Saturday, October 15, 2011

Five best books on nations and lives in transition

Martin Fletcher, NBC News's former Tel Aviv bureau chief, is the author, most recently, of the novel The List.

One of his five best books on nations and lives in transition, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Swedish Tango
by Alyson Richman (2004)

The cry of every refugee, the eerie sense of being transparent, dispensable, irrelevant, emerges powerfully from Alyson Richman's intricately plotted and touching narrative: a fictional tale of World War II refugees from Finland and France and asylum-seekers from Pinochet's Chile whose new lives cross in Sweden. One of the Chileans, we're told, has a "divine ability to re-create" her Santiago home even in dark, cold Sweden, "The rooms smelled of dried geranium leaves, eucalyptus, and wild mint, for she had hidden tiny sachets filled with these fragrant leaves throughout the house." Everyone in "Swedish Tango" has a secret, and everyone longs for something, especially human connection. The four main characters are so authentic, so flawed and so touching, and their stories so believable, that a reader ends up rooting for all of them. It's a measure of the book's realism that nothing in this saga of refugees struggling to build new lives ties up neatly.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue