‘Eastern Europe’ is pretty hard to concretely define, but I did find a list of ten countries on Wikipedia, and I decided to roll with that. We’re talking about a culturally rich part of the world, that includes countries like Russia, Ukraine and Romania. Without further ado, let’s get into the books I’ve read that are set in Eastern Europe!
Once &Then by Morris Gleitzman Set in Poland during World War Two, this is a handy compilation of the first two books in the ‘Once’ series. The stories are told from the perspective of a young boy, and they are heartbreaking. While they can’t tell us much about modern-day Poland, they do deal with a really important part of the country’s history.
First Love by Ivan Turgenev This is a little novella set in Russia, first published in the 1800’s. I love being able to read about other countries through the words of native writers, and this book is fantastic! It’s quick and emotional, and it offers a little insight to the complex world of social propriety at the time.
Zoli by Colum McCann Zoli is set in Slovakia, and follows the life of a female gypsy who turns her hand to poetry. It’s a really sad book, but definitely worth a read. Again, this one deals with some more modern history, and the way different people treated the Romany people. It’s a group of people that I don’t think are too well represented in literature, and it was great to learn more about that culture.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer This little book is probably the most obscure on the list, but it’s also the only one set in a modern time. This story follows a Jewish American’s journey through Ukraine, looking for his ancestors. The book skips between time periods and methods of story-telling, and it is a really touching and interesting novel. Watch the film too, though, because I like that better.
The only other novel I’ve read set in this area is Dracula (Romania), but it didn’t feel right putting that in! What books set in Eastern Europe can you recommend? Have you read any of the books I mentioned?
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!