I imagine that if you are like me you probably read a lot of books set in Europe but most of them are probably from four countries – Ireland, The United Kingdom, France, and Italy. Those are the books that I find often. Here are some European books that go beyond those borders. (All descriptions in italics from Goodreads.)


The Secret History: A Novel of Empress TheodoraThe Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora by Stephanie Thornton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In sixth century Constantinople, one woman, Theodora, defied every convention and all the odds, and rose from being a common theater tart to become empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. But the woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic was, in fact, a scrappy, clever, conniving, flesh-and-blood woman full of sensuality and spirit whose real story is as surprising as any ever told…


The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great (Catherine, #1)The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Her name is Barbara—in Russian, Varvara. Nimble-witted and attentive, she’s allowed into the employ of the Empress Elizabeth, amid the glitter and cruelty of the world’s most eminent court. Under the tutelage of Count Bestuzhev, Chancellor and spymaster, Varvara will be educated in skills from lock picking to lovemaking, learning above all else to listen—and to wait for opportunity. That opportunity arrives in a slender young princess from Zerbst named Sophie, a playful teenager destined to become the indomitable Catherine the Great. Sophie’s destiny at court is to marry the Empress’s nephew, but she has other, loftier, more dangerous ambitions, and she proves to be more guileful than she first appears.


Sure there is Stieg Larsson but after that you need to read Jonas Jonasson. The titles of his books tell you all you need to know.

The Girl Who Saved the King of SwedenThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars





The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and DisappearedThe 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars






The IslandThe Island by Victoria Hislop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The island was a leper colony in Greece. A community grew there full of people who expected to live out their lives in isolation. But when a cure is discovered how will people be able to move away?




The Pope and I: How the Lifelong Friendship Between a Polish Jew and Pope John Paul II Advanced the Cause of Jewish-Christian RelationsThe Pope and I: How the Lifelong Friendship Between a Polish Jew and Pope John Paul II Advanced the Cause of Jewish-Christian Relations by Jerzy Kluger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book describes the surprising, lifelong relationship between Pope John Paul II and his Jewish friend, Jerzy Kluger. Their friendship played a role in shaping Karol Wojtyla’s early views toward the Jewish people, and his later efforts, as pope, to overcome the legacy of anti-Semitism. Though their story has been previously recounted, here for the first time Jerzy Kluger offers his own account of their relationship over many years. The story begins with their friendship in grade school in Poland, Kluger’s extraordinary survival of the war, followed by his reunion with Archbishop Wojtyla in Rome during Vatican II. After his friend’s election as Pope John Paul II, their relationship unfolds against extraordinary advances in Jewish-Christian relations. Kluger tells a fascinating tale, highlighting the surprising confluences of history, politics, and religion sealed by friendship and mutual respect.


My TBR list

What I would really like to find is some good Polish historical fiction that doesn’t involve World War II.  I’d like medieval Poland.

While writing this post I realized that the sequel to The Winter Palace was published last year and I missed it.  That’s on the list.

I also recently heard of this:

The GreenlandersThe Greenlanders by Jane Smiley


3 Replies to “Europe is More than the Big Four”

  1. One of my favorites! Smiley manages to catch the tone of the Sagas, without sounding too archaic. Her take on the story of the Greenlanders (informed by the Vinland Saga and Eirik the Red’s Saga) is faithful to the stories passed down but full of imaginative detail. A model of historical fiction writing, and a heart-wrenching, page-turning tale.

    1. Also very glad to learn about this Swedish author Jonas Jonasson, with your recommendations. I’m still compiling my long-term reading list for the Northern Lights Reading Project, so a big thank you! All your wider European choices sound interesting. I have been reading George Weigel’s comprehensive biography of John Paul II, little by little, and the book you feature by Jerzy Kluger is definitely going on my personal TBR list. Thank you.

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