Authors of One Country Who Set Their Novels in Another Country

Because I think internationalism is important in a world where Donald Trump is wedded to “America First” (his fourth marriage?), I’ve mentioned various countries in recent blog posts.

For instance, last month I wrote about “Loving Literature from Other Countries.” The month before, I focused on “Authors Who Do and Don’t Set Their Fiction in One Place.”

I’m going internationalist again today with a somewhat different angle: authors who set a novel in a different country from the one in which they live.

The “pros” of that? Writers can look at a culture from an outside perspective, potentially interest readers in that culture, show how people from different nations are similar or different, get themselves and their readers out of their comfort zones, show the ill effects of things like colonialism, etc.

The “cons”? Authors might not know the other country well and thus might depict it inaccurately or superficially, they might consciously or subconsciously depict the nation as inferior to their own, they might make someone from their own country the most important character, etc.

Of course, it helps if authors — whether they end up portraying another country in a positive or negative light — visited that nation, or, better yet, lived there for several months or years.

Some examples of authors who set novels in countries other than their own? Glad you asked! Sir Walter Scott, who usually placed his novels in his native Scotland, put Quentin Durward in France. English author Charlotte Bronte also turned to France for Villette. Another iconic English author, Charles Dickens, set portions of A Tales of Two Cities and Martin Chuzzlewit in France and the U.S., respectively.

U.S. authors Barbara Kingsolver and Harriet Doerr put The Lacuna and Stones for Ibarra, respectively, partly or mostly in Mexico. Kingsolver used what was then called the Belgian Congo as the milieu for the American family in The Poisonwood Bible. American writer Paul Theroux set most of The Mosquito Coast in Honduras.

Mark Twain, one of the most famous U.S. authors of all, turned to England for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and to France for Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. New Englander Nathaniel Hawthorne used Italy as the backdrop for The Marble Faun after a several-year sojourn in Europe. American writer James Baldwin, who lived in France for a number of years, set Giovanni’s Room in that country.

American author Willa Cather located Shadows on the Rock in Canada, and Canadian author Margaret Atwood set The Handmaid’s Tale in the U.S.

French authors? Stendhal put The Charterhouse of Parma in Italy, Alexandre Dumas set Georges in what is now called Mauritius, and J.M.G. Le Clezio placed much of Desert in Morocco.

North Africa was also the setting for The Sheltering Sky by American writer Paul Bowles.

Erich Maria Remarque, who was forced to flee his native Germany because of the Nazis, placed Arch of Triumph in France and Shadows in Paradise in America.

Australian-born Brit (and later U.S. resident) James Clavell set Shogun in Japan, and Australian author Frank Moorhouse placed Grand Days in Switzerland.

Last but not least, American author James Michener set novels in many non-U.S. places — including the Caribbean, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Spain, and the South Pacific.

What are your favorite novels (either those I mentioned or didn’t mention) set in a different country from where the author lives or lived?

The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone.

On April 2, I’ll be writing a blog post about my new book Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia.

In addition to doing this weekly blog, I also write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column — now with, which covers Montclair, N.J., and nearby towns. The latest weekly column is here.

77 thoughts on “Authors of One Country Who Set Their Novels in Another Country

  1. Pingback: The name is Bond, Ruskin Bond – redesign life

  2. Hey, well said.

    There’s no right or wrong, as long as the story is believable, after all, we’re just story tellers right? Research these days is much less work than it used to be so there’s no real need for doing it properly. We’ve all read examples of poorly researched, or inaccurate details in books, and it kind of dulls the senses to the book.

    I was born in London, I’ve lived in Dubai for ten years, and am just finishing a book set in Alaska.

    I’ve had to go stay with my family in Montana a few times to get a feel for certain aspects and pick up detail (the two states are similar in many ways), so I’m happy the detail is there.

    In some ways it has added to the challenge of the book. In others its helped. Its taken me far from where I sat in the sweltering heat of the Middle East, to the frozen mountains of Alaska. Its taken me to a completely different mindset and I’ve loved every minute of writing it!

