Few of us head off on holiday without first packing a good novel or two, and no novel will give deeper pleasure than one written in or about wherever it is that we find ourselves.
There is a thrill of recognition in seeing the very castle, the very fountain, mountain, boulevard, palace, cottage evoked by an author. Then, sometimes a work of fiction becomes more than an incidental companion – it might be the inspiration for a journey, or literary pilgrimage.
There is nothing new about fiction-driven tourism. Writers themselves have long been susceptible to it. When Tennyson arrived in Lyme Regis in 1869, ‘refusing all refreshment’, he demanded to be taken to the perilous run of steps known as ‘Granny’s Teeth’ where Lisa Musgrave suffered injury when she was ‘jumped down’ by Captain Wentworth in Persuasion.
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Walter Scott’s Kenilworth brought Kenilworth Castle such powerful cultural appeal that the likes of Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and Henry James would all visit. In the same way, Scott’s The Lady of the Lake and Rob Roy had already put Loch Katrine and the Trossachs on the literary map. The Devon village of Westward Ho! took things a step further when, in 1863, it was actually named after Charles Kingsley’s novel, with the aim of developing tourism, cashing in on the Victorian craze for sea bathing.
Modern tourist boards have latched on, promoting Thomas Hardy’s ‘Wessex’, Daphne du Maurier’s Cornwall, Swallows and Amazons Country… And now a new book takes us around these islands and beyond, to explore the world, novel in hand.
What fun author Henry Russell must have had, choosing titles for Around the World in 80 Novels, from timeless classics such as Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (the Yorkshire Moors) and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped (Scotland), to 21st century works such as Orhan Panuk’s Snow (set in Kars, on a high plateau in eastern Anatolia) and Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist (the Netherlands).
He visits Thailand with Alex Garland (The Beach), Turkey with Rose Macaulay (The Towers of Trebizond), Jamaica and Dominica with Jean Rhys (Wide Sargasso Sea), to Japan with Kazuo Ishiguro (An Artist of the Floating World).
His choices surely reflect his reading tastes, and each of us would make different ones, but that is all part of the fun. I find myself thinking of Graham Greene’s Vienna, of EM Forster’s Florence, of Virginia Woolf’s St Ives…
Then, even if you plan on going nowhere, this book will take you on a trip. On 80 trips.
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