I think it’s safe to say that, if you live in the UK, the subject of Europe will have been very much in your thoughts over the last few weeks. Now, don’t worry – I have always made an effort to keep politics away from my blog, so I’m not planning to discuss the EU referendum here or to ask whether you voted Remain or Leave. However, when I sat down to choose a topic for this month’s Historical Musings post, the first thing that came to mind was Europe…and specifically, how little I’ve read about the histories of certain European countries.
Obviously, I have read a large number of historical fiction novels covering various periods of British history and quite a lot set in France and Italy. Looking back through my blog archives, I can see that I’ve read several historical novels set in Spain (including The Last Queen by CW Gortner, the story of Juana of Castile, and By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan, set in a Jewish community in 15th century Granada) and have also been introduced to Dutch history through books like Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist, Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and Alexandre Dumas’ The Black Tulip.
German history has featured less often in my reading – apart from books about the Second World War, I can only really think of The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth (the story of Dortchen Wild and her relationship with the Brothers Grimm) and The Beggar King by Oliver Pötzsch (a mystery set in 17th century Bavaria). My recent read of Kristin Lavransdatter, which I wrote about last week, is the first time I’ve read about medieval Norway, and the only other book I can think of which touched on Norwegian history was Lucinda Riley’s The Storm Sister.
I’ve read one novel set in 18th century Portugal (The Devil on her Tongue by Linda Holeman), one in 1930s and 40s Hungary (The Invisible Bridge) and one in the former Czechoslovakia (Far to Go by Alison Pick). Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles and House of Niccolo series have introduced me to the histories of several other European countries, including Cyprus (Race of Scorpions), Iceland (To Lie with Lions) and Malta (The Disorderly Knights). These novels, though – excellent as they are – only cover a brief time period and I’m very aware that I still have a lot to learn.
This month, then, I’m looking for some suggestions. I would love to hear about any historical fiction you’ve read set in any of the European countries I’ve already mentioned and also in any I haven’t – for example, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Baltic states, Austria, Greece (other than ancient history and mythology), Bulgaria, Romania/the Balkans, Poland, Switzerland to name just a few. I’ve read contemporary fiction set in some of these countries but know little to nothing of their histories and that’s something I would like to change.