    I wonder if the writers on your list felt the same. There’s definitely something to be said for being taken somewhere else by your imagination and writing.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Many excellent points, westonjd. Thank you!

      A good story can indeed resonate whether the author has “been there” or not. And, yes, research these days is so much easier — with all kinds of text, photos, videos, etc., on the Internet. Of course, as you allude to, the research may be done skillfully or shoddily. And, in terms of the accuracy of things digital, Abraham Lincoln was quoted on the Web as saying, “Not everything I see online is true.”

      It sounds like you’ve had a real international life yourself, and congratulations on finishing your book set in Alaska!

      Great comment, and well said!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Dave,
    Thanks for the inspiration. I’ve lived in Seville for 12 years and have almost finished a contemporary fiction novel set here. I was wondering if you knew of any other writers specialising in Spain? Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Barry!

      Seville must be a great place to live — I enjoyed a week-long visit to that city a number of years ago. 🙂 And congratulations on almost finishing your novel!

      I don’t know of other contemporary writers specializing in Spain. Of course, Spanish writers (from Miguel de Cervantes on) have done so, as well as some writers from other countries (such as Ernest Hemingway with “For Whom the Bell Tolls”).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy, Barry O’Leary!

      — I was wondering if you knew of any other writers specialising in Spain? —

      I am aware of the following four English-language works of fiction with an Iberian flavor published in the past couple of decades, although I have not yet read any of them:
      • Noah Gordon’s “The Last Jew.”
      • C.W. Gortner’s “The Queen’s Vow.”
      • Lewis M. Weinstein’s “The Heretic.”
      • Robert Wilson’s “The Blind Man of Seville.”

      Good luck with your novel!

      J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Since you mentioned Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma (1839) as a novel set in one country by an author from another, it will perhaps amuse you to know that the nation, Parma, in which Stendhal set his novel didn’t exist as named. According to Italo Calvino, in his article “Guide for New Readers of Stendhal’s “Charterhouse””, “this apocryphal Parma is historically identifiable with Modena, as is passionately claimed by the Modenese”.

    Nor does the main character Fabricio del Dongo, entirely, or even largely derive from the time-frame of the novel, but rather he is modeled on Alessandro Farnese (1468 – 1549). Says Calvino:
    “…There is the Renaissance chronicle plot, from one of those historical sagas which Stendhal had hunted out in the libraries to draw on for his own Chroniques italiennes (Italian Chronicles). This one dealt with the life of Alessandro Farnese. Being very much loved and protected by one of his aunts, a gallant and scheming noblewoman, Alessandro enjoyed a glorious ecclesiastical career despite having spent his youth in libertine adventures (he had also killed a rival and had been imprisoned for it in Castel Sant’Angelo) before becoming Pope Paul III.”

    Finally, there is the forboding and oppressive Farnese Tower, a prison to which political enemies are sent by those in service to the reactionary Prince Ranuccio-Enesto IV, which is “the terror of all Lombardy. Since it is built on an eminence, apparently of some hundred and eighty feet, it is visible from a great distance in the center of that vast plain; and the physical shape of this prison, of which such horrors are whispered, crowns it– by fear alone–the queen of the entire region from Milan to Bologna.”– (Stendhal, p. 94, The Charterhouse of Parma). Or as Calvino describes the place “this Farnese Tower, which never existed either in Parma or Modena.”

    So, in sum. The Charterhouse of Parma is set in a fictional country with a real name, featuring a fictional character based on a historical figure, over which a huge, though fictional prison tower looms oppressively!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, jhNY! Well said as you describe a rather convoluted scenario! 🙂

      I may be reading your comment wrong, but is “The Charterhouse of Parma” not set in at least a fictitious part of what is now known as Italy? (I realize what comprises Italy today is different since that country’s 19th-century unification, which occurred after Stendhal wrote his novel.)


  5. Dave, I can’t wait to see your column about your new book on April 2. That’s very exciting news, and I hope you’ll give info as to how to order a copy or two. As I’m sure you know by now, I have a great love of trivia of all kinds, but especially when it comes to literature, author and history, as well as regarding places I’ve lived in or gone to school (e.g., UT at Austin).

