The literary holiday guide
04/07/2012 by Natasha Lavender
New York or Botswana; Corfu or Thailand; we give you one essential book that encapsulates your holiday destination better than a guide book ever could
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
Complete with a whitewashed church, market square and streets winding down to a canal, the fictional sleepy town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes is a picturesque representation of small-town France. Add to the mix a chocolaterie run by an exotic stranger, and you have the perfect recipe for a compelling read.
Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
The moods and movements of Paris are captured through the eyes of melancholic narrator Sasha as she wanders the city’s streets. Delivered as a stream of consciousness, this novel presents the loneliness and life of the city.
Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Beginning in Paris and moving to Spain, Hemingway’s classic novel brilliantly evokes the passion, tension and violence of the bullfights in Pamplona to show the impact of the war on the Lost Generation.
Captain Corelli’s Mandarin by Louis de Bernieres
While the beauty of Cephalonia makes it an ideal setting for the romance between islander Pelagia and Italian captain Antonio Corelli, the novel also captures the island’s dark history through its portrayal of the brutalities suffered under the Italian and German occupation during the Second World War.
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
Gerald Durrell peppers his memoir with engaging descriptions of Corfu’s wildlife, but the real stars are his eccentric family, menagerie of pets and high-spirited islanders.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
When her beloved father dies, Precious Ramotswe moves to Gaborone to become Botswana’s first lady detective. Set among hot and dusty streets and plains, this series offers a refreshingly uplifting view of life in the beautiful landscapes of southern Africa.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Interspersed with Igbo words, songs and folklore, this haunting novel depicts the traditions and culture of the Igbo people in pre-colonial Nigeria, revealing the erosive effect of the British colonialists.
The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh
Travelling from the lively society of Victorian London to an isolated village in South Africa, this novel reveals the beauty and hardships of the desert and the horrors inherent in the vast diamond mines of nineteenth century Cape Town.
The Beach by Alex Garland
While staying in a hostel in the tourist haven of Bangkok, backpacker Richard is given a map to a secluded island. Although the picturesque beach and its secret community at first seem idyllic, the novel ultimately provides a stark warning about stepping off the beaten track.
Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki
One of the most famous geisha of her time, Mineko Iwasaki’s memoir leads the reader from her rural home to the teahouses, theatres and okiya of Gion. A resolutely colourful character, Mineko’s memoir offers an intriguing insight into the true world of Japan’s glamorous and mysterious geisha.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Using examples from her own experiences, Katharine Boo examines the lives of the inhabitants of Annawadi, a Mumbai slum. In an unsentimental account of the appalling conditions, she offers a glimpse of life beyond the luxurious front of modern India.
Wild Swans by Jung Chang
In a memoir that extends from pre-Communist China to the time around Mao’s death, Jung Chang reveals the turbulent history of a country still steeped in mystery. Offering crucial insights into a century of life in China, this book operates as both a history of a revolution and the personal story of an exceptional family.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Set during the Mexican Revolution, this is the poignant story of star-crossed lovers restricted by family tradition. Each section begins with a Mexican recipe, perfectly reflecting a novel deeply rooted in Mexican culture.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Considered one of the great American novels, Jack Kerouac’s iconic tale sees his protagonists finding trouble as they search for adventure in a journey across America. Thrilling yet poignant, this is essential reading for anyone planning their own American road trip.
Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos
The overwhelming nature and frantic energy of 1920s New York is captured through a range of characters in this eloquent novel of a city in change. Flitting between New York’s inhabitants, the novel shows both the manic personality of the rapidly growing city, and the feeling of isolation that haunts its occupants.