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3.32  ·  Rating details ·  159 ratings  ·  29 reviews
In 1908, with world war a dark prophecy on the horizon, an English traveler, Auberon Harwell, enters a far valley in Montenegro -- a spy sent to assess the political situation while posing as a botanist. Drawn into the drama of a young Serb in love with an unattainable woman, Harwell's sense of duty and honor will be severely compromised by his own dangerous desires -- lea ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 28th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published August 1st 1997)
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Average rating 3.32  · 
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 ·  159 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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Paul Haspel
Oct 13, 2011 rated it liked it
One of the strengths of Starling Lawrence's Montenegro is the care with which the author captures the stern, austere, rock-strewn beauty of that small country in the Balkans. Anyone who has traveled from Kotor to the country's former capital of Cetinje, and has driven a car up Mount Lovcen with its 27 switchbacks, will appreciate the accuracy of Lawrence's descriptions of the Montenegrin landscape. Set in the years before World War I, Montenegro mixes foreign intrigue, war, romance, espionage, a ...more
Mar 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes Euro-history
Recommended to David by: n/a...this was a found book
I guess the purpose of historical fiction is to place a human element into the context of epic, sweeping events. I enjoy it because it explains how the world as we know it(or at least a part of it)has come to be, but does so with a certain humility that comes with a more personal perspective.
Montenegro does this nicely. It is a sort of pastoral spy novel, with the hero as an English "agent" in the Balkans in the lead-up to World War One. Set in the early Twentieth Century, it is a very personal
Vladimir Putin
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Its still Yugoslavia in my mind
Richard Nicholson
Jun 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
Lawrence lets his own story down by meandering along with the plot as hopelessly as the roads our hero takes. There are some unnecessary and irrelevant sex scenes, and Lawrence also does not go deep enough into the protagonist’s (potential) complex relationship with the Serbian family he stays with, or the young Serbian’s ‘unattainable love’.

If you’re prepared to trudge through you will at least be rewarded by a history lesson of Serb/Turkish conflict around the turn of the 19th/20thy century.

Alan Brunstrom
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't often give five star reviews but I couldn't fault Montenegro on any level. A modern take on a good old-fashioned Edwardian adventure story, it is also a startlingly good exposition on the dark complexities of Balkan geopolitics, which makes it relevant and thought-provoking as well an exciting, page-turning romance. It also makes me want to hop on a boat and go there. Wonderful. ...more
Kristin H.
Jul 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
A really beautifully written book. One of those books that truly transports you to the scene.
Jul 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Wonderfull period peice. It had a wonderfull insight into that part of the world.
Jan 30, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ovu sam knjigu htjela procitati jos prve godine stanovanja u Starom gradu kao dio upoznavanja s istorijom Kotora pod Austrougarskom i odnosa s ostatkom Crne Gore ali u kotorskoj biblioteci je bila kopija koju nisu izdavali jer joj je falilo par stranica. Godinama kasnije slucajnim odlaskom kod poznanika (jer nas gazda isterao iz kavane veoma rano na Badnje vece a mi tek poceli piti pa se negdje moralo nastaviti :p) ugledam je na polici i kao da sam blago nasla :)

Prica je smjestena krajem 1.decen
Craig Lawrence
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up a few years in New York solely because the author has the same surname as me and I only started reading it a few days ago because I'm locked down! What a fantastic story. Well written - in fact, beautifully written - Lawrence's descriptions are so clear that you can genuinely imagine being in Montenegro. His characters have depth and personality, the story is interesting, there's lots of tension (romantic as well as action-based) and I really couldn't put it down. Having be ...more
I debated between 2 and 3 stars. It had interesting moments but was a little slow. I liked the physical place and particularly the coastal geography having been to Kotor and hiked partly up that steep mountain. The main character staying with the family in Eastern Montenegro and the happenings there were a little too much and seemed to drag out. The troubles in that whole area were appalling and really haven't improved since. Kind of a horrible place with conflicting people whose enmity and kill ...more
Andee Zorn
Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I can’t help but think this book, written in 1997, is playing “devils advocate” for the siege of Sarajevo. I was in Montenegro & then on to Sarajevo when I read this and went to the museum of war crimes and genocide. Is it justifying the war crimes of the Serbian Christians in the 1992-1995 Seige? I hope I’m wrong in this and reading too much into Lawrence’s intention for the book.

Good historical novel, personally ruined for me by flimsy female characters.
Ned Powell
Jul 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
An interesting tale about a little known part of the world for most people. The time frame is also not one which garners much attention. The detail descriptions of the landscape, people and events provide a richness of story. The character names take a bit of getting used to, but still, a good read.
Nicely written novel with a simple storyline used as a way to introduce the culture, traditions, and history of the region.

