International Literary Fiction

Name: Karen Perkins
Genre: International Literary Fiction
Title: The Shape of Water
Author: Andrea Camilleri
Appeal Factors: Mystery, fast paced, Italian location,politics
Read Alikes: Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigations y Gage, Leighton; Marshal Guarnaccia Mysteries by Nabb Magdalen;Bruno Courreges Mysteries by Martin Walker
Summary/Thoughts: The Italian Sherlock Holmes
In the imaginary coastal town of Vigata Sicily two sanitation workers discover the body of a prominent businessman Silvio Luparello and thus begins Inspector Salvo Montalbano’s investigation.  Through the Italian , sometimes corrupt, bureaucracy, the poverty of the working class and the territorial Italian gang wars Montalbano deftly navigates his investigation into solving this murder.  A man who’s looks women find attractive Montalbano has a shrewd sense of intelligence, a fair sense of humor, a compassionate heart towards the needy and a connoisseurs’ love of food.

The novel moves at a fast pace incorporating characters from many different levels of society giving many plausible motives for murder.  Character development also occurs with friends, family and coworkers of Montalbano’s allowing insight into the everyday life in this Italian community.

The novel was originally written as a stand alone book  but when finished Camilleri felt  the need to further develop the Montalbano character with the novel Terracotta Dog.  Reader demand for more Montalbano after the second novel moved Camilleri to continue and currently there are 18 books to the series translated into many different languages as well as a TV show.

Readers of Sherlock Holmes may find the books appealing for the two inspectors do have similar methods of mystery solving.  However Montalbano is more of a lowbrow inspector compared to the elegance of Holmes and the crimes of the Italians are a bit more gritty than those of the English.

Name: Cecily Christensen
Genre: International Literary Fiction
Title: The Other Story
Author: Tatiana de Rosnay
Appeal Factors: Focuses on character development
Read Alikes: The Sea by John Banville, The Third Man by Graham Greene
Summary/Thoughts: Nicholas Duhamel is 29 years old and from Paris. His father had drowned when he was 11 years old, although the body was never found. When Nicholas was 24 years old, he discovered that his father wasn’t born in France and had a different name. He goes on a quest to find out his father’s secrets, and this journey causes him to write a fictional book based on this. The book, called “The Envelope,” becomes a huge success and is made into a movie. Now Nicholas is world famous, and is expected to write his next book. he has writer’s block so he goes to an island off the coast of Tuscany with his girlfriend to attempt to write. Most of the book focuses on Nicholas’s obsession with his fame and how much this has changed him.  The process of being a writer also comes into play. For me, the book moved too slowly and didn’t hold my interest enough to recommend it to patrons.

Name: Margaret Perkins
Genre: International Literary Fiction
Title: The Teleportation Accident
Author: Ned Beauman
Appeal Factors: humorous, intricate plot
Read Alikes:
Summary/Thoughts: This book was nominated for the Booker Prize. Although several reviews claimed that this book was hilarious, I did not find it so. I thought the writing was disjointed and almost unreadable.

Name: Patty Bailey
Genre: International Literary Fiction
Title: The Room
Author: Jonas Karlsson
Appeal Factors: Short, quick read
Read Alikes: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Summary/Thoughts: Bjorn is a compulsive, meticulous bureaucrat who discovers a secret room at the government office where he works—a secret room that no one else in his office will acknowledge. When Bjorn is in his room, what his co-workers see is him standing by the wall and staring off into space looking dazed, relaxed, and decidedly creepy. Bjorn’s bizarre behavior eventually leads his co-workers to try and have him fired, but Bjorn will turn the tables on them with help from his secret room.  This was Karlsson’s debut novel.  Choppy writing and the ending leaves you guessing was “the room” real or not?

Name: Heather Backman
Genre: International Literary Fiction
Title: The Blindness of the Heart
Author: Julia Franck
Appeal Factors: character-driven, historical setting, focused on female characters
Read Alikes:
Summary/Thoughts: In the prologue, a woman abandons her son in post-WWII Germany. The book then moves back in time to show the woman’s childhood in the WWI era, her coming of age in 1920s Germany, and her unhappy marriage to a man who fathers her child – all leading up to the point at which she determines to leave her son. This is not a happy book, nor one with an unambiguous ending, but it is a powerful depiction of a woman’s and a society’s hopes and struggles in a difficult and dangerous time.

Name: Pam Aghababian
Genre: International Literary Fiction
Title: If on a winter’s night a traveler
Author: Italo Calvino
Appeal Factors: Dense, postmodern, puzzle, beautiful prose
Read Alikes: Anything by Mark Z. Danielewski, S by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst, The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Summary/Thoughts: This is not so much a story as an examination of what it means to be a Reader. Anyone who considers themselves a Reader (yes, capital R) will at least enjoy the first chapter, which is about going to the bookstore to pick up “the latest Italo Calvino.” The book alternates between the first chapter of a novel and situations in which the Reader (here, the character, second-person) finds out that he does not have the complete novel and is given another novel to start. The format is certainly unusual, but for the right person who enjoys engaging with fiction at an almost-gymnastic level, this will immediately jump into their list of favorites.

 

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