Top Ten Tuesday: books set in other countries

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends. This week, we’re talking about books set in other countries.

It’s a couple of years since the last time I explored books set in other countries for Top Ten Tuesday, but I was worried enough that the list would look awfully similar (after all, my ‘other countries’ tend to be other worlds) that I wanted to give this week an additional twist – so this is a rare glimpse of my non-SF TBR. Welcome to my top ten books that I haven’t read yet that are set in other countries.


Strandloper – Alan Garner

Alan Garner shaped my childhood (watch out for future Muskedragon flail-alongs), so I’m slowly reading his adult works. They are difficult, poetic, impenetrable and thought-provoking. They often leave me frustrated. Strandloper is about a Cheshire man transported to Australia for theft, and his encounters with Aboriginal Australians.

Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

Iceland fascinates me (I’d like to spend an awful lot more time there), and this is the story (inspired by true events) of the last woman to be publicly executed there. If it’s not bleakly moving enough, I’ll watch Rams as a follow-up (an Icelandic black comedy about two sheep-farming brothers who don’t talk and will feud until their dying day; highly recommended).

The Gift of Rain – Tan Twan Eng

I’ve given up twice at precisely the same point, but I’m determined to finish this saga of loyalty and guilt about an Anglo-Malayan man who collaborates with the Japanese in Malaysia during the occupation in WWII.

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out A Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

The flamboyant story of a Swedish centenarian determined to escape his retirement home and relive his colourful past. This is one of those books I bought as a gift for someone else, so felt obliged to pick up on a 99p Kindle deal. My uncle loved it; I’ve never quite got round to it – I need a beach holiday or something.

Deathless – Catherynne Valente

I picked up Deathless before I reached the conclusion that – Fairyland aside – Cat Valente is an author I admire rather than enjoy. A Russian fairytale should be right up my street, but I haven’t quite found the nerve to give it a go.

The Unconsoled – Kazuo Ishiguro

A pianist arrives in an unknown Eastern European city for a concert, but cannot remember his commitments. This was a SantaThing present (I adore SantaThing, but TBR guilt has kept me away the last couple of years). It has a daunting reputation as indecipherable and obscure, and has been called one of the best literary novels of the 80s/90s.

A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki

A woman finds a lunchbox washed ashore in Canada, and becomes intrigued by the diary of the unhappy Japanese teenager kept safe within it. This has been on my shelf for a while; I’ve heard many good things about it, but I’ve been on a largely SFnal diet since I got hold of it.

The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

Another book I bought as a gift and then picked up on a deal – which turns out to have been a terrible mistake, as the hardback is the size of a house and my mother-in-law would much rather have had it as an ebook! This New Zealand-set historical drama divides opinion (turgid Booker prize winner or illuminating historical masterpiece), but I feel obliged to read books I gift.

The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay – Andrea Gillies

I loved Gillies’ guilt-ridden debut novel, The White Lie. Nina Findlay promises to be another unreliable narrative as a woman narrates her romantic entanglements to a doctor after an accident on a Greek island.

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman – Denis Theriault

I’ve bought this as a gift on several occasions because it sounds so lovely, but never quite got around to reading my own copy. A Canadian postman steams open letters to read in his apartment, and becomes entranced by the haiku correspondence of some lovers. But when tragedy strikes, he decides to get personally involved – and begins writing haiku himself. Doesn’t it sound heartbreakingly adorable?

What books set abroad would you recommend to me?