    To get political for a moment, I think I mentioned recently that I was involved in an Indivisible group here in my community, of which the main focus is on immigration, but also about gerrymandering in PA (which has the 3rd worst record of all states when it comes to gerrymandered districts). I live in Chester County, PA, which I think has the highest median income in all of PA. This one county is broken up into at least 4 different congressional districts. None of the representatives from this county have held town halls, so my sister and I drove 1-1/2 hours to get to a rally where the representatives were scheduled to have a meeting together, in an effort to convince them they need to listen to all constituents in their districts. Even on a work day, there were quite a few of us from each district who were there with our signs. Two of the highlights from this rally: 1) a woman with a huge paper-mache head mask of Trump, dressed up in black & white stripe prison garb, with a sign saying “Don…’t be Conned”); and 2) a group of immigrants from our community playing drums as they walked down the street — one of whom said to me as he walked by, “Your sign is turned upside down.” So OK, that’s embarrassing, but it’s been a long time since my protest days during Vietnam! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kat Lib, for your enthusiastic words about the book coming out! Much appreciated! I’ll definitely include ordering info in the April 2 piece. I think and hope people who love literature and literary trivia will enjoy reading the book. 🙂

      Great to hear about that rally amid the not-great-to-hear news about even more Republican congressmembers too chicken to meet their constituents at town halls. And GOP gerrymandering IS vile, and has made the House of Representatives much more Republican than if districts were apportioned fairly. (Of course, there’s GOP voter suppression, too.)

      Loved the way you described that upside-down sign story! It happens… Heck, maybe it was a “meta” way of showing just how upside-down the Trump administration and far-right Republicans are. The important thing is that you were there!


  6. I’m amazed at how many authors you came up with, David. I’ve set various parts of my books in different countries, some of which I’ve never been to. It’s much easier to do that nowadays with Google earth. That’s what I used to get the lie of the land, so to speak, but I agree that it’s a lot more difficult to imagine what life is like in another country or culture without experiencing it firsthand. Youtube helps, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Zola remains unexplored territory for me, though I did buy a copy of his Masterpiece (that;s the title), so one day…

    But I note with interest his setting of “Georges” on the island of Mauritius, since that island is the setting for a more famous and influential book, “Paul and Virginia”, a novel by Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, first published in 1788.

    from wikipedia,:
    “Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s novel criticizes the social class divisions found in eighteenth-century French society. He describes the perfect equality of social relations on Mauritius, whose inhabitants share their possessions, have equal amounts of land, and all work to cultivate it. They live in harmony, without violence or unrest…Although Paul and Virginie own slaves, they appreciate their labour and do not treat them badly. When other slaves in the novel are mistreated, the book’s heroes confront the cruel masters.

    The novel presents an Enlightenment view of religion: that God, or “Providence,” has designed a world that is harmonious and pleasing. The characters of Paul et Virginie live off the land without needing technology or man-made interference. For instance, they tell time by observing the shadows of the trees. One critic noted that Bernadin de Saint-Pierre “admired the forethought which ensured that dark-coloured fleas should be conspicuous on white skin”, believing “that the earth was designed for man’s terrestrial happiness and convenience”.

    So here’s an earthly paradise, at least as conceived by its author (the slaves might differ, at least somewhat, were they not fictional confections), mostly because it has endured relatively little attention and activity from the civilized, so that the natural relations of people and theirs with animals and plants remain uncorrupted.

    The novel was widely read, not only when it appeared, but for several successive generations. Under its wikipedia entry, I found It is referred to in Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” and “A Simple Heart”, as well as De Maupassant’s “Bel Ami”. “In “Le Curé de village (The country parson) (1839), Honoré de Balzac described how “the revelation of love came through a charming book from the hand of a genius” and then more clearly identified the work: “sweet fancies of love derived from Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s book”.”

    Does Zola in “Georges” either refer to Paul and Virginia directly, or does he he treat the themes of the earlier book either directly or ironically?

