Night Train to Lisbon
Raimund Gregorious is a complete creature of habit. He teaches classical languages at a lycee in Bern. His entire life has been absorbed in studying and teaching these ancient languages. He is such a dry scholar that he has earned the nickname "Papyrus".
When he has an unexpected encounter on a bridge with a mysterious Portuguese woman, and then discovers the little-known work of a Portuguese author, Dr. Amadeu de Prado, Gregorious experiences a sudden, life-altering transformation. Instead of showing up, to work at the lycee as usual, he decides to pursue the author and find out as much about him as possible; what made him tick, etc.. He departs for Lisbon, leaving only belated, confusing explanations for his colleagues.
As he delves deeper into the life of Prado, he finds that Prado and many of his aquaintances were involved in the resistance against Portugal's dictator, Salazar.
This was an excellent book. The tone is very similar to Shadow of th4 Wind by Carlos Ruíz Zafon. The language was sumptous.
However, I found that as much as I loved it, my interest began to wane about two-thirds of the way through the book. That was an unusual reaction from me, and I'm not sure what caused it. There seemed to be some kind of shift where language became less important than the characters and historical events. It also became more about Prado, and less about Gregorious and his reaction to him.
Overall, though, I loved it! Not only for the language, but for giving me a chance to learn about a place and bit of history that I knew little or nothing about. Until now, Portugal wasn't much more than an extension of Spain, to me, with a nearly blank history. I was rather shocked that I hadn't known of these events that happened during my adolescence half a world away.