Novella set in the Italian Alps
The essence of TripFiction
3rd April 2019
TripFiction’s Andrew is Literary Editor of the Silver Travel Book Club, over at our friends and travel partner Silver Travel Advisor. There, the Book Club is proudly sponsored by Emerald Waterways and Andrew is cruising down the Danube with them in May, on the Enchantment of Eastern Europe adventure, from Budapest to Bucharest.
It’s a tough job, but Andrew will be reading books sourced from the TripFiction database that are very firmly set along the way – in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania:
The first piece of Andrew’s homework was The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe. TripFiction’s earlier review by Tina of the book is here, we have a great #TalkingLocationWith.. piece with author Annabelle here, and she shares her own ‘Top 10 reads for Croatia’ in this blog post.
Over to Andrew for his thoughts on The People We Were Before and how it captures the essence of TripFiction….
Author Annabelle Thorpe uses the vehicle of a novel to great effect to tell the heartbreaking story of the Balkan conflict from 1979 to 1995. The main protagonist Miro Denković is just 8 years old and living in Knin, a small village in the Krajina, when a terrible accident reawakens past conflicts and uproots his family to Ljeta, on the coast. He forges a new and happy life here, until the stormclouds of war gather, empowered by the death of Tito in 1980 and Serbian sabre-rattling by Slobodan Milošević.
Miro’s adult life is moulded by events of the evolving conflict in the next few years, innocence lost in the long siege of Dubrovnik and subsequent madness in Bosnia. Relationships with friends are family are changed forever, even as life slowly tries to return to some form of normality when peace is finally brokered.
I enjoyed the fictional story woven by the author, and believed in the characters created to live through this sad period of recent Balkan history. And although my cruise down the Danube may be some distance from the villages in the Krajina and on the Croatian coast where Miro lives, The People We Were Before has certainly helped me to understand better some of the underlying issues that led to the fracturing of old Yugoslavia, and the creation of modern-day Croatia, Serbia and surrounding Balkan states. A map of the post-war Balkan territories at the beginning of the book, and a timeline of historical events from 1945 to 1995 at the end, add to the sense that you’re living through history as you read this engaging novel. And the sense of place throughout is palpable.
In a similar vein, I read The Thread by Victoria Hislop before going to Thessaloniki a few years ago, and my wife Gill read it while we were there. For both of us, walking in the same streets that the author and her characters had, living through the tumultuous events that beset Greece’s second city throughout the 20th century, added huge value and enjoyment to our own travel experience.
And that, surely, is the essence of TripFiction:
Books set in location offer great travel reading. TripFiction was created to make it easy to match a location with a book, and thanks to our searchable database you can find a book relevant to any trip.
Works of fiction generate a feel for, and empathy with, a location that it quite different to that obtained through conventional travel guides. Literature – modern or historical – can help us absorb atmosphere and context in a way that no other written word finds possible.
Right, next up….Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor, the older renowned travel writer recording memories of his teenage self walking across Europe. This second instalment, following on from A Time of Gifts, sees him in Budapest…where our Emerald Waterways adventure will begin soon….’
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