This week’s Literary Blog Hop, hosted by The Blue Bookcase, asks the question “what literary setting (time or place) would you most like to visit”?
There are many places I’d love to visit, like Australia or South Africa or India, but those places aren’t tied to books I’ve read and loved.
Two very different answers to the question come to mind. If you read this blog regularly my first answer won’t surprise. If I had the opportunity, I would love to visit a fantasy world. I’d like to know that somewhere in the world there is magic and wizardry, even with all the scariness that comes with those things.
Oz is absolutely my first choice because it’s a joyful, wondrous place even when it’s dark and threatening. It’s a place that couldn’t be explored in fourteen books, or twenty, or fifty, so I’d never run out of new things to see. It’s a place full of strange and fantastic creatures, people that shouldn’t be able to think or move but do, of hundreds of different beings and civilizations that all think differently. You can be unique in Oz and still be part of the community.
I’d also love to see the world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter. It would be nicer of course to visit a post-Voldemort Harry Potter world (or say, a post-Sauron Middle-Earth) but what a cop-out. No, if you’re going to visit, you visit the time and place of the books, with all the danger that goes with them.
In the real world, when I think of the literary settings that have most captivated me, I think of remote, countryside areas of Great Britain. As a child if you’d asked me this question (and if Oz was not an option) my answer would have been the moors of The Secret Garden. Hands down. This is not only one of my favorite books but the setting of this book IS the main character in a lot of ways. Annie Lennox is a surly, forgotten child who becomes captivated by the moors, her gothic old house and a garden grown wild. The people in the book are important but all are a part of the setting they inhabit. Even the sound of the moors are almost a character in this book. I love the connection between the wildness of the land, and the wildness of the characters – they are tough, independent, and individualistic. The land is something they connect to, not just a place they live.
As an adult, a similar place comes to mind, which is the heath of Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native, and for similar reasons. Egdon Heath is a living breathing character in this book, and it influences the lives of everyone who lives there. It’s not a pretty, happy place, but a dark, wild, mystical place. Sure, a tropical island would be a nicer place to be – but if there’s a place from a book I’d like to experience, it’s this one.
I’m a city girl, through and through. Never lived in a small town, much less a cottage in the wilderness. Maybe that’s why it appeals.
Now here’s a twist on the question – have you actually visited a place from a novel you loved? Did you go for that reason? What did you think?
Two of my favorite places in the world are the Highlands of Scotland, and Bath, England. Bath, you may know, is the home of Jane Austen and the setting of Northanger Abbey which I’m currently reading. I was in Bath about 11 years ago – my husband proposed there. It’s a beautiful city, made even more interesting by the juxtaposition of the Jane Austen-like setting above ground, and the ancient Roman baths below ground. It’s like visiting two different time periods (three counting ours) all at one time. Bath loves its Jane Austen history so there is plenty to see, although we didn’t do much of that on our visit. But just wandering among the streets and buildings brings you a sense of Jane Austen’s books.
Now I could come up with some work of Scottish literature to represent my trip to the Highlands, but I fully admit that it was the Outlander books of Diana Gabaldon that inspired my trip to Scotland. It didn’t disappoint in any way. Every part of Scotland I saw was beautiful but I particularly remember my visits to Culloden and a hike to see a circle of standing stones. While there I also enjoyed my less-literary visits to distilleries and pubs, the Edinburgh castle, the museums of Glasgow, and Loch Ness. The Isle of Skye in particular felt like an almost magical place.
A third “literary” place I’ve visited is Greece. Seeing the ruins of ancient Greece — the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus, and others — was an absolutely amazing experience. I grew up loving Greek mythology for all the reasons I love fantasy. But to go somewhere and put your hands on an actual temple, built thousands of years ago to honor these gods, makes you realize these aren’t just stories, they were a whole life and culture.
So, is there a place you want to go? A book where the setting sucked you in so much you felt you were there, or wished you were? A place you’ve been to that was inspired by a favorite book? Let me know what you think…