Sunday, March 05, 2023

Fiction recommendation

 I just finished Olivia Manning's Levant Trilogy, a follow-up to her Balkan Trilogy. These are 6 novels (about 1,500 pages total) set during World War II, and following her own experiences as a young Englishwoman who follows her newly-married husband (whom she barely knows) from England to his posting as a university lecturer in Bucharest in 1939. The fortunes of war (which is also the name generally given to the sextet) chase them first to Athens and then to Cairo. Her husband Guy is the single worst husband I have ever seen in fiction, if you eliminate all those who are angry, violent, abusive, dangerous, unfaithful, etcetera. There is also a broader rotating cast, composed of numerous other mainly English characters whose foibles and vanities are generally at center stage.

Despite the drama surrounding the War's events, these are quiet, observant social novels full of character observation, almost like country house fiction except set amid violent chaos, and generally lacking major dramatic events other than those on the broader canvas imposed by history. It seems like they ought to be boring, but instead I found them enthralling throughout. (I didn't read them straight through, however, but over some months with other books in between.)

Highly recommended, although I can't guarantee that everyone will find them as compelling as I did.


Gordon Ashley said...

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