Borders may be closed, life may be in lockdown but these books will transport you around the globe. Sometimes fiction can convoy a spirit of place much more than fact. Where are we going? We’re book bound, where the world is still wide open.
Hilary Doling 08/01/21
|Read: THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY by Alexander McCall Smith.|
Be transported to: Botswana
Quote: 'He looked at her in the darkness, at this woman who was everything to him-mother, Africa, wisdom, understanding, good things to eat, pumpkins, chicken, the white sky across the endless, endless bush, and the giraffe that cried, giving its tears for women to daub on their baskets; O Botswana, my country, my place.”
Plot: This gently paced mystery novel, set in the African country of Botswana, has as its central character the self-sufficient, wise, and compassionate Precious Ramotswe. She is a detective with an original way of solving crime. This is the first in an ongoing series that now comprises 21 books.
|Read: THE MINIATURIST by Jessie Burton|
Be transported to: Amsterdam
Quote: “Looming above the sludge-coloured canal, the houses are a phenomenon. Admiring their own symmetry on the water, they are stately and beautiful, jewels set within the city’s pride. Above their rooftops Nature is doing her best to keep up, and clouds in colours of saffron and apricot echo the spoils of the glorious republic”.
Plot: It is 1686 and Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam at the house of Johannes Brandt, a stranger she has been made to marry. With romance on her mind, Nella instead finds herself thrown into the deep end of a dark new world brimming with secrets. A miniature dolls house given to her by her new husband and the strange miniaturist who creates the tiny puppets within are the basis for the mysterious plot.
|Read: LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA by Gabriel Garcia Marquez|
Be transported to: Cartagena, Colombia
Quote: “From the sky they could see, just as God saw them, the ruins of the very old and heroic city of Cartagena des Indias, the most beautiful in the world”.
Plot: Magical realism comes close to reality in this Spanish-colonial city on the Caribbean Sea. The author describes its cobbled streets, rainbow coloured houses and bougainvillaea; where locals dance the salsa and drink fiery liqueurs. Against this backdrop an epic love story unfolds.
|Read: A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW by Amor Towles|
Be transported to: a five star hotel, Moscow
Quote: ‘After all, what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve our consideration.”
Plot: A novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel. Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Although the book orbits around Count Alexander Rostov’s daily life in the Metropol Hotel, the backdrop is the Russian Revolution and the rise of power of communism under Stalin.
|Read: THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS by Arundhati Roy|
Be transported to: India
Quote: “Being with him made her feel as though her soul had escaped from the narrow confines of her island country into the vast, extravagant spaces of his. He made her feel as though the world belonged to them”.
Plot: Set against a background of political turbulence in Kerala, Southern India, The God of Small Things tells the story of twins Esthappen and Rahel. Amongst the vats of banana jam and heaps of peppercorns in their grandmother's factory, they try to craft a childhood for themselves amidst what constitutes their family – their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist and bottom-pincher) and their avowed enemy Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grand-aunt).
|Read: CAPTAIN CORELLI’S MANDOLIN by Louis de Bernieres|
Be transported to: Greece
Quote: ‘Once the eyes have adjusted to the extreme vestal chastity of this light, the light of any other place is miserable and dank by comparison; it is nothing more than something to see by, a disappointment, a blemish. Even the seawater of Cephalonia is easier to see through than the air of any other place.’
Plot: The story of a group of people whose lives become intertwined on the Greek island of Cephalonia during the Italian and German occupation of World War II. It is 1941 and Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer, is posted to the Greek island of Cephalonia as part of the occupying forces. At first he is ostracised by the locals but over time he proves himself to them and becomes involved in a love triangle with the daughter of a local doctor.
|Read: A ROOM WITH A VIEW by EM Forster|
Be transported to: Florence, Italy
Quote “The traveller who has gone to Italy to study the tactile values of Giotto, or the corruption of the Papacy, may return remembering nothing but the blue sky and the men and women who live under it”.
Plot: Lucy has her rigid, middle-class life mapped out for her, until she visits Florence with her uptight cousin Charlotte, and finds her neatly ordered existence thrown off balance. Her eyes are opened by the unconventional characters she meets at the Pension Bertolini: flamboyant romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish, the Cockney Signora, curious Mr Emerson and, most of all, his passionate son George.