What is it about some novels that make you want to travel to the places they depict? It’s not just well-told descriptions of place, although that helps. It’s something deeper, a heartfelt emotional connection with the characters and stories of a particular setting; with characters who are likewise intricately entwined with their surrounds.
I was thinking of this kind of thing while travelling around Prince Edward Island (PEI) in Canada, the home and inspiration, perhaps life force, of LM Montgomery, creator of Anne of Green Gables. Thousands and thousands of people visit a tiny town on a small island to SEE the land where a fictional character resided. I did it. And every bookish person I know asked me if I was going to PEI on my Canadian travels. It was about all they wanted to know. And my visit to Cavendish was good and all was stunningly beautiful and satisfying and only served to place Anne with an ‘e’ on an even stronger footing in my heart.
So many novels do this to us. It’s why publishers so often refer to settings when promoting a book. Who doesn’t want to be whisked away to exotic or interesting shores? At the moment, my special novels which do this are the Inspector Montalbano mysteries. As soon as I open them I can smell the Mediterranean, taste the espresso, hear the church bells ringing and the scooters beeping. Whenever I read these books I want to runaway to Sicily and eat mullet on a paved terrace. Under the spell of the author’s words I am completely transported to the villages of Salvo Montalbano. Indeed, I feel almost Sicilian while I read these books. Ciao.
The transportation qualities of a good novel, is one of the most pleasurable things about reading. And when we read while we travel those qualities are at least doubled in power with the parallel journeys we’re taking. So at the moment I am enjoying the double delight of dining on lobster rolls and watching little fishing boats bobbing in the cold waters of the Canadian Maritimes in person, and indulging in clam linguine and zipping through the cobbled streets of a seaside Mediterranean village in my head (well, not zipping, really, because Salvo Montalbano drives likes his nonna).
A tough life, si?
Canadian depository for The Patience of the Spider: Halifax HI Hostel book exchange.
Canadian depository for The Paper Moon: window ledge of room 336, HI Quebec City.