Around the World With Magical Realism: Europe

Welcome back to Magical Realism May Mondays! We’re nearing the end of the month and we have just two more regions of the world to visit in our tour of magical realism. This week, we are heading to Europe. Magical realism from Europe draws heavily from fairytales and fables, including familiar magical elements to help tell stories that are more serious. If you love the magic of fairytales, but want a more complex storyline, you might like the titles on this list!

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: A fast-paced, haunting, and romantic novel in which a young man obsesses over the history of an author and a book whose villain seems to have come to life intent on destruction. This is one of my very favorite novels!

White Teeth by Zadie Smith: Leisurely paced and somewhat zany, White Teeth is centered around an unlikely friendship between two very different men, and uses magic and symbolism to continuously grapple with the question of fate.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov: A satirical and thought-provoking novel recognized as a classic of modern Russian literature. The Master and Margarita centers around a writer and his mistress as they encounter the devil in Moscow.

The Tin Drum by Günter Grass: Presented as an allegory for the rise of Nazism in Germany, The Tin Drum is a bleak, dark, and witty novel about a boy who decided to stop growing at the age of three.

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht: A lush and spellbinding novel of love, loss, and family following a young doctor as she navigates a war-torn country and searches for answers and truth in stories of her grandfather’s childhood.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley: A man trapped in the drudgeries of civil service finds a watch which changes his life in this fiercely imaginative and richly detailed novel of historical fiction with steampunk influences.

Weathering by Lucy Wood: Written from the points of view of three female characters searching for home, this is a mystical, leisurely paced novel tackling themes of belonging, mortality, and love.

The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw: After a visit to the remote islands of St. Hauda’s, Ida Maclaird discovers she is slowly turning to glass and returns to the island desperate for a cure in this engaging and melancholy story weaving elements of fairy tale with romance and mystery.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera: A complex, playful, and thought-provoking novel that follows two couples as they navigate the Soviet occupation of Prague in the 1960s.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino: If on A Winter’s Night A Traveler is an experimental and intricately plotted trek through ten different novels intertwined into one narrative. Calvino pushes the boundaries of literature with characteristic wit and self-reflection.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield: When the seemingly dead body of a child reanimates hours after arriving at an inn on the Thames, three families try to claim her in this atmospheric, haunting novel.

The Fourth Island by Sarah Tolmie: At the center of this atmospheric, melancholic novel is a secret island, peopled by the lost, and findable only in moments of despair.

All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle: After she begins receiving letters from the older sister she thought was dead, Dena embarks on cross-country trek to find her sister and break her family’s curse in this intricately plotted, intense novel.

The Librarian by Mikhail Elizarov: In this absurd, stylistically complex novel, readers are granted supernatural powers by reading books written by an obscure Soviet apologist and begin flocking to librarians so they can keep accessing their powers.

The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey: A bleak, isolated Irish island steeped in lore and filled with the otherworldly is at the center of this atmospheric, lush, and lyrical tale.

The Burning by Laura Bates: Desperate to leave her past behind, Anna starts a new life in Scotland and finds a deep, mysterious connection to a woman accused of witchcraft in 1650 in this suspenseful novel.

Norma by Sofi Oksanen: A girl who hides the truth about the supernatural powers of her hair attempts to uncover the secrets behind her mother’s death in this richly detailed, inventive novel.

Secret Passages in a Hillside Town by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen: At the center of this whimsical, unconventional novel is a man who is being pulled into an alternate storyline, one in which he plays the cinematic hero.

The House of Impossible Loves by Cristina López Barrio: All the women of a family in 20th-century Spain and France are cursed to suffer tragic love affairs in this engaging, mystical family saga with quirky characters.

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter: A lyrical, amusing story following a journalist who is determined to uncover the truth behind the identity of a circus star who is part-woman and part-swan.

This is just a small sample of the many European authors writing magical realism. I highlighted a few of my favorites in the slideshow, but I know there is so much more to explore. Be sure to tell me your favorites in the comments! And join me next week as we wrap our journey around the world with magical realism.

Published by Kristi

Hi there! I am Kristi, a book obsessed human with strong opinions. Join me as I read across genres and do the work to find you the best of the best books.

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