When 17-year-old Lev is captured by the German military and meets another young feisty prisoner, the two are told the only way they will be freed is if they go on a quest to find a dozen eggs to bring back for a German girl’s birthday cake. Set in Russia during the scarce resource conditions of World War II, this coming of age story is both hilarious and moving. A fun read with quirky characters that provides a great picture of the freezing Russia of the 1940s. A fictionalized account of the author’s grandfather’s true story.
The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
This is a fresh take on the story of the Trojan War, from the point of view of Patroclus. The love story of Patroclus and Achilles, wrought with drama, family loyalties, and the trials of war, The Song of Achilles is impossible to stop reading. The literary prose is beautiful and tangible.
Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
When terrorists, planning to murder the president, invade a wealthy man’s home during his birthday party, dozens of people are held hostage for weeks. The owner of the home, a Japanese businessman, falls in love with the woman he hired to sing at his party. Though at times it seems highly unrealistic, the likeability of the characters makes it hard to put down.
Henderson the Rain King – Saul Bellow
I am highly intrigued by African history and culture, and though this novel is completely fiction, I found it fascinating. A man named Henderson takes a trip to Africa alone because he is bored with the man he has become and is looking for a personality or spiritual change. Moving is some parts and goofy in most, this book is an enjoyable read.
When the Night – Cristina Comencini
Marina takes her young son on a trip to the mountains, where she stays in a rented cabin for a few weeks. The owner of the cabin, Manfred, is still coping with his divorce and is incredibly judgmental of all women. When Marina’s son, who refuses to speak and sleep, has a terrible accident, Marina and Manfred go head to head. I found that the characters were not likeable at all in this book, Manfred being a self-centered tough guy and Marina being a terribly self-conscious and terribly awful mother, but the prose style made me keep reading and reading until I had finished. Writers are always saying that it is difficult to make a character likeable, but I believe (or maybe I’m just an optimist who comes to like characters quite easily) it takes a lot of effort to make a reader dislike a character so strongly. I didn’t find any redeeming qualities in either Marina or Manfred, and yet this book is so enchanting I just had to continue reading.