So it’s summer. And it’s rainy and cool. Walking the trail in between rain showers requires an inordinate amount of DEET, plus a helpful walking buddy who is willing to slap the clouds of mosquitoes off your back. And when you get home, the house desperately needs to be vacuumed and dusted. Tasks you really, really want NOT to be doing. You’d really, really rather be on the road, going somewhere. Sigh. So what do you do, my friends, when you’re yearning to travel and you’re not going anywhere soon?
Do you even have to ask? Read, people. Read about adventures in really cool places. Or even better, hot places. Places where you’ve never been. Or places where you have been and kind of wish you were right now. Ha.
Places like the old town of Vieste in Italy which Hubby and I visited last fall. Oh, it was lovely. We strolled and ate and drank and just revelled in the loveliness.
But if I can’t have Vieste, or Urbino (I loved Urbino), or Rome. I can read about them or places like them, and remember. Last year before we left on our trip my friend Frances of Materfamilias Writes sent me this lovely little book and I enjoyed it immensely. I know that some of you are Diana Athill fans, and now I am too. A Florence Diary is, as you’d expect from the title, a diary of Athill’s time in Florence in 1947. I loved it for the writing, but also for her description of the naive wonder that we all experience when we visit a lovely place for the first time.
Penelope Lively’s anti-memoir Making it Up is not a travel book, but it takes us places. And it also deals with a fascinating question of “what if?” What if a specific event had not happened, how might the course of our life have been changed?
Somehow, choice and contingency have landed you where you are, as the person you are, and the whole process seems so precarious that you look back at those climactic moments when things might have gone entirely differently, when life might have spun off in some other direction, and wonder at this apparently arbitrary outcome.Penelope Lively, Making It Up.
Lively’s musings take the reader to places she knew, and deal with events that affected the course of her life. We travel to Egypt where Lively was born, and she wonders what if she and her mother hadn’t escaped Cairo at the beginning of World War II. She takes us to an archaeological dig in southern England where she might have worked one summer, but didn’t. And to a tragic battle in Korea in which her husband might have fought and died, but didn’t. She plays with the mythology of her own life, her own history. This idea combined with Lively’s wonderful storytelling makes for a fascinating and engrossing book. Not least of which because one can dip into and out of the book. Especially when the sky clears and one might venture outside for a while, if only to hang the washing on the line. Ha.
I first started thinking about travel books that aren’t travel books the other day, when I read an article in the on-line journal Crime Reads to which I subscribe. In her article, August Thomas looks at Agatha Christie as a travel writer. Of course, Christie is well known for her fiction set in exotic places. The Mystery of the Blue Train, travels from Paris to the French Riviera. Appointment With Death, starts in Jerusalem and moves on to Petra, in Jordan. My favourite is At Bertram’s Hotel. Okay, maybe a “respectable” hotel in London might not seem like exotic travel to you, but, still, it is set in a hotel. And I love how Miss Marple solves crimes from behind her knitting.
In her article, Agatha Christie, Travel Writer, August Thomas introduces us to a Christie book which is new to me. A little-known travel memoir called Come, Tell Me How You Live which describes Christie’s time in the middle east with her archaeologist husband. I love that Christie talks about shopping for plus-size garments appropriate for travel in a hot climate, and about her husband’s packing issues. It sounds like perfect reading for someone who is yearning to travel, but who is stuck at home. In the rain. So, I’ve just ordered it.
Of course I won’t be stuck at home yearning to travel for the whole summer. Hubby and I are heading out in two weeks on our early summer camping trip. Hopefully the weather will co-operate. The rain will back off, and the bugs will, well, bugger off. If you’ll pardon my language. But just in case we might have to spend more time than we’d like in the tent, we’ll be packing lots of books.
I’ve been waiting it seems like forever for Kate Atkinson’s newest Jackson Brodie mystery Big Sky to be released. My name is on a very long list at the library. But, I’ll probably buy it instead. I own most of Kate Atkinson’s books. She hasn’t had a Jackson Brodie mystery published in years, and I am very excited to read it. But also sad that once I’ve read it, it will be done. Sigh. That’s a common book lover’s conundrum, don’t you think? So while I’m in a tent-trailer hiding from the rain and the bugs in a couple of weeks, I’ll also happily be in Yorkshire where Big Sky is set. Where they will no doubt be battling rain as well. I’m not sure about the bugs.
I’ll do the same with Jane Harper’s newest book The Lost Man, buy it in Kindle form instead of waiting for my name to come up at the library. I’m thinking that when I’m stuck in a tent-trailer in the wet, reading about the parched Australian outback will be good. Harper’s stand-alone book has had great reviews. I loved The Dry, and liked Force of Nature. She’s taking a break from her police procedural series, featuring federal agent Aaron Falk, with this book. The Lost Man is the story of a “baffling” death in the brutal and isolated outback region of Queensland where one’s closet neighbour lives a three hour drive away. You can read a really interesting article about Harper and her books here. I’ll let you know how I get on with this latest book.
So while I am complaining about the weather this week. And I am yearning to travel, itching to be on the road again. I’m not bored. At least I’m not yearning to travel in vain, like last summer when I was laid up with a nasty case of shingles. And I’ve plenty of great books to keep me busy. Books which can transport me to places I’ve been (and loved) like Australia or Italy or Yorkshire, and to exotic places where I’d love to go like Egypt.
Now… what about you my friends? Read any transporting books lately? Books that might stand in for travel when we yearn to be away but are stuck at home?
P.S. All the books I reviewed can be found on Amazon, with whom I have an affiliate relationship. If you click on a link and buy I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Here are the links to the books I’ve recommended today:
Diana Athill’s A Florence Diary. Penelope Lively’s Making It Up. Agatha Christie’s The Mystery of the Blue Train, Appointment With Death, At Bertram’s Hotel, and Come, Tell Me How You Live. Kate Atkinson’s Big Sky. And Jane Harper’s The Lost Man.