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Simon Mawer's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Simon Mawer recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Simon Mawer's favorite book recommendations of all time.


Love & War in the Apennines

Eric Newby escapes throug a hospital window to become a POW on the run in Italy in 1943. With the Nazis moving in from the north and no certain way back to England, his situation appear grim. But with the help of local farmers and villagers, who risk their livs to shelter him, he survives. Hiding in shepherd's huts and even a cave, he achieves three precious months of freedom - and meets the determined and courageous young woman who would become his wife.
"Love and War in the Apennines" is an intimate account of the horror and surrealism of war, and of the heroism and selflessness of...
Recommended by Simon Mawer, and 1 others.

Simon MawerThis is very personal. There is a great moment where Newby returns to the place where he was sheltered when he was an escaped prisoner of war. At the time he only had a few months of freedom, moving from house to house and working almost as a sort of slave labourer on a mountain farm. There were searches going on for escaped prisoners and the villagers tried to hide him and ultimately built him a... (Source)

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The Game of Opposites

A Novel

From the author of The Song of Names (winner of the 2002 Whitbread First Novel Award), a powerful new novel that explores the reverberations of love and hate in the story of one man’s unlikely survival.

In an unnamed country at the end of a world war, Paul Miller escapes from a labor camp, collapsing after running only a few hundred feet. He is taken in by a young woman named Alice, and by the time she has nursed him back to health, the war has ended. With no one to return to and learning to love the woman who saved him, Paul decides to stay where he is. Over time he marries...
Recommended by Simon Mawer, and 1 others.

Simon MawerAgain, this book is by someone who is appearing at Jewish Book Week, which, again, is why I have been reading it. It is set in post-war Germany, although the name ‘Germany’ is never mentioned. However, that is clearly the country. And it is the story of a man who is a prisoner in a concentration camp. Right at the end of the war he escapes from the camp and is sheltered in a nearby village. This... (Source)

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The Blind Side of the Heart

Amid the chaos of civilians fleeing West in a provincial German railway station in 1945 Helene has brought her seven-year-old son. Having survived with him through the horrors and deprivations of the war years, she abandons him on the station platform and never returns.

Many years earlier, Helene and her sister Martha's childhood in rural Germany is abruptly ended by the outbreak of the First World War. Her father, sent to the eastern front, comes home only to die. Their Jewish mother withdraws from the hostility of her surroundings into a state of mental confusion. Helene calls...
Recommended by Simon Mawer, and 1 others.

Simon MawerThis book starts with the idea of a woman abandoning her nine-year-old son at a railway station. That is the first chapter. Then what the book does is to give you the story behind all that, which is her career as a nurse. She falls in love with someone who dies and then she marries again, but unhappily, to a man who turns into a Nazi supporter. The setting is Germany before and during the Second... (Source)

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The Garden of the Finzi Continis

This is a haunting, elegiac novel which captures the mood and atmosphere of Italy (and in particular Ferrara) in the last summers of the thirties, focusing on an aristocratic Jewish family moving imperceptibly towards its doom. Vittorio De Sica turned the book into a film in 1970, winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1974. less
Recommended by Tim Parks, Simon Mawer, and 2 others.

Tim ParksOf all the books that I have selected…this is the easiest to read as a novel and it’s the one that has the classic novel plot that will engage even the most ardent lovers of popular fiction. (Source)

Simon MawerThis is one of the greatest books that I know. It is beautifully done. There is an anonymous narrator who is clearly based on Giorgio Bassani’s own experiences. Again, it is an oblique look at the fate of European Jews. (Source)

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If This Is a Man • The Truce

'With the moral stamina and intellectual poise of a twentieth-century Titan, this slightly built, dutiful, unassuming chemist set out systematically to remember the German hell on earth, steadfastly to think it through, and then to render it comprehensible in lucid, unpretentious prose. He was profoundly in touch with the minutest workings of the most endearing human events and with the most contemptible. What has survived in Levi's writing isn't just his memory of the unbearable, but also, in The Periodic Table and The Wrench, his delight in what made the world exquisite to... more

Esther PerelOne of the most powerful books one ought to read. (Source)

Aleksandar HemonLevi regains reason, by treating his experience in Auschwitz as something that is subject to rational analysis. (Source)

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