I'm currently helping to judge titles in a literary competition, so I'm being exposed to a lot of material that I usually pass by. So far, about half the time, the books I'm reading for this task are reminding me why I'm don't read more straight-up literary work (let's just say the words meandering and self-indulgent are often coming to mind), but a few of the titles have been okay.
One is The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott (available on Kindle for $9.99). Set in the post-Napoleonic France of 1815, the book follows a young Englishman named David Connor who's traveled to that country with letters of recommendation, shell samples, and detailed sketches of the natural world, as he aims to begin his scientific career. He discovers a France in disarray, as many are glad Napoleon is gone, but many aren't. Among the latter are artists and scientists, because- whatever else one may think of Napoleon- the record is pretty clear that he aggressively promoted freedom of thought in the arts and sciences.
Our young Mr. Connor soon falls into a mess involving art thieves; the police; shadowy groups both for and against the return of Napoleon; and the politics of the artistic and scientific institutions of the day. He also falls in love with the mysterious Lucienne Bernard, who initially steals his shells and drawings.
Maybe because it had a good little plot percolating under the surface of all the philosophical discourse (some of which is admittedly interesting), but I found the book to be an engaging little read (the book isn't terribly long, another plus). Those who occasionally dive into historical fiction containing only muted genre elements will likely enjoy The Coral Thief well enough. Heck, I read mostly crime thrillers and I liked it.
I read a copy delivered to me, but I'm sure The Coral Thief will read just fine on Kindle.