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Five great books set in Croatia

11th July 2018

Croatia is the latest destination in our ‘Five great books set in…’ series. ‘Five great books set in Croatia’.

As one of our book selections below describes, Croatia is a nation ‘forged in war’, emerging only in 1991 as a truly independent country after centuries of turmoil at the outer edges of earlier empires, and a devastating later civil war when Tito’s Yugoslavia collapsed.

Now a more peaceful country with a population of just over 4 million, tourism accounts for a significant proportion of its service-based economy, particularly along its beautiful, long Adriatic coastline.

The country has a national football team which punches well above its population weight, finishing 3rd in its first World Cup appearance in 1998 and having advanced – at least – to another World Cup semi-final in 2018.

Croatia’s cuisine varies by region, some dominated by Italian influences, elsewhere more by Austrian, Hungarian and Turkish cuisine.

Enjoy these books that hopefully give a flavour of the country as it navigated a way through its turbulent past.

Five great books set in CroatiaBlack Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West

First published in 1942, Rebecca West’s epic masterpiece is widely regarded as the most illuminating book to have been written on the former state of Yugoslavia.

It is a work of enduring value that remains essential for anyone attempting to understand the enigmatic history of the Balkan states, and the continuing friction in this fractured area of Europe.

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Into Hell’s Fire by Douglas Cavanaugh

A novel that will appeal broadly to international readers, Into Hell’s Fire is an espionage thriller set in war-torn Croatia and Bosnia. Daring, dangerous, and dramatic, the story pushes the boundaries between fact and fiction.

Lucas Martin, a retired agent of the U.S. government, is recalled to duty to assist Washington in deciding its Balkan policy at the beginning of the Siege of Sarajevo. Hired to accumulate accurate intelligence and monitor the crisis as it unfolds, little time passes before he is entrapped in a game of life and death with a sinister Serbian general.

Crossing regional borders, flanking battle lines and dodging sniper fire, the stakes soon rise until the two players meet in a final standoff where there can be only one victor. Finally, Lucas is forced to battle his opponent face to face in a dramatic showdown. But does Lucas still have what it takes to save his life against overwhelming odds and when the stakes have never been higher?

Will good trump evil in a world where rules and morality have been left by the wayside? Readers of Into Hell’s Fire will find answers to these questions and much, much more.

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The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe

Yugoslavia, summer 1979. A new village. A new life. But eight-year-old Miro knows the real reason why his family moved from the inland city of Knin to the sunkissed village of Ljeta on the Dalmatian Coast, a tragedy he tries desperately to forget.

The Ljeta years are happy ones, though, and when he marries his childhood sweetheart, and they have a baby daughter, it seems as though life is perfect. However, storm clouds are gathering above Yugoslavia.

War breaks out, and one split-second decision destroys the life Miro has managed to build. Driven by anger and grief, he flees to Dubrovnik, plunging himself into the hard-bitten world of international war reporters.

There begins a journey that will take him ever deeper into danger: from Dubrovnik, to Sarajevo, to the worst atrocities of war-torn Bosnia, Miro realises that even if he survives, there can be no way back to his earlier life. The war will change him, and everyone he loves, forever.

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Two Tickets to Dubrovnik by Angus Kennedy

Two Tickets to Dubrovnik is a novella centred on the bittersweet memories of an Australian wine writer’s visit to Croatia. Tightly written, the book is filled with information about the area’s history and could even work as something of a travel guide to Dubrovnik.

Higher stakes might have made this a more compelling read, but Kennedy promises only a tale in which the control of his protagonist’s life is taken from his hands, and in that he delivers. Still, the setting and history are expertly drawn, as is the protagonist’s unfortunate dilemma.

Readers looking for a well-written, simple tale set in an old country steeped in history and colour should find this a satisfying escape.

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Croatia: A Nation Forged in War by Marcus Tanner

From the ashes of former Yugoslavia an independent Croatian state has arisen, the fulfillment, in the words of President Franjo Tudjman, of the Croats’ ‘thousand-year-old dream of independence’.

Yet few countries in Europe have been born amid such bitter controversy and bloodshed: the savage war between pro-independence forces and the Yugoslav army left about one-third of the country in ruins and resulted in the flight of a quarter of a million of the country’s Serbian minority.

In this book, an eyewitness to the breakup of Yugoslavia provides the first full account of the rise, fall, and rebirth of Croatia from its medieval origins to today’s tentative peace. Marcus Tanner describes the creation of the first Croatian state; its absorption into feudal Hungary in the Middle Ages; the catastrophic experience of the Ottoman invasion; the absorption of the diminished country into Habsburg Austria; the evolution of modern Croatian nationalism after the French Revolution; and, the circumstances that propelled Croatia into the arms of Nazi Germany and the brutal, home-grown ‘Ustashe’ movement in the Second World War.

Finally, drawing on first-hand knowledge of many of the leading figures in the conflict, Tanner explains the failure of Tito’s Communists to solve Yugoslavia’s tortured national problem by creating a federal state, and the violent implosion after his death. Croatia’s unique position on the crossroads of Europe – between Eastern and Western Christendom, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans and between the old Habsburg and Ottoman empires – has been both a curse and a blessing, inviting the attention of larger and more powerful neighbours.

The turbulence and drama of Croatia’s past are vigorously portrayed in this powerful history.

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Andrew for the TripFiction Team

Which titles would you add to this list? Any you would like to add to our database? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments box below.

Other posts in our ‘Five great books set in…’ series:

Five great books set in Naples

Five great books set in Dublin

Five great books set in Dubai

Five great books set in Portugal

Five great books set in San Francisco

Five great books set in Edinburgh

Five great books set in Guernsey

Five great books set in Mexico

Five great books set in Alpine countries

Five great books set in Korea

Five great books set in Tunisia

Five great books set in Sweden

And our ‘Ten great books set in…’ series includes:

Ten great books set in Paris

Ten great books set in New York

Ten great books set in London

Ten great books set in Rome

Ten great books set in Berlin

Ten great books set in Russia

Ten great books set in Spain

Ten great books set in Amsterdam

Ten great books set in Thailand

Ten great books set in Raj era India

Ten great books set in Japan

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  1. User: Stelbel

    Posted on: 22/07/2022 at 8:49 am

    Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge. I read it in May on a trip to the Dubrovnic area. Wonderful evocative descriptions of the Yugoslavian countryside in the past. It made me visit some of the locations. I’ll never see a blue iris without remembering it.


  2. User: tripfiction

    Posted on: 08/07/2020 at 11:14 am


    Thank you very much for this comment.

    We absolutely accept the criticism. We do normally try to include local authors in these posts, but this one obviously slipped through the net.

    We shall review and revise as we update the post going forward.




  3. User: Paola Peculic

    Posted on: 07/07/2020 at 6:59 pm

    the fact that none of these are by Croatian authors is really disappointing.