Literature can take us on journeys to distant lands and bridge the gap of cultural differences. Books allow us to live in other cultures, walk through vastly different landscapes, and experience other lands through their pages. Literature can help us understand our world. Sink into a comfy chair with a good book and concentrate on Eastern Europe.
Set in 1940, the action goes all over the place, from Paris to the Balkan states. Costa Zannis is a Greek detective charged with keeping his town, Salonika, running smoothly. A fix it man if you will. He has a life that suits him, a faithful dog, and family nearby. WWII turns his world, and most of the continent, upside down. When the Nazis invade Greece, Costa is off with the Army where he befriends Marko Pavlic, a cop from over the border in Zagreb. Soon enough that friendship becomes useful as Hitler implements his final solution. Furst keeps the action lively, the story moving, and has some interesting female characters too.
Set in Slovakia after WWII, this ambitious novel chronicles the life of a Gypsy songstress and poet. Resistant to communist plans to assimilate them into the general population, the Romani cling to their tribal traditions with a vengeance. Zoli falls in love with a poet and breaks a taboo, her punishment is to be banished from her tribe. McCann tells the story from several perspectives, covering the time from Zoli’s youth until her old age. Gypsies are a maligned group, targeted by Hitler for extermination, looked down on by other European’s they cling to a traditional way of life that is at odds with modern society. McCann gives us a look inside their very private culture and tells the story of a fascinating woman.
A beautiful young girl marries an elderly farm manager, not realizing until it is too late that her charms could have taken her much higher. The local investigating magistrate and the Count, a wealthy but debauched aristocrat, engage in an edgy friendship of sorts based on strong drink and loose women. Someone dies during a shooting party at the Count’s palatial estate. Now suspicion focuses everywhere.