a really fabulous fiction book

Old May 1st, 2000, 05:53 PM
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Can't wait to read some of the recommendations I've picked up from this post!

I want to second the recommendation for Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible. It's a great book, with a real epic quality.

I also enjoyed John Irving's Widow for One Year.
Michael Dibdin is a mystery writer who writes about an Italian detective, Aurelio Zen. His series are very literary in style.

And read Barry Unsworth's The Stone Virgin; it's an extraordinarily beautifully written book about an art restorer coming to Venice. The contemporary story is interwoven with stories from different historical periods.

Similarly, Robert Hellenga's Sixteen Pleasures, taking place in Florence after the '66 flood.

There are a slew of books out now about living/travelling in Tuscany, made famous by Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun-- but quite frankly, I found her books a bit on the saccharine side. But one of the books that were recently re-released is Kinta Beevor's A Tuscan Childhood, about a privileged childhood taking place between the 1st and 2nd world wars.

I'll also add Donna Leon's mystery series, based in Venice. Hers are a lot of fun to read.

Thanks for a fun post!
Old May 1st, 2000, 06:18 PM
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If you are going to Rome, must reads include I, Claudius and its sequel Claudius, the God by Robert Graves. I was just fascinated by the writing and yes, they are the books which inspired the BBC series called I, Claudius.
Old May 1st, 2000, 07:01 PM
Beth Anderson
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yes, Corelli's Mandolin is being made into a movie. Nicholas Cage is slated to be Captain Corelli. The same dood who did "Notting Hill" is doing this movie. Hugh Grant is seen reading Captain Corelli's Mandolin in the final scene of that movie (with Julia Roberts, sitting/sleeping on the park bench).

just some trivia...
Old May 1st, 2000, 07:37 PM
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What a great question!

Slimmer but great - Dispatches by Michael Herr; A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean; The Twelfth Juror by B.M. Gill (the best mystery I ever read); or any of Ian Rankin's John Rebus mysteries.

Thick and can't put down - The Bone People by Keri Hulme; The Collected Short Stories of Somerset Maugham - while you are in Paris you'll wish you were in the South Pacific; and Berkut by Joseph Heywood (if you like those spy/drama stories - I can't believe no one has made this into a movie yet!).

Non-fiction - The Dream and the Tomb: A History of the Crusades by Robert Payne; The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler (no book has ever made me think as much); Leadership and the New Science by Margaret Wheatley; and The Weaker Vessel by Antonia Fraser (allows us to reclaim our female history).
Old May 1st, 2000, 08:16 PM
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On a recent trip I picked up SAREM by Edward Rutherfurd and couldn't put it down. On another trip I found LONDON by the same author and also couldn't stop reading it. Both really passed the time sitting around airports etc, as well as being great historical reading and they made me really want to go to England as soon as I can manage it.
Old May 1st, 2000, 08:33 PM
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This thread is SO good! Thanks for starting it, Gina. I second Dan's suggestion for "The American" (Henry James). Also, in case you're interested in "The Magus," the author's name is John Fowles. He also wrote "The Ebony Tower," which I prefer to "The Magus" (though the latter is very good too.) "ET" takes place in Brittany. It's actually a novella in a collection of stories, but the stories all link together in certain ways. A terrific book. Mysterious stuff.

I'd also suggest "A Moveable Feast" by Hemingway. It's not lengthy, and it's not fiction, but it's absorbing and related to part of where you're going. (His "musings" on Paris in 1920s.)

A book I zipped through recently (couldn't put it down) was Dorothy B. Hughes' "Ride the Pink Horse." It's out of print, but usually easy to find at a used book store. It would fall into the hard-boiled detective mystery genre, but it's actually more of a psychological anatomy of a criminal. It's incredible. (The 50s movie based on this novel is not so incredible, though.) Also in the mystery vein, Ross MacDonald's "The Galton Case" and "The Underground Man" are major page-turners.

Another book I'd recommend, though non-fiction, is Arianna Stassinopoulos' bio of Picasso. I too am afraid to fly, and found this semi-trashy book so phenomenally engrossing during a cross-country flight that when we had to abort a landing because of negative readings on the landing equipment, I just shrugged and kept reading. Now that's engrossing. (Of course, when the plane finally did land, my knees were so weak I almost fell over when I stood up.)
Old May 1st, 2000, 08:39 PM
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What a great post, great recommendations, Poisonwood Bible (beware, it will tear your heart out if your are a Mother!), Stones from the River, Shipping News, etc. etc. Only one I can't agree with is Sophie's World. My bookclub read it and the only person who got more than 1/4 of the way was the person who picked it and she had to read it for a class. But then, others love it so what do I know!

My suggestion would be "The Agony and the Ectasy" I read it and "Sixteen Pleasures", when I was in Italy. Sixteen Pleasures is a good read, but the Agony and the Ectasy, which is a biography of Michaelangelo, really helped educate me on the history and the art of the region. It is amazing what that man went through for his art. I thought it read easily and really brought the info alive. Have fun. I am printing this post for my summer trip!

