Books can transport you. A good author can make places seem like one of the characters in the story. These thoughts recently came to me as I realized that just hearing the name of a certain place can conjure up memories and images even though I’ve never been there.
I enjoy reading books that take place in England or have English protagonists. So it’s no surprise that England is one of those places for me. Two of my favorite series formed the impressions that resonate the most for me. Both authors are known for their sense of place and meticulous research.
The Inspector Rutledge mysteries by Charles Todd take place right after World War I. Inspector Ian Rutledge returns from the war shell-shocked to pick up his duties as a Scotland Yard detective. Though he’s based in London, his inquiries take him to different villages and towns throughout England. The authors (a mother and son writing team) are excellent at bringing these villages to life, each with its own flavor. A few of my favorites take place in Cornwall, a small town called Wolfpit in Suffolk and Avebury, which has Stonehenge-like monoliths. We were fortunate to have the Todds visit our library in 2018 in conjunction with 2BookTopeka.
I also love the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James mysteries by Deborah Crombie. These take place in the present day mostly in and around London. While Crombie lives in Texas, she fell in love with England during her first visit and it shows in her writing. Duncan and Gemma work for Scotland Yard and have a growing relationship. Each book is a blend of mystery, human drama and an exploration of a place, its history and present day aspects. Some of my favorites feature Portobello Market, the Shropshire Union Canal longboats, the East End and the Isle of Dogs along with the tea trade.
A book I picked up on a whim that grabbed my imagination is The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. The main character is the tortured, self-proclaimed “literary apothecary” Monsieur Jean Perdu who takes the ultimate adventure trip when he sails his book barge down the Seine and ends up in Sanary-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean Sea. Along with his two companions he eventually finds peace while passing through intriguing places like Cuisary, the town of books, and Canal de Briare, the oldest canal in France.
These are just a few examples. Let the world of books connect you to the world.