019 was The Arrow of Gold by Joseph Conrad. The novel takes place in Marseilles, France in the 1870s. We don't really get much of a feeling for the place itself, but we do get just enough of the atmosphere to make the book worthy of a listing here. I love Conrad, but this novel is not among his best.

129pamelad
Jan 11, 2019, 2:49 am

Good to see you're still going. I am planning a return. There are books from small European countries on my shelves.

130rocketjk
Editado: Jan 14, 2019, 2:34 pm

>129 pamelad: Thanks! I've felt mostly on my own here over the past few months, but I've still enjoyed soldiering on and compiling my list. Here I just keep adding to my total pile each time I read a Europe book. In the Readling Globally thread, I have a list of my reading to/from all countries and continents that I restart each year.

Here is my 2019 list, just beginning: http://www.librarything.com/topic/302059
Here is my completed 2018 list: http://www.librarything.com/topic/281088

Cheers!

131rocketjk
Jan 14, 2019, 2:30 pm

I took my first reading trip to England of the year, courtesy of Miss Mapp, the second (or third, depending on which list you believe) novel in E. F. Benson's wry comedy of manners series, "Mapp and Lucia." The foibles of life among the upper middle class in small village England, circa 1920s is the setting of the series and the source of the humor. Or, I should say, humour. Lots of fun. I will be reading the rest of the 6-part series by and by. It's been over three years since I read the first book of the series. Here's hoping I get to Book 3 more quickly.

132rocketjk
Fev 9, 2019, 12:37 pm

Anna Burns' Milkman is a simultaneously hallucinatory and acute novel about life in Northern Ireland during the troubles as seen through the eyes of an 18-year-old girl who has the added burden of being harassed by a powerful man more than twice her age.

133rocketjk
Fev 14, 2019, 3:14 pm

I finished All for Nothing by German author Walter Kempowski. This was the final novel by Kempowski. It tells in muted terms of the horrific last days of World War 2 in East Prussia, as hundreds of thousands of terrified Germans take to the road, fleeing the advancing Russians whose artillery they can already hear. Not as well known in America, I guess, it seems that Kemposwki is considered a classic writer in his native country. He himself, as a teenager, lived through the events this books tells of, only to be imprisoned by the Russians as a spy, serving eight years. Originally published in 2006, a new English publication came out in 2018 as part of the New York Review of Books' Classics series.

134rocketjk
Fev 18, 2019, 5:57 pm

I have had two reading trips to France this year, but both, so far, via novels written by Englishmen. I recently finished The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester. It seems, as this somehow simultaneously dense and airy narrative takes off, that we are in the hands amazingly skilled stylist in Lanchester and an erudite, wry, if somewhat pompous, first-person protagonist. Our narrator, and Englishman, is taking us on a tour of his own family history and of his beloved France, with attention especially paid to gastronomic experiences and history, with plenty of recipes thrown in. What fun! Slowly, however, we become aware that all is not well with our protagonist. We are inside the head of somewhat more than a little disturbed. It is in some ways an entirely exhilarating ride. The problem is that once we know where we are, we also know what's coming. Seeing how it will all work out is interesting, to be sure. But the book becomes an extremely creepy place to inhabit.

135rocketjk
Fev 23, 2019, 1:53 pm

I finished The Land of Cain by Peter Lappin, the second book I've read this month about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Whereas Milkman is about relatively contemporary times, The Land of Cain, first published in 1957, takes us back to the 1920s. The story tells of a Catholic family in Belfast, with three grown sons trying each in his own way to navigate the sectarian violence that breaks out between Catholic and Protestant. This was the author's first novel. There is much fine description of nature and countryside (the family starts out living on a farm). I learned a bit, as well, about the history of the Troubles of that era. The plot is a bit formulaic, and the characterizations could have used a much defter touch. Overall, though, I would say that I did enjoy the reading.

136rocketjk
Editado: Mar 5, 2019, 2:57 pm

I finished Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation by Laura Silber and Allan Little. This history by two BBC correspondents does a very good job of presenting the chronology and events of this massive deadly tragedy. The book deftly separates the many different threads of nationalism and nation building that led to the multi-faceted years-long conflict with horrifying atrocities that gave the world the term "ethnic cleansing." My more in-depth review can be read on the book's work page or on my 50-Book Challenge thread.

137pamelad
Mar 7, 2019, 5:50 am

You're going well this year. Quite a few Europeans already.

138rocketjk
Mar 7, 2019, 10:26 am

>137 pamelad: Thanks! I never plan these things out, but it is fun to get out of the U.S. reading-wise. Great to see you here!

139rocketjk
Mar 13, 2019, 1:13 pm

I'm listing Slingshot, the third novel in Matthew Dunn's "Spycatcher" series, as Hither & Yon, as super-spy Will Cochrane and an assorted coterie of British, American, Russian, German and Israeli spies, henchmen, evildoers and good persons dash about the continent, leaving bodies in their wakes as they attempt to bring about and/or try to prevent global mayhem. Fun, escapist espionage fiction.

140rocketjk
Mar 18, 2019, 1:05 pm

Although I'd say the most vivid scenes of Penlope Lively's wonderful novel, Moon Tiger, are set in Egypt, the narrative is framed and also takes place to a large extent, in England, so I'm adding it to my England list here.

141rocketjk
Abr 1, 2019, 2:23 pm

I finished Gilbert and Sullivan: A Dual Biography by Michael Ainger. While there is too much detail offered about individual quarrels over business and procedure, due to the author's over-reliance on the troves of correspondence he had access to, and not enough information for me about the inner lives of these two famous artists, all in all this was an interesting dual biography of one of the great music/libretto writing teams of the English stage. So, another reading trip to England.

142rocketjk
Abr 5, 2019, 3:39 pm

I finished Guerilla Days in Ireland: a First-Hand Account of the Black and Tan War (1919-1921) by Tom Barry. Commandant General Tom Barry was the commander of the West Cork Flying Column of the I.R.A. during the days of the Irish guerilla war aimed at expelling the British from Ireland. Guerilla Days in Ireland is Barry's memoir of that campaign and his role in it, written and published 25 years after the events described. Barry chronicles in detail the ways that the decidedly outgunned (even when they had enough guns to go around, they rarely had enough bullets) and outmanned IRA forces carried on an effective enough campaign to eventually force the British government to offer truce terms in 1921.

143rocketjk
Maio 7, 2019, 2:47 pm

Back in Ireland! I recently finished the A Soldier's Wife, a first novel by Irish writer Marion Reynolds. Reynolds based her book on her grandmother's diaries. The story follows the life, trials and joys of Ellen, one of four sisters in a rural family in County Mayo, from the earliest years of the 20th century through the Irish Civil War of the early 1920s. Within a few pages of the book's start, Ellen has married James Devereux, an Irishman but a member of the British Army. While the prose style is far from sophisticated, it is clean. We see the story wholly through Ellen's eyes, as she deals with the tedium and frustrations of being an English sargeant's wife in the Raj during a seven-year tour of India, through holding her family together through semi-poverty in Dublin during James' years in the trenches of France in World War One, and then through the events of the Easter Rebellion, the Irish fight for home rule and the Irish Civil War, and finally navigating the pitfalls of having growing sons drawn every more strongly to the fight for Irish freedom in the same house with a husband who has spent most of his prime serving the British as a member of the Connaught Rangers. The characterizations could certainly be deeper, but all in all (especially in the book's second half) an interesting view of the times, given a ring of authenticity by the reader's knowledge of the material's source.

144rocketjk
Maio 16, 2019, 1:38 pm

I finished The Child of Pleasure. Published in 1889, The Child of Pleasure is the first novel of Italian writer Gabriele D'Annunzio, who gained fame in Italy and throughout Europe and the U.S. as a novelist, and went on to political fame (or infamy, perhaps) in post-WW I Europe as the founder of a nationalistic movement that inspired Mussolini. At any rate, in the late 19th century, D'Annunzio's topic was the power of beauty and sensuality. His protagonist here, Count Andrea Sperelli, is a young Roman nobleman who lives in and for luxury and for the seduction of beautiful women. The Child of Pleasure is the narrative of Sperelli's adventures in this arena, particularly as it pertains to two extremely beautiful and cultured women. Throughout the tale, D'Annunzio's eye lingers lovingly on the beauties of the natural countryside, Roman architecture, and the items of antiquity that Sperelli and his friends dote upon. Tellingly, these items are all at least 100 years old. There's little of contemporary (to the characters) vintage held up for admiration.

These descriptions of nature and art were interesting to read, but there was little of Count Sperelli's projects or problems that held any fascination for me. This is one of those books I read more out of an intellectual curiosity about the book's place in the history of literature than from a desire to know, or expectation to enjoy, the story. D'Annunzio himself throughout the tale speaks of Sperelli's gradual and eventually complete abdication of moral purpose or conscience, so at least we're not meant to admire the character, even if we are somehow to empathize with his delight in the purely physical/sensual world. Few modern readers will do so, I think.