Old May 1st, 2000, 09:56 PM
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I thought of some more but then saw that Paule stole my thunder, especially Barbara Leon and Michael Dibdin. But here's some new ones not mentioned. If you are going to England, The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles. I made a special trip to Lyme Regis after reading it and ate in one of the best restaurants in my life in that pokey little seaside town. Also anything by Anthony Trollope. Shogun for Japan, a great, great read and really good insight in Japanese culture. For Paris, Le Divorce by Diane Johnson, and I have read favorable reviews of her sequel.
Look's like I am going to have to get Correlli's Mandolin. It didn't appeal to me when I read the reviews but all the raves on this post have made me reassess it.
Old May 1st, 2000, 10:10 PM
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Great thread! I wholeheartedly agree with Harry Potter-definitely my favorites! Historical, Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, about the little boys in the Tower of London. One of my all time favorites, Rosamund Pilcher's The Shellseekers, great story, set in England. I also love the Inspector Morse series (Colin Dexter) for mysteries.
Old May 1st, 2000, 10:54 PM
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I recommended Soldier of the Great War earlier but Robert McGammon's Swan Song and Boy's Life are also really great reading.
Old May 1st, 2000, 11:21 PM
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For those traveling into the English countryside I recommend anything by Jane Austen. My in-laws live in Hertfordshire, and since Pride and Prejudice was set in Hertfordshire last year I eagerly gobbled it up and ultimately everything else Austen's ever written. I would also recommend London by Edward Rutherford.

After a trip to Versailles I found a non-fiction book called Louis and Antoinette that was absolutely fascinating, a real eye opener on the French Aristocracy (hint-Louis XVI wasn't the bad guy and Marie Antoinette never said let them eat cake).

I also found a little book on art appreciation very helpful for all the museums, especially for someone like me who shied away from art classes in school-made me look at the paintings in a completely and more appreciative way. Enhanced my experience 200%!

Old May 2nd, 2000, 02:36 AM
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All right, Jeniffer!! We share the same favorite fiction book, 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' (Viva El Gabo!!). BTW, do you know that this book is also President Clinton's favorite fiction book? (for what is worth.....).
Old May 2nd, 2000, 03:39 AM
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Going to Rome? Why not "I, Claudius" by Robert Graves? It's the "autobiography" of the emperor Claudius, who, taken for an imbecile, survives the intrigues of his psychotic royal family and its power struggles, and is the last one standing. Moving, witty, thrilling, brilliantly written, a finer evocation of Roman history you will not read. The second installment "Claudius the God" is just as good.
Old May 2nd, 2000, 05:13 AM
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My favorite, long vacation books have been:
* Evening Class by Maeve Binchy
* The Bestseller by Olivia Goldsmith
* Coming Home by John Jakes

I agree with Kathleen about "The Shell Seekers" by Rosamund Pilcher. Possibly my favorite book of all time. Would be great on a trip.
Old May 2nd, 2000, 07:04 AM
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This has been so much fun this a.m. to read this...I am leaving this week for several countries.. my first time and I am so excited, I have picked up a Sidney Sheldon book..Mememories of Midnight, I hope it's good! Has anyone read it? Gina, have a great time!!!!
Old May 2nd, 2000, 07:10 AM
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I've never been one for mass market fiction but I have to say that "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett is probably the best book I've ever read...at least in the top 3. I've read it twice and my husband is starting on it for the 3rd time. If you're going to Europe, and planning on seeing alot of cathedrals this is great because the main character builds cathedrals and it takes place in the 12th century. Fascinating read! And weighing it at just over 900 pages it quite thick. Don't miss it! Has anyone else read it?
Old May 2nd, 2000, 07:26 AM
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It's hard to narrow it down, with so many wonderful books to choose from, but here are a few that come to mind. Two of my favorites have already been mentioned, but I definitely recommend Halprin's A Soldier of the Great War, and Fowles The Magus. I've read the latter twice, and both times I did it in one sitting, and it's not a short book. Also George Eliot's Middlemarch, Caleb Carr's The Alienist (it's rather gruesome, but an engrossing mystery set in NY when Teddy Roosevelt was police commissioner). One of my favorite books is In This House of Brede, by Rumor Godden. It's the story of a benedictine convent, and especially if you are going to be visiting churches, gives a wonderful picture of monastery life. And don't forget The Mists of Avalon, a feminist retelling of the Arthurian legend.
Old May 2nd, 2000, 08:45 AM
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Two of my favorite reads are The Ambassadors (set in Paris and New York)by Henry James and The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, whose short stories I also love, especially Roman Fever. I also love the Henry James novella, The Aspern Papers which is set in Venice. I second the recommendations of Stephen Saylor, Donna Leon, and Iaian Pears' mysteries, and would add anything by Lindsey Davis who writes very entertaining mysteries about a working-class detective in Ancient Rome. Laurie R. King has written a very compelling series of novels/mysteries about a young Victorian woman and her adventures with a retired Sherlock Holmes--the first one is called The Beekeeper's Apprentice. If you love Paris and France, you'll really enjoy Le Divorce. Finally, as I am in the midst of becoming addicted to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels about the details of life aboard a man-of-war in Nelson's navy, I invite you to do the same. They are absolutely remarkable--but take at least two of them with you. The first in the series is Master and Commander. Thanks for beginning this excellent thread.
Old May 2nd, 2000, 12:25 PM
lin gitterman
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Captain Corelli's Mandolin is beautifull. A Confederacy of Dunces is also great but I have not seen mention of Memoirs of a Geisha - could not put it down!! Cold Mountain, and, most recently, The Blackwater Lightship.
Old May 2nd, 2000, 12:39 PM
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For classics, Jane Austen is my favourite. Read Persuasion and then go to Bath.
My attention span is very limited when I fly. I'd like to reccommend The Green Mile by Stephen King. It is an amazing book and definitely kept my attention. My father, usually reads Dickens and Shakespeare when he reads fiction, also loved it.
Have a great trip!

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