What it’s about: Vango is a young man who mysteriously washed up on the shores of an Italian island as a child, without hardly any clues to his past.In 1935, on the eve of being ordained to the priesthood outside of the great Notre Dame, he finds himself convicted for a murder he didn’t commit. His flight from the police takes him across Europe via foot, train and zeppelin. He soon realizes that he’s being pursued by someone much more sinister than the police, who will stop at nothing to track him down.
Vango boasts a brilliant cast of characters– a determined young Scottish woman with lovely green eyes and a penchant for fast cars, a sardonic and retiring French chief of police, a German inventor exasperated by the prejudice building in his county, a terrifying Nazi soldier, a Russian thug, a roof-leaping young French girl, a priest who plays the organ at all hours of the night… Adventurous, savory, delightful, and surprisingly sobering, Vango is a fresh story with the heart of a classic adventure tale.
Why I liked it: Vango tapped into this perfect niche of my interests of World War II Europe adventures, French storytelling, and outlandish characters, so it may be one of my favorite reads this winter. (To explain: my dad used to read French/Belgian books to us as children and translate on the fly, so I have a lot of nostalgia for Tintin, Asterix and Obelix, Le Petit Nicholas, and other such treasures.) It’s witty and somber at the same time, filled with overblown adventure (evading Nazis using master-of-disguise heists on a zeppelin) and also serious, heartfelt sentiment (Vango copes with paranoia, and many of the characters are victims of the turbulent political climate in 1930s Europe). It has some of the absurdity of Roald Dahl and the lovely sentiment of Ruta Sepetys,
and I absolutely adored it.
Audience: 12+ (but again, it’s perfect for adults too)
Read if you liked:
The Adventures of Tintin by Herge
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman