BEST NOVELS FOR VIRTUAL TRAVEL
Okay, so I was very excited to spend the next few months rolling out all the travel content I developed during our year-long adventure, but it’s difficult to build enthusiasm around travelling the world right now when everyone’s plans are going to be on hold until this hideous virus is under control.
So this week, instead of releasing a blog post on physically travelling, I’ve decided to compile a list of books that will let you travel all around the world from the comfort of your couch.
Despite loving travel, I don’t really read ‘travel’ books - I prefer fiction, and usually historical fiction at that. The following is a list of fiction that has utterly transported me to other times and places - and I will be returning to them in the months to come in order to keep my travel bug at bay!
If you feel like travelling to: Iceland
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
In 1828, an Icelandic servant named Agnes Magnusdottir was convicted of killing her employer and another man, then burning their bodies. Pending ratification of her death sentence in Denmark, which then controlled Iceland, she was interned for many months on an isolated farm. Hannah Kent’s fictional take on this promising material was written, she explains in an author’s note, “to supply a more ambiguous portrayal” of a woman who has commonly been seen as a “witch, stirring up murder.” (NYT)
If you feel like travelling to: Holland
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
I’ll always find a reason to put this book on any book list. It’s no secret that it’s probably my favourite novel - I’ve read it countless times, and it never fails to transport me entirely. Set in 17th-century Delft, Holland, the novel was inspired by local painter Johannes Vermeer's famous artwork, Girl with a Pearl Earring. Travy Chevalier presents a fictional account of Vermeer, the model and circumstances around the creation of this exquisite painting.
If you feel like travelling to: Africa
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it -- from garden seeds to Scripture -- is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa. (Goodreads)
If you feel like travelling to: Venice
In The Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
My lady, Fiammetta Bianchini, was plucking her eyebrows and biting color into her lips when the unthinkable happened and the Holy Roman Emperor’s army blew a hole in the wall of God’s eternal city, letting in a flood of half-starved, half-crazed troops bent on pillage and punishment.
Thus begins In the Company of the Courtesan, Sarah Dunant’s epic novel of life in Renaissance Italy. Escaping the sack of Rome in 1527, with their stomachs churning on the jewels they have swallowed, the courtesan Fiammetta and her dwarf companion, Bucino, head for Venice, the shimmering city born out of water to become a miracle of east-west trade: rich and rancid, pious and profitable, beautiful and squalid. (Amazon)
If you feel like travelling to: Cesky Krumlov
The Bloodletters Daughter by Linda Lafferty
In 1606, the city of Cesky Krumlov shines as a golden mecca of art and culture carefully cultivated by Emperor Rudolf II. But the emperor hides an ugly secret: His bastard son, Don Julius, is afflicted with a madness that pushes the young prince to unspeakable depravity. Desperate to stem his son’s growing number of scandals, the emperor exiles Don Julius to a remote corner of Bohemia where the young man is placed in the care of a bloodletter named Pichler. The bloodletter’s task: cure Don Julius of his madness by purging the vicious humors coursing through his veins.
When Pichler brings his daughter Marketa to assist him, she becomes the object of Don Julius’s frenzied—and dangerous—obsession. (Amazon)
If you feel like travelling to: Philadelphia & Tahiti
The Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
From the moment Alma Whittaker steps into the world, everything about life intrigues her. Instilled with an unquenchable sense of wonder by her father, a botanical explorer and the richest man in the New World, Alma is raised in a house of luxury and curiosity. It is not long before she becomes a gifted botanist in her own right. But as she flourishes and her research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she comes to love draws her in the opposite direction – into the realm of the spiritual, the divine and the magical. (Amazon)
If you feel like travelling to: Sarajevo, Venice, Seville, Jerusalem, Vienna, and Tarragona
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
When Hanna Heath gets a call in the middle of the night in her Sydney home about a precious medieval manuscript that has been recovered from the smouldering ruins of war-torn Sarajevo, she knows she is on the brink of the experience of a lifetime. A renowned book conservator, she must now make her way to Bosnia to start work on restoring the Sarajevo Haggadah - a Jewish prayer book - to discover its secrets and piece together the story of its miraculous survival. (Amazon)
If you feel like travelling to: Cornwall
Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
Pick up any of Daphne’s books and you will be utterly transported, but Jamaica Inn is one of my favourites.
After the death of her mother, Mary Yellan travels to Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall to live with her Aunt Patience. The coachman warns her of the strange happenings there, but Mary is committed to remain at Jamaica Inn. Suddenly, her life is in the hands of strangers: her uncle, Joss Merlyn, whose crude ways repel her; Aunt Patience, who seems mentally unstable and perpetually frightened; and the enigmatic Francis Davey. But most importantly, Mary meets Jem Merlyn, Joss's younger brother. Caught up in the danger at this inn of evil repute, Mary must survive murder, mystery, storms, and smugglers before she can build a life with Jem. (Amazon)
If you feel like travelling to: Amsterdam and Eastern Europe
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. They plunge her into a world she never dreamed of, a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.
The letters provide links to a centuries-long quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself. (Goodreads)
If you feel like travelling to: Russia
The Revolution of Marina M
St. Petersburg, New Year's Eve, 1916. Marina Makarova is a young woman of privilege who aches to break free of the constraints of her genteel life, a life about to be violently upended by the vast forces of history. Swept up on these tides, Marina will join the marches for workers' rights, fall in love with a radical young poet, and betray everything she holds dear, before being betrayed in turn.
As her country goes through almost unimaginable upheaval, Marina's own coming-of-age unfolds, marked by deep passion and devastating loss, and the private heroism of an ordinary woman living through extraordinary times. (Goodreads)
If you feel like travelling to: France and Germany
All The Light We Cannot See
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined.
This beautiful New York Times bestseller is about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. (Goodreads)
If you feel like travelling to: Barcelona
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer's son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author's other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax's books in existence. Soon Daniel's seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love. (back cover)