bookish lists | recommendations

Euros 2024 | Books for Group B: Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania

19/06/2024

Hoohoo, friends of the blade!

I haven’t really watched football (or soccer, as they say in the US) since the World Championships 2006. Yeah, 2010 a bit but ever since then I completely lost interest in football and thought it was stupid. I’m not sure what happened, maybe because it’s in Germany or because thanks to the 24 hours of Le Mans race I’m on a sport high (or maybe it was all the soccer romance I’m reading??), but I’m actively following the Euros and watching a lot of the games. And it’s actually fun. Like, the sport itself isn’t that stupid. I still don’t like the fan culture or money business surrounding it but the sport itself is enjoyable to watch. I think I might even watch football after the European Championships ? Who am I and what have I done to my old self?
Of course, I need to pair this new found obsession with books and since I haven’t really done anything towards reading around the world in the past few years, I thought now would be the perfect time to start that again and look up books set all around Europe. I’m really excited for this series of posts because I mostly read books set in the US or UK, sometimes Germany and it’s always good to broaden your own horizon once in a while.
And since the Euros helpfully sorts the countries into groups, what would be better to do one post per group? I’ll try to only put books that were written in or translated into English.

In case you missed the post for the Group A countries, you can check it out here.
Also check out the post for the Group C countries here.

Now, let’s continue on with the group B countries: Albania, Croatia, Italy, and Spain.



Albania

Please note: finding books set in Albania that are 1. translated into English and 2. not written by Ismail Kadare is hard. I couldn’t really find anything that’s still in print and ticks of both of the aforementioned. So if you have any recommendations or know of any publications, please tell me!

broken aprilBroken April by Ismail Kadare
historical fiction

From the moment that Gjorg’s brother is killed by a neighbour, his own life is forfeit: for the code of Kanun requires Gjorg to kill his brother’s murderer and then in turn be hunted down. After shooting his brother’s killer, young Gjorg is entitled to thirty days’ grace – not enough to see out the month of April.
Then a visiting honeymoon couple cross the path of the fugitive. The bride’s heart goes out to Gjorg, and even these ‘civilised’ strangers from the city risk becoming embroiled in the fatal mechanism of vendetta.



Italy

arcadia awakensArcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer
YA fantasy

To New Yorker Rosa Alcantara, the exotic world of Sicily, with its network of Mafia families and its reputation for murder and intrigue, is just that—exotic, and wholly unknown. But when tragedy strikes, she must travel there, to her family’s ancestral home, where her sister and aunt have built their lives and where centuries of family secrets await her. Once there, Rosa wastes no time falling head over heels for Alessandro Carnevare, the son of a Sicilian Mafia family, whose handsome looks and savage grace both intrigue and unsettle her. But their families are sworn enemies, and her aunt and sister believe Alessandro is only using Rosa to infiltrate the Alcantara clan. And when Rosa encounters a tiger one night—a tiger with very familiar eyes—she can no longer deny that neither the Carnevares nor the Alcantaras are what they seem.
Ancient myths brought to life in the Sicilian countryside, dangerous beasts roaming the hills, and a long history of familial bloodlust prove to Rosa that she can’t trust anyone—not even her own family. Torn between loyalty to her aunt and love for her family’s mortal enemy, Rosa must make the hardest decision of her life: stay in Sicily with her new love . . . or run as far and as fast as she can.

the thief lordThe Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
(translated by Oliver Latsch)
middle grade / YA fantasy

Welcome to the magical underworld of Venice, Italy, where hidden canals and crumbling rooftops shelter runaways and children with incredible secrets…
Prosper and Bo are orphans on the run from their cruel aunt and uncle. The brothers decide to hide out in Venice, where they meet a mysterious thirteen-year-old boy whop calls himself the “Thief Lord.” Brilliant and charismatic, the Thief Lord leads a ring of street children who dabble in petty crimes. Prosper and Bo delight in being part of this colorful new family. But the Thief Lord has secrets of his own. And soon the boys are thrust into circumstances that will lead them, and readers, to a fantastic spellbinding conclusion.

the name of the roseThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
(translated by William Weaver)
historical fiction, crime

The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey where extraordinary things are happening under the over of night.

my brilliant friendMy Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
(translated by Ann Goldstein)
fiction

Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years, as its protagonists, the fiery and unforgettable Lila, and the bookish narrator, Elena, become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflictual friendship. Book one in the series follows Lila and Elena from their first fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence.
Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists.



