Which novel best represents a particular country? What is it about a particular book that makes you feel you are actually in that country? It is not necessarily lots of descriptions of landscapes or buildings – something more is needed. A book that truly represents its country of origin should capture something of its customs, manners and traditions, it should depict the spirit of that particular race of people, and should have a uniqueness that makes you feel the book could not really have been set anywhere else.
For my forthcoming lecture series (by both zoom and video talk) I needed to choose a book or short story that I felt was particularly evocative of its country of origin. Some were easy – it is hard to go past Ulysses when one thinks of Ireland. As you walk the streets with Leopold Bloom on a June day, you know you can only be in Dublin – the Catholicism, the grandeur of the Georgian streets contrasted with such poverty for many Dublin citizens, the rhythms of Irish speech, and the eccentricities of some of the characters, are all there making every page a journey through the fascinating city of Dublin. Other choices were more a matter of my ignorance – I chose The Leopard for Sicily partly because it is a fabulous picture of decaying aristocrats in that country, but also because I don’t actually know any other novels set in Sicily.
I’ve selected books that depict France, South Africa, New Zealand, Sweden and other places we’d probably all love to visit, but may not be able to get to for some months to come. Each book will not only transport you to a particular country, but also to a different era in time. France just after its Revolution, with supporters of Napoleon against supporters of the monarchy, provides the complex historical background to Dumas’s great tale of revenge, The Count of Monte Cristo, while the political upheavals in India after partition give the rich backdrop to Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. I love to travel geographically and time-wise when I read fiction.
So … come and join the ‘virtual’ travelling while your passport has to languish in a drawer for a few more months until we can all get the vaccine.
It’s not too late to join my ‘Tea with a Book Addict’ series. I’m so looking forward to sharing thoughts about 12 very different books, telling you about the fascinating lives of the authors who wrote them, discussing the themes and characters of each book, and taking you around the world through great literature.
Plus we invite you to enjoy a ‘virtual’ cup of tea and something tasty to go with it, evocative of the country we visit that month. Are you ready for tea and a good book? If so, come and join my exclusive tour group. Buying now will guarantee your place, I may not be able to offer individual, one-off invitations.
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