Have you got the travel bug but not the travel funds? Struck down with a bout of wanderlust but find yourself lacking the time off necessary to make the journeys you’re dreaming about? Well, never fear. We’ve got the cure; that’s what books are for! Let us take you on a virtual tour of Europe with some of the best 2019 releases set in Europe.
1. THE FOURTH COURIER BY TIMOTHY JAY SMITH
Publishers Weekly says that Timothy Jay Smith’s latest novel, The Fourth Courier, features “Sharply drawn characters, rich dialogue, and a clever conclusion that bodes well for any sequel.” Booklist notes how “Smith skillfully bridges police procedural and espionage fiction, crafting a show-stealing sense of place and realistically pairing the threats of underworld crime and destabilized regimes.” Timothy Jay Smith is a proud member of the LGBTQ community, who is passionate about exploring these themes in his work, which has garnered him countless accolades. His book Fire on the Island was the winner of the 2017 Gold Medal in the Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel. Smith also won the Paris Prize for Fiction for his debut work, A Vision of Angels. Smith has also been nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize for short fiction, and his screenplays have won numerous international competitions, as well as founding the Smith Prize for Political Theater. Set in post-cold war Poland in 1992, and exploring the politics and the problems of that time, this is a fascinating angle to examine for anyone interested in European history.
On the 30th anniversary of the victory of Solidarity in Poland and the fall of the Berlin Wall, comes a riveting new novel set in Poland on the brink of change, The Fourth Courier .
Smith sets his novel in 1992 in post-cold war Poland, where nothing is quite as it seems. When three execution-style murders take place in Warsaw, FBI Special Agent Jay Porter is assigned to help with the investigation, suspecting that the three victims may have been couriers hired to smuggle nuclear material out of the defunct Soviet Union.
When Jay learns that a Russian physicist who designed a portable atomic bomb has also disappeared, the race is on to find him—and the bomb—before it ends up in the wrong hands.
Suspenseful, thrilling, and smart, The Fourth Courier teams up an FBI agent with a gay CIA officer who uncover a gruesome plot involving murder, radioactive contraband, narcissistic government leaders, and unconscionable greed.
2. Normal People by Sally Rooney
Normal People was originally released in August 2018, but it hits the US for the first time this month and is sure to make waves. This love story between teenagers and and fascinating study of the human condition is set in modern day Ireland, and creates a snapshot of life through an eye-opening lens. Sally Rooney is one of the world’s most successful young writers, at only twenty-eight. Regularly profiled and published in publications like The New Yorker and The New York Times, Rooney’s first novel Conversations With Friends was beloved by literally everyone from Sarah Jessica Parker, to Tegan and Sara to your great-grandmother, and Normal People is a worthy successor, making the longlist for the Man Booker Prize last year, and in line to receive a TV adaptation from Room director Lenny Abrahamson.
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years. This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney’s second novel breathes fiction with new life.
3. Love Notes from a German Building Site by Adrian Duncan
Set in Berlin, Duncan’s first novel has been described by the Irish Times as ‘a captivating debut’. ‘Duncan’s spare and meticulous prose provides a vivid reconstruction of a profession not commonly documented in fiction.’ Another review notes “Duncan empathetically navigates both terrains with beautiful, cinematic surges of light and stark linear description. With a refreshing, cross-disciplinary background in engineering and visual art, he guides the reader to meditate on the ways in which abstract thought may be expressed – in drawings, minimalist sculpture, or the high-gloss lure of consumerism – and the difficult, and occasionally injurious and exploitative labour involved in translating them into physical, load-bearing reality.” An unusual look at Berlin from an Irish perspective, this book published by The Lilliput Press, Ireland’s littlest independent publisher, is a rare gem that is definitely worth reading!
Paul, a young Irish engineer, follows his girlfriend to Berlin, and begins work on the renovation of a commercial building in Alexanderplatz. Wrestling with a new language, on a site running behind schedule, and with a relationship in flux, he becomes increasingly untethered.
Set against the structural evolution of a sprawling city, this meditation on language, memory and yearning is underpinned by the site’s physical reality. As the narrator explores the mind’s fragile architecture, he begins to map his own strange geography through a series of notebooks, or ‘Love Notes’.
This is at once a treatise on language, memory, building and desire, relayed in translucent Sebaldian prose in a voice new to fiction.
4. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Released in paperback in the US this year, Quinn’s historical novel has burst onto the scene, becoming a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, as well as a #1 Globe and Mail Historical Fiction Bestseller. Named one of NPR’s Best Books of the Year, and one of Bookbub’s Biggest Historical Fiction Books of the Year, The Alice Network was also a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick! Set between America, London and France, and spanning World Wars I and II, this novel has earned its accolades and gives an amazing look at wartime Europe.
In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women-a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947-are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.
5. The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh
The Pearl Thief needs to be added to your To Be Read list with great haste. Described by NPR as “equal parts murder mystery and coming-of-age story,” their glowing review noted that “The brilliant cast of characters includes debt-laden aristocrats, a young librarian with a disfiguring genetic disease, and a brother and sister from a Traveller family.” And fans of Europe will be delighted to hear what Booktopia.com have to say: “The Pearl Thief is laced with nugget upon nugget of historical gold, with the author weaving a grand sense of time and place throughout the action. Reading this book makes you feel as though you’ve lived and breathed 1963 London and Paris.”
Severine Kassel is asked by the Louvre in 1963 to aid the British Museum with curating its antique jewellery, her specialty. Her London colleagues find her distant and mysterious, her cool beauty the topic of conversations around its quiet halls. No one could imagine that she is a desperately damaged woman, hiding her trauma behind her chic, French image.
It is only when some dramatic Byzantine pearls are loaned to the Museum that Severine’s poise is dashed and the tightly controlled life she’s built around herself is shattered. Her shocking revelation of their provenance sets off a frenzied hunt for Nazi Ruda Mayek.
Mossad’s interest is triggered and one of its most skilled agents comes out of retirement to join the hunt, while the one person who can help Severine – the solicitor handling the pearls – is bound by client confidentiality. As she follows Mayek’s trail, there is still one lifelong secret for her to reveal – and one for her to discover.
From the snowy woodlands outside Prague to the Tuileries of Paris and the heather-covered moors of Yorkshire comes a confronting and heart-stopping novel that explores whether love and hope can ever overpower atrocity in a time of war and hate.
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