Recently I had two of the blogs I follow feature “Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Take Place in Another Country” (they are Lit Lens—post here—and The Limit of Books Does Not Exist—post here). Since I don’t post on Tuesdays but I still wanted to do this, I’m doing it today instead—minus the cool ring to the title. I love books set in foreign countries, because they make me learn about places I will probably never have the opportunity to visit. I also tried to vary the books as being in different areas of the world.
1. Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1) by Elizabeth Peters
Setting: 1880s Egypt.
Synopsis from Goodreads: “Set in 1884, this is the first installment in what has become a beloved bestselling series. At thirty-two, strong-willed Amelia Peabody, a self-proclaimed spinster, decides to use her ample inheritance to indulge her passion, Egyptology. On her way to Egypt, Amelia encounters a young woman named Evelyn Barton-Forbes. The two become fast friends and travel on together, encountering mysteries, missing mummies, and Radcliffe Emerson, a dashing and opinionated archaeologist who doesn’t need a woman’s help—or so he thinks.”
My Thoughts: Not only is this set in Egypt, but it is also set in the 1800s. Elizabeth Peters (whose real name was Barbara Mertz) actually wrote this book to be a stand-alone until it became so popular her publisher asked for more, and though I enjoyed the other books, there is something about this one that makes it still one of my favorite adventure mysteries!
2. The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
Setting: Ancient Rome.
Synopsis from Goodreads: “A Roman soldier, Marcellus, wins Christ’s robe as a gambling prize. He then sets forth on a quest to find the truth about the Nazarene’s robe-a quest that reaches to the very roots and heart of Christianity and is set against the vividly limned background of ancient Rome. Here is a timeless story of adventure, faith, and romance, a tale of spiritual longing and ultimate redemption.”
My Thoughts: Even if you’re not a Christian, it is one of the best books for character development I have ever read. It surprises me that more people haven’t read this book. It’s up there with the great classics, and yet most people I know (even Christians) have never heard of it or only know it by that horrible movie adaptation in the 1950s.
3. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Setting: 1930s Paris.
Synopsis from Goodreads: “Set in picturesque Paris, this tale of a brave little girl’s trip to the hospital was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1940 and has as much appeal today as it did then. The combination of a spirited heroine, timelessly appealing art, cheerful humor, and rhythmic text makes Madeline a perennial favorite with children of all ages.”
My Thoughts: I loved this book as a child, mostly because I was mischievous and so was Madeline. That and this book was the book that gave me the love of everything French!
4. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Synopsis from Goodreads: “In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion.”
My Thoughts: This book was on my TBR for years before I actually saw it. It’s a highly in-depth book and slow-moving. However, it’s well worth the time to understand the complex characters and ideals of life during that time and place.
5. First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (Daughter of Cambodia #1) by Loung Ung
Setting: Cambodia, Khmer Rouge rule during 1970s.
Synopsis from Goodreads: “One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung’s family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed. Harrowing yet hopeful, Loung’s powerful story is an unforgettable account of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage and love in the face of unspeakable brutality.”
My Thoughts: This is one of my favorite autobiographies of all time, and a highly moving retelling of a horrific time in Cambodian history. It is terrifying, and a warning against communism. And the fact that it’s told from the perspective of a young child makes it even more poignant.
6. Through Gates of Splendor: The Event That Shocked the World, Changed a People, and Inspired a Nation by Elisabeth Eliot
Setting: 1950s Ecuador.
Synopsis from Goodreads: “In 1956, five young men, including Elliot’s husband, Jim, traveled into the jungles of Ecuador to establish communication with the fierce Huaorani Tribe, a people whose only previous response to the outside world had been to attack all strangers. The men’s mission combined modern technology with innate ingenuity, sparked by a passionate determination to get the gospel to those without Christ. In a nearby village, their wives waited to hear from them. The news they received all five missionaries had been murdered changed lives around the world forever.”
My Thoughts: It is such a fascinating book, and one my mother read when I was a child. It’s a beautiful, moving autobiography about a tragic event with ended five missionaries’ lives. I also know one of the other men’s sons later wrote a book (as well as gave many speeches) about his work with the same tribe. I must read that one too.
7. Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
Setting: 1940s India
Synopsis from Goodreads: “During World War II and the last days of British occupation in India, fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of attending college. But when her forward-thinking father is beaten senseless by the British police, she is forced to live with her grandfather’s large traditional family, where the women live apart from the men and are meant to be married off as soon as possible. Vidya’s only refuge becomes her grandfather’s upstairs library, which is forbidden to women. There she meets Raman, a young man also living in the house who relishes her intellectual curiosity. But when Vidya’s brother decides to fight with the hated British against the Nazis, and when Raman proposes marriage too soon, Vidya must question all she has believed in.”
My Thoughts: I read this book years ago, so I can’t remember all the details of why I liked it, but I remember my favorite part was the immersion into the Indian culture, and the lush descriptions. However, if I read it now, I might have very different thoughts about it (I’ve gotten more cynical as an adult).
8. The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
Setting: WWII Poland
Synopsis from Goodreads: “After their zoo was bombed, Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski managed to save over three hundred people from the Nazis by hiding refugees in the empty animal cages. With animal names for these ‘guests,’ and human names for the animals, it’s no wonder that the zoo’s code name became ‘The House Under a Crazy Star.’ Best-selling naturalist and acclaimed storyteller Diane Ackerman combines extensive research and an exuberant writing style to re-create this fascinating, true-life story—sharing Antonina’s life as ‘the zookeeper’s wife,’ while examining the disturbing obsessions at the core of Nazism.”
My Thoughts: It is a very slow-moving book. However, it also shows this era in Warsaw in moving detail. It’s great, but rather sad as well. The movie is also quite good, though it does cut out quite a bit (which is to be expected, of course)
9. The Pericles Commission (The Athenian Mysteries #1) by Gary Corby
Setting: Ancient Athens, Greece.
Synopsis from Goodreads: “Nicolaos walks the mean streets of Classical Athens as an agent for the promising young politician Pericles. His mission is to find the assassin of the statesman Ephialtes, the man who brought democracy to Athens and whose murder has thrown the city into uproar. It’s a job not made any easier by the depressingly increasing number of dead witnesses.
But murder and mayhem don’t bother Nico; what’s really on his mind is how to get closer (much closer) to Diotima, the intelligent and annoyingly virgin priestess of Artemis, and how to shake off his irritating twelve year-old brother Socrates.”
My Thoughts: I love historical mysteries, but usually they are set in the 1700s or afterwards, so I was thrilled to find this one set in ancient Greece. While it is a cozy mystery, there is a lot of interesting depth in the society of the time.
10. Garment of Shadows (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #12) by Laurie R. King
Synopsis from Goodreads: “In a strange room in Morocco, Mary Russell is trying to solve a pressing mystery: “Who am I?” She has awakened with shadows in her mind, blood on her hands, and soldiers pounding on the door. Out in the hivelike streets, she discovers herself strangely adept in the skills of the underworld, escaping through alleys and rooftops, picking pockets and locks. She is clothed like a man, and armed only with her wits and a scrap of paper containing a mysterious Arabic phrase. Overhead, warplanes pass ominously north.
Meanwhile, Holmes is pulled by two old friends and a distant relation into the growing war between France, Spain, and the Rif Revolt led by Emir Abd el-Krim–who may be a Robin Hood or a power mad tribesman. The shadows of war are drawing over the ancient city of Fez, and Holmes badly wants the wisdom and courage of his wife, whom he’s learned, to his horror, has gone missing. As Holmes searches for her, and Russell searches for her‘self,’ each tries to crack deadly parallel puzzles before it’s too late for them, for Africa, and for the peace of Europe.”
My Thoughts: I loved the first few books of this series, and then it got kind of boring and repetitive. However, this book I absolutely loved! It changes the typical organization as Mary is stuck inside a room for most of the book, trying to solve a mystery with Holmes on the outside.
What are some books you love that are set in different countries? Let me know down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness, and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,