Novels are wonderful things, don’t you think? You can escape from the drudgery of everyday life, learn things about the world and yourself, and, perhaps my favorite part, you can even feel as though you’ve traveled somewhere new. Some novels are just so evocative, with settings so rich, that the location almost becomes a character in itself. You finish that last page, thinking, “I want to go there.”
Want that feeling for yourself? Here are just a few of my favorite books that inspire major wanderlust.
1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – Paris
Papa had a way with words, didn’t he? Love him or hate him (I am firmly in the former camp—yay, Hemingway!) you can’t argue that he shows you a Paris that makes your own hometown seem dull and domestic. He shows us a city that is glamorous, thriving, and a hubbub of activity, in a very realistic way, without shying away from its less-wonderful parts. If I had a time machine, I would want to be in 1920s Paris, but as that’s not a thing (yet), modern-day Paris will have to do. The Paris of today still pulls at me every time I read about Jake and his gallivanting. Meet me at the Select?
2. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières – Cephallonia
Oh me, oh my! What I wouldn’t give to be diving into clear blue waters right now! Yes, this book is primarily a love story and a discussion of the struggles humanity imposes upon itself through war, but it’s also a whopping great advert for the Greek islands. The narration is proud of the natural beauty and charming villages that Cephallonia boasts, and even describes it as the best place on Earth at many intervals. No one can read this book without thinking, “I’d quite like to go there.” Well played, Louis, well played.
3. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – New Orleans
I’m sure that Ruta didn’t think she’d encourage tourism in Out of the Easy. In fact, I’m sure the thought didn’t even cross her mind. But throughout reading this book, New Orleans became one of the biggest characters for me. Now, that says a lot, because the characters in this book are so well-formed and realistic that I felt as if they were my actual friends. But the setting seemed to form people’s decisions, to shape the action, and to be responsible for so much of the pain. I was taken by the nature and complexities of the different regions, and came away wanting to explore it for myself. It’s on my bucket list now. Thanks, Ruta!
Both of these novels feature individuals arriving in the same quaint French town, decades apart. Both bring something to the place; but more importantly, both are imbued with so much more from being there. They learn, they grow, and they evolve during their time in this town: thanks to the people, a little hint of magic, and the wonderful setting of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. I’ve always rather fancied moving to France for a while, holing up in some tumble-down little cottage in the middle of nowhere and living off baguettes and brie. These books took me there. Although the setting is fictional, the region isn’t.
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – New York
When we think of this classic, we think of the roaring 20s, parties a-go-go, and champagne for days. What people don’t instantly remember is that it’s set on Long Island, and New York City features quite prominently in the plot. There are only really two places I would want to visit in the 1920s: Paris and New York. But again, since I have yet to invent/discover/stumble upon a time machine, I’ll just have to settle for the modern-day version. Just imagine the fun we’d have, pretending it was 1925, see, swanning up and down the avenues of New York! (Say that last sentence in a gangster/moll voice, for genuine authenticity.)
So while you all muse on that and make a mental note to buy each of these books (which you really should; incredible pieces of literature, each of them), I’ll be off checking my bank account and booking flights. Happy travels!
Lizzie McCauley is a 20-something living in Bath, England, trying to make sense of life by scribbling, crafting, and eating her way through it all. She (sporadically) tweets @LizziePollie and rambles about making stuff on her blog.