In 1998 Penelope Fitzgerald won the NBCC Award for The Blue Flower. Since then, many of my friends have read that book as their introduction to her and been confused, or worse, underwhelmed. I always recommend starting with The Beginning of Spring, the story of Englishman Frank Reid, proprietor of a printing press in pre-revolutionary Moscow. The book is a comic masterpiece, perfectly capturing the idiosyncrasies of the English and Russian temperaments. And, like most of Fitzgerald's novels, it's gem-like at less than 200 pages.