Croatia

the dubrovnik book clubThe Dubrovnik Book Club by Eva Glyn
fiction

Newly arrived on the sun-drenched shores of Croatia, Claire Thomson’s life is about to change forever when she starts working at a local bookshop. With her cousin Vedran, employee Luna and Karmela, a professor, they form an unlikely book club.
But when their first book club pick – an engrossing cosy crime – inspires them to embark upon an investigation that is close to the group’s heart, they quickly learn the value of keeping their new-found friends close as lives and stories begin to entwine.

the people we were beforeThe People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe
historical fiction

Yugoslavia, summer 1979. A new village. A new life. But eight-year-old Miro knows the real reason why his family moved from the inland city of Knin to the sunkissed village of Ljeta on the Dalmatian Coast, a tragedy he tries desperately to forget.
The Ljeta years are happy ones, though, and when he marries his childhood sweetheart, and they have a baby daughter, it seems as though life is perfect. However, storm clouds are gathering above Yugoslavia.
War breaks out, and one split-second decision destroys the life Miro has managed to build. Driven by anger and grief, he flees to Dubrovnik, plunging himself into the hard-bitten world of international war reporters.
There begins a journey that will take him ever deeper into from Dubrovnik, to Sarajevo, to the worst atrocities of war-torn Bosnia, Miro realises that even if he survives, there can be no way back to his earlier life. The war will change him, and everyone he loves, forever.

the cheesemaker's daughterThe Cheesemaker’s Daughter by Kristin Vuković
fiction

In the throes of an unraveling marriage, New Yorker Marina Maržić returns to her native Croatian island where she helps her father with his struggling cheese factory, Sirana. Forced to confront her divided Croatian-American identity and her past as a refugee from the former Yugoslavia, Marina moves in with her parents on Pag and starts a new life working at Sirana. As she gradually settles back into a place that was once home, her life becomes inextricably intertwined with their island’s cheese. When her past with the son of a rival cheesemaker stokes further unrest on their divided island, she must find a way to save Sirana—and in the process, learn to belong on her own terms.

girl at warGirl at War by Sara Nović

Zagreb, summer of 1991. Ten-year-old Ana Jurić is a carefree tomboy who runs the streets of Croatia’s capital with her best friend, Luka, takes care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But as civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, soccer games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Ana is lost to a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival.
Ten years later Ana is a college student in New York. She’s been hiding her past from her boyfriend, her friends, and most especially herself. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, she returns alone to Croatia, where she must rediscover the place that was once her home and search for the ghosts of those she’s lost.



Spain

the shadow of the windThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
(translated by Lucia Graves)
historical fiction

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets.

the fountains of silenceThe Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
historical fiction

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming promise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography-and fate-introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War-as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of difficult decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

the bird kingThe Bird King by G. Willow Wilson
historical fantasy

Hassan has a secret-he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?
As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.

the frozen heartThe Frozen Heart by Almudena Grandes
(translated by Frank Wynne)
fiction

In a small town on the outskirts of Madrid, a funeral is taking place. Julio Carrion Gonzalez, a man of tremendous wealth and influence in Madrid, has come home to be buried. But as the family stand by the graveside, his son Alvaro notices the arrival of an attractive stranger—no one appears to know who she is, or why she is there. Alvaro’s questions deepen when the family inherits an enormous amount of money, a surprise even to them. In his father’s study Alvaro discovers an old folder with letters sent to his father in Russia between 1941 and 1943, faded photos of people he never met, and a locked grey metal box. The woman is Raquel Fernandez Perea, the daughter of Spaniards who fled during the Civil War. From the provincial heartlands of Spain to the battlefields of Russia, this is a mesmerizing journey through a war that tore families apart, pitting fathers against sons, brothers against brothers, and wives against husbands. Against such a past, where do faith and loyalty lie?



Do you watch the Euros 2024? Have you read any of the books on this list or plan to? Do you often read books not set in the UK or US?



Until next time,

KAT

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