Where I’ve Been.


I had a dream last night about being in England in the 1860s. I have no business dreaming about that, because I’ve spent no time in England or in the 1860s. But my head is there (and then) because of a book I’m reading. Without even diving into character or plot, there are certain books that just ground me so strongly in a setting that it stays on my mind the whole time I’m reading. I dream about it. I think about it during the day. It can be a little distracting, actually. And it can last for years after the reading as well.

Here are some of the ones that have really stuck with me.

The Children’s Book – A.S. Byatt. This is the one that I’m reading (re-reading, actually) right now. I feel like the writing about time and place is so vivid that it almost becomes another character.

1Q84 – Haruki Murakami. I may have even less knowledge of what life is like in Japan than I do of 19th century England. But the entire tone of this book made me feel like I was in a completely different place. One where I would be more serene and generally tidier.

The Little Friend – Donna Tartt. I’m not from the deep deep South, but I think this novel gets the South right in a lot of ways. Not the part about murdered nine-year-olds, obviously. Just the general feeling.

Cider House Rules – John Irving. Heading north, I think John Irving makes New England seem so real that you’re cold when you read the books. Cider House Rules came to mind first, but I’d say the same for The World According to Garp or Hotel New Hampshire or A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie. As with 1Q84, I don’t really know enough about India to say whether my picture of it is accurate. But reading this book definitely cemented a feeling of it in my mind. It’s been years since I read it, but the impression remains.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J. K. Rowling. Don’t laugh. If you’ve read any of these books, you know I’m right. Nobody can read them and not feel like they’ve lived at Hogwarts.

I’m curious about where I’ll end up going next. Recommendations?

3 thoughts on “Where I’ve Been.

  1. One of my favorite subjects! Have you read Wild by Cheryl Strayed? I can loan you a copy if not. She was up at Breadloaf this summer and I went to hear her talk about writing. Felt like a groupie! Also, Maya’s Notebook (Isabelle Allende), The Silver Star (Jeannette Walls). And on my table to be read: The Telling Room (Michael Paterniti) and some food-related author memoirs…Poor man’s feast…A Love Story (which I’m currently reading and love…love books about cooking and this has recipes at the end of each chapter).

  2. LOVE John Irving! Two books that I’ve recently read that truly brought to life the setting and characters and made me feel like I was right there are: “Winter Garden” by Hannah Kristin and “The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant

  3. I enjoy your blog and also getting completely absorbed in a book.

    Two that can do it for me:
    Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
    The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye

    Have you read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings to your son.
    I read them to our daughter the summer she was six and the was
    most attentive.

    Be well.

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