    For a smallish island in the middle if the Indian Ocean, it would seem its claims on the attentions of the wider world are largely literary, though it has also been a place of strategic value, and thus, historically, endured the occupation of foreigners.

    I’d be surprised if the later book didn’t have something to do with the former.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, jhNY!

      “The Masterpiece” is by no means Zola’s best novel, but it’s pretty darn good. One of the best depictions, along with books such as W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Moon and Sixpence,” of an artist suffering from poverty and not having his or her ahead-of-its-time work appreciated. It was said that Zola used his friend Cezanne as a partial model for the protagonist, and that ended a friendship that went back to their childhood in Aix-en-Provence.

      Excellent description by you and Wikipedia of “Paul and Virginia,” which I had not been familiar with until seeing your comment. It’s been about a decade since I read “Georges,” so I don’t remember a lot of the particulars or whether it referenced “Paul and Virginia” in some way. But I do remember that Dumas (of partly black ancestry himself) depicted Mauritius (then Isle de France) as hardly an idyllic place — with its slavery and all. Georges, as a person of color, was not treated as well as a white person, although he was treated perhaps better than he would have been in Europe and certainly better than if he had lived in America.


      • After submitting my comment, I thought I should follow up a little, but figured I’d do it here. Paul and Virginia is most of all a tale of innocents who fall in love, their natural pretenseless purity contrasted with the corruptions of the modern world and its representatives on that earthly paradise.

        from wikipedia:

        “Thomas Carlyle in The French Revolution: A History, wrote: “[It is a novel in which] there rises melodiously, as it were, the wail of a moribund world: everywhere wholesome Nature in unequal conflict with diseased, perfidious art; cannot escape from it in the lowest hut, in the remotest island of the sea.”

        Interestingly, author was not projecting fantasy on Mauritius from a safe distance away– he had lived there and done some work as a botanist. He was also a student of Rousseau,whose philosophical views of the natural man are reflected in the novel. Pertinent to its artistic influence, it was published a short time (1788) before the French Revolution.

        Perhaps Zola embarrassed Cezanne with Masterpiece– with all that privation and poverty– unlike so many of his struggling contemporaries in paint, he always could have, should he have chosen to, like Gatsby’s Buchanans, retreated back into his money.

        from wikipedia:

        “His father… was the co-founder of a banking firm… that prospered throughout the artist’s life, affording him financial security that was unavailable to most of his contemporaries and eventually resulting in a large inheritance.”

        “Going against the objections of his banker father, he committed himself to pursuing his artistic development and left Aix for Paris in 1861. He was strongly encouraged to make this decision by Zola, who was already living in the capital at the time. Eventually, his father reconciled with Cézanne and supported his choice of career. Cézanne later received an inheritance of 400,000 francs from his father, which rid him of all financial worries.”

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for the further info on “Paul and Virginia”!

          Cezanne was lucky — an adventurous painter with a financial cushion! Maybe he did feel a bit guilty in comparison to his struggling fictional counterpart. Of course, Zola was not exactly from a poor family, either — his father was an engineer or architect or some such. But, like Edith Wharton, Zola amassed a good bit of his own money from his prodigious writing output.


          • One more Mauritius connection: the dodo.

            wiki, again:
            “The first recorded mention of the dodo was by Dutch sailors in 1598. In the following years, the bird was hunted by sailors and invasive species, while its habitat was being destroyed. The last widely accepted sighting of a dodo was in 1662.”

            Perhaps this very early extinction, which was probably very old news to Mauritians of the late 18th century, makes up part of the notion of a paradise spoiled by civilization, since by then, one of its most remarkable occupants had been destroyed– by the hand, and animals in service, of mankind– civilized mankind.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Dave,
    One of the novels that I’m reading at the moment is “Schindler’s List”. It’s set during the Holocaust, which fortunately happened a long way away from Australia, which is where the author (Thomas Keneally) is from). It’s kind of a biography, and kind of fictional, however it’s apparent that Keneally has done his research. I normally stay away from Holocaust literature, but I like the author, so decided to give it a go. A very difficult read, but probably an important one. Kind of scary that I’m reading and asking why? Why them? What did they do, what’s so bad about being Jewish? And then I turn on the news and ask why them? Why are the Mexicans so bad that there needs to be a wall?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Susan. Eloquently said, and very accurate observation that the Holocaust has even more relevance today, when Trump and his ilk think of Muslims, Mexicans, and other so-called “others” in a way not that far removed from the way the Nazis thought of Jews.

