A Book For Belgium

Lady and unicorn.jpg

Good afternoon, fellow Bookworms.

Our thoughts are with everyone in Belgium following this morning’s acts of terrorism in Brussels. Belgium’s a great place – been a few times, one of my penpals, now a friend on Facebook, is from Belgium, two of my club’s players are Belgian (Messrs Fellaini and Januzaj), and it is a nation which has given us two of my favourite things – chocolate and chips (fries) – yum!

Plus, one of its most famous landmarks is a urinating fountain! Mannekin Pis can be found in the centre of Brussels, and it is a little boy with his willy out, having a wee!

So, that got me thinking… Are there any books set in Belgium? There must be, surely?! There are hundreds of thousands of books out there with countless worldwide and Europe-wide settings, so some of them must be set, at least in part, in Belgium. Obviously, there’s the fictional Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, created by Agatha Christie, who appears in 33 novels, but his character was employed here in the UK in those novels as he’d fled the Occupation of Belgium during the war, so although he is one of the most famous Belgians in literature, his stories were not set in Belgium!

Possibly the most famous Belgian author was Georges Simenon. However, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that his novels were set in his own country, although I imagine some of them would have been, as he wrote a lot during his lifetime.

So, I did a Google search for books set in Belgium. One of the ones it came up with was The Lady and the Unicorn, by Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl With a Pearl Earring, which I enjoyed a year or two ago. It is set in both France and Belgium, but there is at least partial Belgian setting, so it would count. The Goodreads list of books set in Belgium is as follows…


From that list, a work of non-fiction stands out, and possibly because I know I either have this book, or have had it… A Tall Man in a Low Land: Some Time Amongst the Belgians, by Harry Pearson. If I still have it, and can lay my hands on it, I might read that one, as I’m always up for a bit of non-fiction, particularly if it is amusing! Factual stuff can be VERY funny, and I like books which make me laugh!

* after extensive search in part of my wardrobe unit… *

Nope, it’s not there. Either it’s not where I thought it would be, or I no longer have it. Perhaps it was one I had at Hawthorn Avenue, and this October will be 10 years since my Mum and I moved house to our present address, and I needed a clear-out of pretty much half of my personal library! A very sad occasion, that was! I had to part company with so many books! So, the Harry Pearson book is no longer in my possession, unless it turns up at a later date when I’m busy looking for something else (and we can’t rule out that possibility – it’s pretty normal for that to happen when I look for stuff).

I did find A Year in the Scheisse, by Roger Boyes, and The Flea Palace, by Elif Shafak, so if you want non-fiction about Germany, or fiction set in Turkey, you’re sorted! But neither of those are set in Belgium, nor is Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks. That’s set in France.

Maybe we should turn this into A Book for Europe? The Eurovision Book Contest?!

It’d be nothing like the Eurovision Song Contest, though. Well, it wouldn’t really be a contest, for a start, there’d be books, not songs, and as there wouldn’t be a contest, there’d be none of the bent voting for which Eurovision is notorious, lol! No, Greece and Cyprus, you can’t give each other douze points, so deal with it!

So, not really a contest. More a case of A Literary Tour of Europe, I guess. As any European tour of books, should I venture out on one, would include the UK and Ireland, I could get round to reading Round Ireland With a Fridge, by Tony Hawks. Actually, I might read that anyway. Sounds a good laugh, and would be slim enough for a potential Handbag Book.

Tony Hawks, besides being an author, was responsible (in the loosest possible sense of that word) for a UK top 5 single back in 1988. Under the guise of Morris Minor and the Majors, he wrote and performed the comedy rap parody, “Stutter Rap (No Sleep ‘Til Bedtime)” which was a send-up of rap in general, and the Beastie Boys in particular – the subtitle was a parody of “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn”. The single got to number 4 on the UK charts. Paul Boross and Phil Judge were the other two band members, with Boross co-writing the rap with Hawks.  So, not only do you get a blog about books set around Europe, you also get a nugget of useless 1980s pop trivia, too! Aren’t you just the lucky ones?!

Stutter Rap was their only UK top 40 hit, rendering Hawks a one-hit-wonder. He has been much more successful as a writer, though, plus I think he probably revels in the one-hit-wonder tag! He has written six books, Round Ireland With a Fridge being the first of them, and it was the result of a drunken bet, as was his second book, Playing The Moldovans at Tennis. In that one, he has a bet with a friend that just because a sports person is good at one sport doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will be any use at other sports, so the idea is to challenge the members of Moldova’s national football team to tennis matches… I am just making a mental note that I should also, perhaps, read that book!

If going on a bookish tour of Europe, we might as well start off in Ireland, then come to the UK, then we can head anywhere on the continent… It would also include, in my case, finishing off some half-read or partially-started books. For example, Norway’s book could be The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo, and Sweden’s could be A Man Called Ove, by Fredrick Backman. Ove is like the Swedish version of Victor Meldrew from the BBC sitcom “One Foot In The Grave”! A true grumpy old man!

A Year in the Scheisse could be continued with for Germany, The Miniaturist could be the Netherlands’ representative, and The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George, could provide the French setting… Besides Belgium, there may well be other countries for which I will need helpful suggestions. The nationality of the author is not important here, it’s the location of the setting which matters… Do I revisit old stuff? A while back, around 2008, I read quite a fair bit of Czech fiction. English translations, of course, but I read some Milan Kundera, Jozef Skvorecky, Jaroslav Hasek, and a good bit of Bohumil Hrabal. Perhaps I could re-read Closely Watched Trains, particularly for the arse-stamping incident!

Anyway, I would need to give this literary travel itinerary some more thought. It’s probably why I never did that around the world one. Europe alone would require plenty of books! All I know is that, sensibly, the Republic of Ireland would have to be first, and Turkey would probably have to be last, as Istanbul marks the meeting point of Europe and Asia. Talking of last, this is about all for the time being, so, until the next entry, take care and Happy Reading!

Joanne x x x

Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • The Lady and the Unicorn – Tracy Chevalier
  • Girl With a Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevalier
  • A Tall Man In a Low Land – Harry Pearson
  • A Year In the Scheisse – Roger Boyes
  • The Flea Palace – Elif Shafak
  • Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
  • Round Ireland With a Fridge – Tony Hawks
  • Playing the Moldovans at Tennis – Tony Hawks
  • The Snowman – Jo Nesbo
  • A Man Called Ove – Fredrick Backman
  • The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton
  • The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George
  • Closely Watched Trains – Bohumil Hrabal

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Filed under Books, European Literature, Historical Fiction, Humour, Music, Travel

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