Talking Location With author Leigh Russell – YORK
Five great books set in POLAND
26th October 2019
Poland is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Poland.
‘The soul of Poland is indestructible… she will rise again like a rock, which may for a spell be submerged by a tidal wave, but which remains a rock’ – Sir Winston Churchill
The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford– a novel set in Warsaw
‘You do not leave a sick child alone to face the dark and you do not leave a child at a time like this.’
Deeply in love and about to marry, students Misha and Sophia flee a Warsaw under Nazi occupation for a chance at freedom. Forced to return to the Warsaw ghetto, they help Misha’s mentor, Dr Janusz Korczak, care for the two hundred children in his orphanage. As Korczak struggles to uphold the rights of even the smallest child in the face of unimaginable conditions, he becomes a beacon of hope for the thousands who live behind the walls.
As the noose tightens around the ghetto Misha and Sophia are torn from one another, forcing them to face their worst fears alone. They can only hope to find each other again one day…
Meanwhile, refusing to leave the children unprotected, Korczak must confront a terrible darkness.
Half a million people lived in the Warsaw ghetto. Less than one percent survived to tell their story. This novel is based on the true accounts of Misha and Sophia, and on the life of one of Poland’s greatest men, Dr Janusz Korczak.
Home is Nearby by Magdalena McGuire – a novel set in Wroclaw
1980: the beginning of the Polish Crisis. Brought up in a small village, country-girl Ania arrives in the university city of Wroclaw to pursue her career as a sculptor. Here she falls in love with Dominik, an enigmatic writer at the centre of a group of bohemians and avant-garde artists who throw wild parties.
When martial law is declared, their lives change overnight: military tanks appear on the street, curfews are introduced and the artists are driven underground. Together, Ania and Dominik fight back, pushing against the boundaries imposed by the authoritarian communist government. But at what cost?
Home Is Nearby’ is a vivid and intimate exploration of the struggle to find your place in the world, no matter where you are.
And read TripFiction Tina’s post about reading Home is Nearby while she was in Wroclaw herself – TripFiction and literary wanderlust in action!
Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris – a novel set in Auschwitz and Siberia
In 1942 Cilka Klein is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.
After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator by the Russians and sent to a desolate, brutal prison camp in Siberia known as Vorkuta, inside the Arctic Circle.
Innocent, imprisoned once again, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, each day a battle for survival. Cilka befriends a woman doctor, and learns to nurse the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under unimaginable conditions. And when she tends to a man called Alexandr, Cilka finds that despite everything, there is room in her heart for love.
Cilka’s Journey is a powerful testament to the triumph of the human will. It will move you to tears, but it will also leave you astonished and uplifted by one woman’s fierce determination to survive, against all odds.
The Lullaby of Polish Girls by Dagmara Dominczyk – a novel set in Kielce, Poland and the USA
Anna lives in Brooklyn. But she didn’t always. She grew up in Kielce, Poland, where the summers were long and the politics communist. When her parents were indicted for their alliance with anti-government forces, Anna had to flee her homeland, leaving her closest friends behind.
Now an adult, she lives in the US and has lost touch with the girls she once knew, the ones she missed so much as a teenager that she’d sneak back into Kielce hidden in the back of a car just to share another summer.
When she learns that one of them has suffered a terrible tragedy, she hurries home to Kielce. But when she arrives, she’ll find more than she’d ever imagined. It’s finally time to face everything that happened during those childhood summers long ago.
Winter Under Water by James Hopkin – a novel set in Krakow
When Joseph meets Marta, who has come to the UK to research the forgotten histories of remarkable women from across Europe, he is captivated, and Marta feels the same: when she returns to her previous life, their relationship continues through letters and phone calls.
Then Joseph decides to visit Marta in her native Poland.
Interlinking Joseph’s often strange experiences with Marta’s letters to him, Winter Under Water is a book about who we are and who we choose to love: exploring issues of isolation and identity, of home and belonging, it is also, ultimately, a book that suggests you only truly know a person or a place when you can sit in silence and not feel compelled to break it — in any language.
Which titles would you add to the list? Remember to check out the TripFiction listings for more books set in Poland and around the world. Each will transport you to some excellent fiction, travelogues or memoirs. Or you may have your own favourites you would like to add. Please leave your thoughts in the Comments box below.
And search for books by location on our new ‘Great Books Set In’ page.
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