Posted by: koolwine | November 18, 2018

Montenegro: Montenegro

English spy Auberon Harwell travels to a remote area in Montenegro in 1908 to assess the increasingly volatile situation brewing between the Austrians, Turks and Serbs. At the edge of a contested valley, he uses his cover as a botanist to befriend a Serbian family headed by a taciturn war hero. Harwell soon finds himself falling in love with the man’s wife and in the middle of a tug-of-war for their teenage son’s future.

Country Focus: Montenegro

By Starling Lawrence
Originally published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1997
My edition Harper Perennial, 2006.
305 pgs.

Genre: Fiction

About the author: Starling Lawrence wrote Montenegro, The Lightning Keeper and Legacies while while he was editor in chief and vice chairman at American publishing company W.W. Norton & Company.

World Lit Up Rating:
(On a scale of 1-5, with 1 book = turned off and 5 books = lit up)

Starling Lawrence


Only recently have I come to understand two things: first, that the war may very well come whatever Danilo does or does not do, and whether Toma stays or goes, and in spite of everything Sofia might do. All I have seen and learned here points only in that direction, though I am hardly an expert in political predictions. And the second realization is how absolutely marginal I am in these affairs. This is the rock upon which the romantic illusion founders, at least the version I brought with me. For if one imagines an adventure in such a place—and what landscape more suited to that than these wilds?—one imagines oneself at the center of it, rising above one’s limitations to heroic actions worthy of Rider Haggard or Kipling. That is the model on which I was reared, implicit in books and bedtime stories and even sermons, and it now fails me. I can see no course of action, no heroic sacrifice, that would put things right. It is true that I am somewhat uncomfortably placed between Danilo and Sofia, a kind of fulcrum in their struggle for the soul of Toma. But there is no glory in this, and I am simply waiting to be told what I must do.


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