Harriet Pringle is a levelheaded young Englishwoman recently married to a feckless intellectual. (Her carefulness apparently doesn’t extend to her choice of husband, though Guy is careless rather than actively bad.)
The time is the early 1940s. Guy is attached to the British Council in Bucharest. When war breaks out, the Pringles and other assorted expatriates make their desperate way to Athens, only to find the war pursuing them.
These events are told in three wonderful and accessible novels by the mid-twentieth-century writer Olivia Manning, collected as The Balkan Trilogy.
Recently, I was evangelizing for these books, as is my wont, and Scott from seraillon took the bait. Happily, he enjoyed them as much as I hoped he would. That’s when I suggested we read The Levant Trilogy, which picks up where the other books finish, with the Pringles washing ashore in an Egypt living in fear of Nazi conquest.
We’ll be writing about The Levant Trilogy in the first week of August. I suppose you could read them without reading The Balkans first, but I don’t recommend it. So if you want to join us–and we hope you do!–and are new to Manning you have some work ahead of you. But don’t let that put you off! The books are longish but you can really tear through them. (Max has been reading them recently too.) They offer a fascinating and oblique (fascinating because oblique) look at the world part of the Second World War.
So what do you think? Olivia Manning in August? Please join us!
Considering my long-lasting love affair with the Balkans and the Levant, these trilogies should have been read by me already a long time ago. I am right now a bit too busy to join (and would prefer to first read the Balkan trilogy), but I have Olivia Manning now on my TBR pile. So in any case I follow your and Scott’s reviews with great interest.
No problem, Thomas. I think you would like these books a lot, so I hope you get to them one day.
I hope to read more Manning in July, but I doubt I’ll finish the first time in August. You are spurring me on though so for that thanks!
No problem, Max. Glad to be a spur!
Thanks for posting this Dorian. I’m very much looking forward to the discussion. And I agree with your admonition above that it’s not a great idea to read the Levant series without having read the Balkan series first. If the novels all taken together didn’t add up to so many pages, they would really merit being put in the same volume.
Agreed. I wonder if the division into two volumes of three books each artificially inflates the difference between Athens and Cairo. Two separate theatres of war, I guess.