Around the World in 80+ Books Part 5

Wasn’t the hotel lovely? We’ll be changing latitudes a few times on this leg of our journey. Why is it called a leg, anyway? Couldn’t it be an arm? An earlobe?

81. Niger. Yes, we leave Nigeria and land in Niger. And there are few books set there. Harmattan by Gavin Weston tells a full tale embroidered with the story of a girl in male-dominated, strife-filled Niger and her correspondence with twin girls her age in Ireland. The title means that ill wind which blows no good for anyone. Poverty, violence, and heart-break are balanced with vivid and endearing glimpses of a simple village life.

82. Algeria. The list of books coming up for this country set me to smiling. Some of my favorites, like Beau Geste by P.C. Wren. But then I clicked on The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabitini, and knew I had found the right book. The author of Captain Blood! Betrayals, pirates, and buckles being swashed! It’s all good.

83. Tunisia. Welcome to the land of Tatooine and Star Wars droids, sand people and Jawas. What better book than something a little silly? The first book in the series is Benny & Omar by Eoin Colfer. This romp through the stress and adventures of being uprooted from Ireland to reform a life in Tunisia looks at the good and the bad of both countries, and has lots of cool slang to share. One review insists you must get the audio version, because the reader has an Irish brogue to die for.

84. Morocco. We’ll always have romance in Morocco. There’s even a Goodsread section just for that. But in trying to keep a slightly broader audience engaged, I wandered far to find something special That something is Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud. The summary of the book tells us nothing, but reviewers are kinder. The story follows a young girl whose family relocates to Morocco. Yeah, there is a lot of that going around. But many of the whats and whys of the story are unclear due to the fact the narrator is five years old. This does not detract from an enjoyable read with an innocent persepective of Marrakesh and Morocco.

85. Spain. Oh, no question. One of the books I rejoice to have read is The Physician by Noah Gordon. And what do you know, he’s written another book that takes place in Spain. The Last Jew has a look at the Inquisition and the edicts that expelled all Jews from Spain in 1492. Imagine having to leave the country of your birth, your culture, your home, and not even having the guarantee of enough time to safely remove yourself. If you are a young boy and suddenly alone, what would you do?

86. Portugal. The authors of Portugal are prolific, writing in, of all things, Portuguese. There are pages of books listed on Goodreads, but not so many that have an English version. Thinking I would have to skip a whole country, I found Baltasar & Blimunda by Jose Saramago. Still focused on the Inquisition, this is a story of love, intrigue, and invention! Possibly a little magic, too.

87. France. So, who’s up for assassin nuns who serve Death? Robin LeFevers starts us off in Grave Mercy, book one of the trilogy His Fair Assassins. Can one be a wolf and not a sheep? If you get the choice, you would be wise to take the wolf.

88. Ireland. Here we are, the home of my ancestors. And rather than stir up emotions debating who killed whom, I’m going with a light and funny book, The Irish R.M. By E. Somerville. I loved the BBC television series, so I hope to enjoy the original novel that inspired it. I remember the one character who would say, “The Crayture!” to imply the poor creature. Love it.

89. England. TOO MANY CHOICES!! Canterbury Tales, all the works of Shakespeare, even just listing the choices would take all day. So I’m going to go with a favorite of mine of a less lofty standing. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams.

90. Wales. Another land of Magic and Legend, but what I think of most is the sad changes in the landscape due to coal mining. The movie made from this book starred a very young Roddy McDowell, and few dry eyes were seen whenever I watched it. The book, How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn, stands as a classic that people love to read and reread, that brings a longing to be part of that Welsh village and that family. I have to mention that the title of one of my favorite episodes of the TV show, Get Smart, was “How Green was my Valet.” (But if you would prefer the magic and such, Nectar From a Stone by Jane Guill looks to be a good choice.

91. Cornwall. Here my heart wants to go with Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier. A great historical romance, but not with a happy ending. Better, perhaps, to go with A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale. One reviewer says this novel explores age-old themes of good and evil, another says it’s easy to overlook Gale’s writing because it’s not showy or loud. Some expressed surprise that they like it so well, and others love the life Gale brings to the characters and the setting. I’m sold.

92. Scotland. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

93. The Netherlands. Holland and tulips grace just about every idea of the Netherlands. And to develop a rare type of tulip, possibly to win a large sum of money, that’s the drive and the conflict in this book. Because everyone wants that prize. The Black Tulip by Alexander Dumas explores tulipomania and the edition linked here includes lots of historical notes and references.

94. Denmark. Another country where lots of novels are written, but few are translated into English. Hans Christian Anderson just seems a bit off for this list. A good bet could be Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. A book for young readers, this is a story set in 1943, told from the experiences of a Jewish girl whose family gets out of the country, but make arrangements for her to stay with a family who will protect her.

95. Lithuania. Home of lithium batteries. But seriously, nearly all the novels and a good deal of the non-fiction set in Lithuania deals with World War II and the fate of the Jews. God’s Chosen People need time off for good behavior. Unlike the hero of The Last Girl by Stephan Collishaw. Emotionally devastating states one review. If you could correct one mistake from your past, what would it be? Probably something simple, like pay the parking tickets, or invest in some company decades ago. The poet hero of this novel is obsessed with a great guilt when he failed the girl he loved.

96. Latvia. If you are Jewish and live in the part of the world where your family, heritage, and religion put you at risk of losing everything, up to and including your life, you might find a way to hide and blend in. Especially since the part of the world where that’s the case is called Earth. Some of the books on the list today share the tales of Jews who blended in with the citizens of the country they lived in. This one is different because the main character blends in with the Nazis. The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father’s Nazi Boyhood by Mark Kurzem tells this true story.

97. Estonia. Well, it’s either more WWII tales of how much people can suck, or a vampire romance novel. So here we go. This is book number 3 in the Immortals After Dark series, but from the reviews it took the author this long to get up to speed with her series. Hot, sizzling, and a gentleman vampire, too. I am so ready to read this. No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole will have you throwing away your garlic.

98. Finland. A touching of generations, The Summer Book by Tove Janssen brings to life a child’s experiences with her grandmother on a beautiful island in the Gulf of Finland. With “wisdom and gruff humor,” they learn from each other about the island and that independence does not mean you can’t love each other.

99. Lapland. Like Sicily, Lapland is part of another country now. Actually, it looks like three different countries have fingers in this pie. But a book caught my eye and here we are. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida has a plot that many have used, the discovery that who you thought you were has been a complete fabrication. An emotional read, for some painful, and why the heck did she need to go to Lapland?

100. Sweden. Like Scotland, no contest, no need to research. The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo by Steig Larsson, the first in the Millennium series. You have to read all three books to get the whole story, but this one is not too bad as a stand-alone.

We’ll rest here until the blizzard passes, and then we’re off to Norway. Hope the Vikings are feeling hospitable. See you for a quick post on Wednesday, and back to the trip on Sunday.


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