      Holocaust literature IS a tough read. I’ve never gotten to the “Schindler’s List” book (though I did see the heartbreaking movie), but have read William Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice,” Erich Maria Remarque’s “Spark of Life,” and a few other excellent novels in that “genre.”


      • Dave, I agree that “Schindler’s List” the movie is difficult to watch, and I swore that I’d never watch it again — not that it wasn’t a great movie, but as you say, too heartbreaking. Someone I know watched it in the theater and at one point had to go out to the lobby because she was sobbing so much. I do have the amazing score on CD by John Williams, which is so beautiful and moving, especially with Itzhak Perlman playing violin.

        Susan, I’d be glad to hear your thoughts about the book once you’ve finished it. While I can think about WWII and have seen movies about it (e.g., “The Longest Day,” and “A Bridge Too Far”) and other novels that discuss the occupation of Guernsey and the London Blitz, mostly I’ve read non-fiction books, such as “The Diary of Anne Frank” (read by so many young girls and may have been the book that showed us how much evil there was and is in the world) and “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William Shirer (a very long read, but absolutely fascinating).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kat Lib, I’ve also seen “Schindler’s List” just once — when it came out. Yes, a devastating movie.

          I’ve read “The Diary of Anne Frank,” too, seen a theatrical version, and visited the house where she hid in Amsterdam. What can one say about that powerful book that hasn’t already been said?


          • Hi to you both,

            I’ve taken a bit of a break from “Schindler” but plan on getting back to it later this week. I think I’m going to have to add the movie to my list as well. The book has been great, but so heavy. And while the topic is obviously tragic, it hasn’t been as heartbreaking as I would have thought. I suspect the movie may tackle it from a different perspective. I didn’t realise “Sophie’s Choice” was about the Holocaust. It’s funny how some things can just slip us by. I’ve heard the name a thousand times of course, however have no idea what it’s about!

            I’ve read “The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society” but don’t know if that counts as war literature? It’s certainly not based around the Holocaust, though there is mention of it. Same goes for “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” which is set around the war, but too funny and beautiful and fictional to really be about the war. It also features some great characters from the wrong side of the war.

            I read the “Diary of Anne Frank” when I was young. Probably too young to understand what I was reading. Then I saw a film adaptation about 10 years ago, and sobbed like a baby. I just can’t get my head that kind of evil, and I hope this doesn’t sound crazy, but it left me with a kind of survivors guilt. I can read some war literature, especially if it’s fictionalized, but I just can’t do the Holocaust. But as mentioned, I’m a fan of Tom Keneally so decided to try and leave my comfort zone. Will let you both know how I progress 🙂

            Oh, and Dave, I missed your fine print about 2nd April until I saw Kat Lib’s comment, but am also excited about the upcoming book. Many years ago a friend and I played a kind of board game about first and last lines of famous novels. I surprised myself with how much I knew, though there was also a lot that I didn’t.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thanks for the interesting and wide-ranging comment, Sue!

              Good luck with your continued tackling of the “Schindler’s List” book and possibly seeing the film.

              Yes, sometimes a movie can evoke emotions a novel doesn’t evoke quite as much. The power of visual imagery! And I hear you that Holocaust literature is very tough to deal with. I felt kind of sick for days after reading “Sophie’s Choice.” Excellent novel, but incredibly depressing — especially the choice of the title.

              Last but not least, thank for your kind mention of my book! That first-and-last-lines-of-novels-game sounds like fun. Not surprised that you did well! I refer to a first and last line or two in my book, but most of the literary trivia in it is of a different sort. 🙂


  9. E..M. Forster wrote several novels set abroad, “A Passage to India,” for instance, and “A Room with a View.” The whole theme of the Englishman (or woman) abroad is fascinating. Graham Greene’s “Quiet American” is another one. And does the ancient world count as a foreign country? I like “I

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Jean! Great examples of English authors setting their novels in other countries — whether in the modern or ancient world! And your mention of Graham Greene reminded me that he placed “The Power and the Glory” in Mexico.


    • That’s right — the first set in Italy (among other places) and the second in France! I should have thought of those two novels — I read them both for the first time within the past couple of years. Thank you!

      Both great novels — though the late-career/densely written “The Ambassadors” can be a bit of struggle to get through. 🙂


      • Looking over all James’ novel titles, I think there are far more foreign settings than American ones. But one, the novella “Washington Square”, concerns a setting extremely close to his birthplace, though not so close in time. Henry James was born April 15 1843 at 2 Washington Place, in Manhattan— 2 1/2 blocks from the square!

        Liked by 1 person

        • You’re probably right, jhNY, about a significant majority of Henry James’ novels having foreign settings.

          Of course, since James lived abroad a good deal of his life, he doesn’t fit neatly into the category of an American writing about Europe because he was kind of European himself — and even became a British citizen a year before he died to protest America’s initial (sensible) reluctance to enter World War I.


  10. I’m thinking of White Mischief by James Fox about the murder of an earl or a lord and takes place in Africa. The community of Brits at the time of the murder were living together in a place that was named Happy Valley. I don’t know if that was the official name or the one the press made up. It was a terrific book and great film too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Claire! That sounds like an intense novel that certainly fits this topic.

      As you probably know, the ironically named Happy Valley is also the nickname of the area in which Penn State is located. 🙂


      • The novel is based on a an actual crime:


        “It is the fictionalized account of the unsolved murder in 1941 of Josslyn Hay, the Earl of Erroll, a British expatriate in Kenya. The title is a pun on the 1932 Evelyn Waugh novel Black Mischief.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Now this book I am sure you have not read and will never read Dave, the author is British E. L. James , novel was set in America.
        ” Fifty Shades of Grey”, I read 50 pages that time after noticing a blockbuster shades then ditched it because it was so boring with poor writings.
        Some library patrons have said their Grandma bought the book or Mother have it but they do not know if any of them have read it.
        Other day some station was showing the movie and so I thought okay..let see…” after 45 minutes of it I had to turn it off, so very boring, poor acting , yawn…. 🙂

        But as I understand the author made her millions with such trash,

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, bebe, for the very droll/enjoyable comment!

          Heck, I hadn’t remembered that “Fifty Shades of Grey” was set in America. And, yes, I don’t think I’ll be reading that novel — though I guess if I was forced at gunpoint to choose between E.L. James or Ayn Rand, I might pick James. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • On another topic Hitler of Germany was known to be a teetotaler , vegetarian and a health nut but actually he was on Methamphetamine, and many other narcotics plus injections of various vitamins and other substances by his doctor. NPR fresh air today.
            Trump of America 70 years old is also known to be a teetotaler , who sleeps a few hours and tweets…who knows the rest… ????

            Liked by 1 person

  11. Ernest Hemingway wrote “A Moveable Feast” about time spent in Paris, France and “The Sun Also Rises” about a group of expatriates who travel from Paris to Spain. Americans were drawn to Paris in the Roaring Twenties by the favorable exchange rate, with as many as 200,000 English-speaking expatriates living there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michele! Great Hemingway mentions! Then there was “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (my favorite Hemingway novel) set in Spain.

      I imagine the wonderfulness of Paris, along with the favorable exchange rate, drew people there in the 1920s. 🙂


    • Excellent addition to this subject, ancestral archaeologist! Thank you! It’s amazing how imaginative some authors can be, or how good their memories can be.

      Reminds me that Jhumpa Lahiri, while living in the U.S., set parts of her “The Namesake” and “The Lowland” novels in India.


  12. I believe you missed Pearl S. Buck, who wrote “The good earth” which the setting was China. I forgot most of details since it has been years after I read “The good earth”, but I remember that it had interesting plot, about how poor,hard- working man called Wang Lun becomes rich with his hard work and lost all of his property by famine and become rich again. I do not know whether description about China is accurate since I am not Chinese, but I am sure it must be very accurate because Pearl S. Buck spent decades in China.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great addition, Anonymous, and well described! Thank you!

      I also haven’t read “The Good Earth” in many years, but remember being very impressed with it.

      There’s a person who used to comment a lot in this blog who’s an American teaching in China.


      • You are welcome. Mr.Astor. Amy Tan is also another american writer who wrote about China. Even though I did not finish it, I read some parts of Joy luck club. It was impressive for me how she described relationship between people.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for your follow-up comment! I agree that Amy Tan also fits this topic, and that she’s an excellent writer (including for the reason you mentioned). I read “The Joy Luck Club” and “The Kitchen God’s Wife,” and liked them both a lot.


  13. Hi Dave, I was briefly perusing this column tonight while still not thinking about it too much, and apparently still half-asleep, because the first novel that came to mind was one that you actually mentioned — “The Poisonwood Bible,” by Barbara Kingsolver.

    For some reason, as I’ve probably mentioned before, I have a deep fascination with Africa and books (mostly non-fiction memoirs) about it. Which is somewhat odd, considering that I also have a deep aversion to insects and snakes. When I attended the University of Texas at Austin for my last two years, I was very friendly with a girl who was from the Hill Country, LBJ territory, and the first time I went home with her for a weekend, we went out for a walk, and her mother said, “Don’t forget a stick, in case you come across a rattlesnake.” The other warning I got was to always check my shoes before putting them on, just on the chance a scorpion had taken up residence in one of them. Yikes! She did bring me back with her once a scorpion in a jar, which we named Herman for some reason. She also informed me (who she nicknamed “Nanook of the North”) that once she was out driving with her dad and slammed on the brakes in order to try to catch an armadillo to bring me, but fortunately he put the kibosh on that! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kat Lib! “The Poisonwood Bible” definitely comes to mind in connection with many literature-related themes. Such a great novel. Still wish it won the Pulitzer Prize (it was a finalist in 1999). Certainly deserved it.

      I’ve also enjoyed some books — mostly novels — about Africa and/or set in Africa. Most recently, Wole Soyinka’s “The Interpreters” and Nadine Gordimer’s “My Son’s Story.”

      Very interesting snake memories! Those ARE creatures that can make one queasy. Snakes feature prominently in Donna Tartt’s Mississippi-set “The Little Friend,” and it ain’t pretty… 🙂 😦


      • I’m not sure why, but the book “Exodus” by Leon Uris popped into my head, I had to check to make sure he was actually born elsewhere, and sure enough, he was born to Jewish-Americans in Baltimore, MD. He also wrote books that took place in the Warsaw ghetto, Berlin, and Ireland. Now I wouldn’t swear to having actually read “Exodus,” as I was quite young when it was written, but my family always had stacks of books lying around all over the place so I do have a memory of having done so. I also remembered the movie starring Paul Newman, and I even knew that one of the co-stars was Eva Marie Saint without having to look it up. My connection with her is tenuous at best, but she was the first movie star I’d ever seen close up and personal, as they say. Her sister lived in West Chester, PA, where I spent most of my childhood and teen years; my mother even painted a wonderful portrait of her (her sister, not Eva). One day Eva came to our neighborhood pool with her sister’s family She was gorgeous and very polite when I happened to bump into her while swimming laps. This happened just before or after the movie came out in 1960. Another fun fact is that Uris’s papers are actually housed in a center at my alma mater, UT at Austin. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wow, Kat Lib — nice connections with Eva Marie Saint and (via your alma mater) with Leon Uris! Thanks for the pool anecdote! Well described; you have very good recall. Great to hear when a big star is nice. I loved Eva Marie Saint in “North By Northwest.”

          Also, excellent mention of Uris and “Exodus.” I’m also not sure if I read that book; if so, it was many years ago.


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