The hatred and violence between ethnic groups seems to go back forever.

My conclusion: The human race is so stupid that it’s a wonder any of us survive.
Apr 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
An historical thriller set prior to World War One in the mountainous world of the Montenegran Serbs. A young British agent sent on a covert mission becomes involved with the fortunes of the Serbian family. The agents’ position becomes further complicated when he falls in love with his host’s wife.
It's good to have some knowledge of world affairs and the Balkans is one of those perennial trouble-spots whose history has had lasting effect on the course of modern history. Years ago when I first re
Adam Stevenson
Mar 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
Were I to read this again today, it’s probably not a book I would particularly hate but it is the first book I ever read where I objectively noticed that it wasn’t any good.

It tells the story of mild-mannered spy, Auberon Harwell who is sent to Montenegro assess the political situation just prior to the First World War. There’s argy-bargy with Serbs, Turks and Austrians, a two-pair of star-crossed lovers… I had to get these details from Goodreads because I remembered none of it.

As I remember it,
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I wish I had the book with me today...I would like to type some of the books quotes to share. There was one part of the the book early on that felt a little off, it was like Lawrence just really wanted to write a somewhat graphic sex scene. In my impression no where later in the story was that style repeated. I wish that scene was detailed differently with the subtlety of the descriptions of the liking between or of characters come across like insight into how people actually think and the amoun ...more
Jul 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting story of the Balkans before WWI when Turkey and the Austrian Empire were vying for control and the local Serbian population was eager to be rid of both of them. An Englishman visits the area under cover of collecting plants, spying for an English noble who would like to intervene and claim the area for England. This is a story set in wild mountains of a wild people (the Serbs) with a penchant for taking the heads of their enemies.
Tara Bush
Feb 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
At first I was interested because I'd just been to Montenegro and recognized some of the places highlighted in the book. Then I got bored, but I kept reading because some of the reviews said that the second half was good. I have to disagree. While the second half had a lot more action than the first half, I thought the characters were shallow and the storyline disturbing and ultimately not enjoyable. ...more
Elaine Cougler
Aug 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Montenegro by Starling Laurence was instructive, tedious, whimsical, illuminating and, finally, a good book. Several times I almost gave it up as nothing noteworthy seemed to be happening as Auberon Harwell made his way to Montenegro and edged into Austrian/Serbian/Turkish politics. But the human element of love made the characters come alive and the book ultimately exciting.
Jun 17, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book started out very slow and dull, which is the reason for two stars. But, the last 100 pages were really good and I'm glad I stuck with it. It is a historical fiction about an Englishman who goes to the Balkans before WWI, so I learned a little about the area around the turn of the century. ...more
Jul 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recently found this book in a second hand book store. As I have visited the Balkans and plan to return I was keen to understand more about the history of the area. Both my husband and I really enjoyed this book. Interested to read his other book The Lightning Keeper. Starling certainly does a huge amount of research for his books.
Jun 20, 2008 rated it liked it
This was a pretty good book. If you don't understand the root of the problems in the Balkans and you don't feel like reading through a million pages of a thousand years of history, then this novel is pretty good at providing the basics. It discusses an englishman who spends some time in the balkans and finds himself mixed up in a centuries old fight that he doesn't completely understand. ...more
Maria Savic
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
This book is kind of like the people it is about...slow but not as simple as it appears, interesting in setting, time period and characters, but also disjointed - beautiful at times, disturbing at other times & sometimes irrelevant...
Zeta Koutsandrea
A captivating story. But I could not warm to the Montenegrian characters, not with their beheadings and impalements, their heroic war songs and St Savva fantasies, and not when the publication year is 1997.
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-lit
I really liked the tone and mood of this story. Set in the early 20th century in the rugged area of old Balkans, it details a spy heading off, disguised as a naturalist who encounters love and a people full of life, despite their rural backwardness. good rea.
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
1 of 20 for $10 20/1014
Katharine Ott
"Montenegro" - written by Starling Lawrence and published in 1997 by Farrar Straus & Giroux. An interesting turn of the century visit to Bosnia. ...more
Dec 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book was recommended by the tour group with whom we're going to Croatia and Montenegro with next year. A good introduction to the long standing difficulties in the Balkans. ...more
Taimoor Qazi
rated it liked it
Oct 01, 2017
rated it really liked it
Apr 17, 2019
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Starling Lawrence is the editor-at-large at W. W. Norton and the author of Legacies, a short story collection, and the highly praised Montenegro and The Lightning Keeper. His fiction has been awarded the Lytle Prize by the Sewanne Review and the Balch Prize by the Virginia Quarterly Review. He lives in New York and northwestern Connecticut.

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