145rocketjk
Jun 1, 2019, 1:24 pm

Another for the Hither and Yon designation . . . I finished Mr Standfast, the entertaining third entry in John Buchan's classic "Richard Hannay" espionage series, written during and just after World War One. Buchan wrote the first two books while the war was still ongoing, so, obviously, he didn't know how things were going to turn out. Mr Standfast was written after the war's conclusion. But the war is still going fiercely in the novel, and Hannay is pulled from his command in the trenches to go after a master German spy who has set up a network through which vital British war information is being passed through to Germany. Hannay goes on a difficult chase, indeed, across Scotland, France and Switzerland. The "daring do" of this story has much more to do with endurance than with violence. There is a lot of fine natural description, as well. So the book is fun, although a modern reader must work around Buchan's persistent antisemitism and racism.

146rocketjk
Jun 20, 2019, 2:20 pm

England again for the excellent near-future dystopian novel, Arkady, by Patrick Langley. Society is falling apart and the government is taking ever greater control, but the strength of the bond between two brothers left on their own serves as the book's moral core. Extremely well written.

147rocketjk
Jul 17, 2019, 11:35 am

I'm calling The Secret History of the War, Volume 1 by Waverley Root Non-Country Specific for the purposes of this thread. This is a fascinating, extremely detailed book about World War 2, written for the most part while the war was still going on. Root was an American journalist stationed in Paris right up until the German occupation of the city. The book was originally to be co-written with French journalist Pierre Lazareff, but Lazareff understandably became otherwise engaged "in government service." However, he allowed Root to use the material he'd already compiled. At any rate, this long book (I am reporting here on Volume 1 only, which in itself is 650 pages of fairly small print) contains endless interesting details of, particularly but not solely, the political conditions and many machinations of governments before and during the war. In particular, Root (and Lazareff) focus on France, both pre-war and during the Vichy era. Root maintains that a) many in French leadership were, essentially, facists who abhorred their own Republic; b) much of the Germans' meticulous prewar 5th column propaganda activity was done for them by French leaders (Philippe Pétain comes in for particular criticism) and c) the French Army's efforts to resisting the German invasion were sabataged by traitors within the government and the army. These people were either Nazi sympathizers or were so convinced of the Germans' eventual victory in the war that they thought resistance to be futile. I don't know the degree to which these opinions have been backed up or discredited in the intervening years, but Root makes a very, very strong case.

Root goes into some detail about the conditions in France and the other conquered countries during the years of occupation, during which, eventually, near starvation conditions applied as the Germans extracted more and more of the local produce and manufactured goods to feed their armies. When you see movies about the French occupation, you never see the people as gaunt and malnourished as Root describes them.

Also included are chapters on Finland, the history of the German-Soviet Pact and the eventual, disastrous, German invasion of Russia, and events in the Balkans, Africa and the Low Countries. Also fascinating is the chapter about Hitler's continual attempts to make a separate peace with the Western allies in order to be able to concentrate solely on fighting Russia. Again, this is Volume 1 of a three-volume set. I'll be starting on Volume 2 very soon.

148rocketjk
Ago 11, 2019, 2:11 pm

I finished The Three Hostages by John Buchan. This is the fourth of John Buchan's 5-book "Richard Hannay" series of thrillers, written during and just after World War One. Uber-Englishman Richard Hannay is home from the war in France, and from his dangerous and desperate espionage assignments which had repeatedly pulled him away from his men in the trenches. Now he has retired to his country estate . . . well, no such luck. It seems there is another dastardly plot afoot to gain control of the Western World and in particular to destroy all is strong about English society. Worse, this cabal has taken three innocent hostages. Scotland Yard and their European allies are just about to sweep up the conspirators, but first, someone has to find and free these hostages. Guess who? As usual, there is lots of great natural description, this time in particular of the mountain passes of Scotland. And here, the antisemitism gets dialed down from its crescendo in the third book. Being Jewish myself, I'm never surprised to find such elements in English writing of the time, particularly from the upper classes, to which Buchan belonged. I'm able to work around it and still have fun with these books. While the story moves takes our hero to Norway and Scotland, enough of the action centers in England this time for me to consider this a reading trip there.

149pamelad
Jan 14, 2020, 2:47 pm

Happy New Year. Are you still going?

150rocketjk
Jan 14, 2020, 3:49 pm

>149 pamelad: Hi there! It seemed like I was the only one posting in this group for so long that I gave it up. I had no idea whether anyone was reading these posts. I'm active in the Reading Globally group, though, with a thread of my 'Round the World reading every year.

Here's my completed 2019 thread: https://www.librarything.com/topic/302059

Here's my recently started 2020 thread: https://www.librarything.com/topic/315422

Hope all's well. Cheers!