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Packabook | Your travel fiction guide

Book set in Rwanda – ‘The Flower Plantation’

The Flower Plantation by Nora Anne BrownExploring the Beauty of Rwanda

“At last we rounded the bend and descended into Gisenyi, on the shores of Lake Kivu. That’s where Mother slowed down. The town moved slowly past the window of our pickup, like film through Father’s home projector. We drove past the lake, sparkling and blue, in the direction of the border with Zaire. We passed the children in their khaki shorts, the foam-mattress shops and the decaying colonial buildings in every colour of ice-cream.” – p37 of The Flower Plantation by Nora Anne Brown

I suspect it is almost impossible to write a novel set in Rwanda without it being overshadowed by the country’s horrendous genocide of 1994, but in her debut novel The Flower Plantation Nora Anne Brown does an excellent job in giving us at least a little bit of time to enjoy the beauty of the country before the atrocities inevitably force themselves on the characters and their lives.

This is the story of Arthur Baptiste, the child of an English mother and a half-Belgian, half-Tutsi father who grows up on a flower plantation run by his mother. Just five years old when the novel’s action really starts,  Arthur is an unusual child. He find himself unable to speak and is obsessed by butterflies and other forms of wildlife. Always conscious of his differences from other children, he is uncomfortable around them, and rather than go to the local school his haphazard education takes place on the plantation.

I enjoyed learning to love this Rwanda that Arthur’s mother chooses to make her home. Despite the many challenges and setbacks she faces on the plantation, Martha is determined to stay, even when events from the outside intervene. And while the novel is told through Arthur’s eyes, his mother emerges as a fascinating character; she drives too fast and drinks too much, but is a fierce and passionate woman who somehow creates her own reality despite all the evidence contradicting it.

There is a definite undercurrent of violence throughout the novel, but at its centre we are experiencing Arthur’s world; one of family, childhood friendship and nature. There is a light and gentleness which defies the growing tension.

You will certainly come away from this novel knowing more about Rwanda and its history. Through the stories Arthur’s father tells him, we learn about villainous kings and wicked queen mothers, of power struggles and bloody battles. But while they might sound like ancient fairy stories, they eventually lead us to 1994 and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis by their Hutu countrymen.

Lakes, mountains and forests…

“It was more of a meadowy path with silver eucalyptus leaves shimmering above us. There were hypericum trees with bright-yellow flowers and veronicas too, in lavender and white. It felt like a magical glade – as if it was our secret – and that felt good.” – p100

Brown’s Rwanda takes us to Gisenyi on the shores of Lake Kivu which borders Zaire, or Democratic Republic of Congo, as it is known today.

The view of Lake Kivu from the cafe at Hotel Malahide, Gisenyi, RwandaThe shores of Lake Kivu in Gisenyi, Rwanda – Image courtesy of Dylan Walters via Flickr

Arthur and his friend Beni spend many hours exploring nearby forest which is home to mountain gorillas and a string of volcanoes. Think Gorillas in the Mist here, and in fact, there is a female character who is inspired by the late zoologist Dian Fossey.

Gisenyi itself is described with all its colonial quirkiness; the overly bureaucratic post office, the chaotic market and the relative luxury of the lakeside hotel adopted by tourists in safari jackets and long socks. Much of this remains, and to tell us more about it, Brown has kindly answered some of the many questions I had after reading this novel….

Rwanda is a mysterious place for many people, the genocide perhaps being the only thing many are familiar with – what are you hoping this book will add to people’s understanding of the country?

That it’s a place of great beauty and grace that has a rich history that goes far beyond the genocide. And also to show that the west played a big part in the making of the genocide, that it wasn’t simply ‘tribal warfare’.

Tell us a little bit about your own history with Rwanda?

My first visit was with friends who worked for the UN. I fell utterly in love with the country. When I returned home I read as much as I could about Rwanda and wrote the first chapter of The Flower Plantation. My second visit was to the Imbabazi orphanage/flower plantation where I worked as a writer in residence and teacher, and began the novel in earnest. My third trip was cancelled due to being late on in my pregnancy. I hope to return with my son as soon as I can.

You certainly bring about some of the beauty of the country in the book – what advice would you give to people wanting to visit the area in which the novel is set ?

Do as the locals do – take the buses, eat from street vendors, shop at the market, try a bit of the language, swim in the lake and, if you’re able, visit someone’s home.

How would you describe Gisenyi as it is today?

Gisenyi is making the most of its beauty and the nearby gorilla population. There was quite a bit of building work going on when I was last there and an increasing number of nice hotels. It’s a place where politicians congregate as well as tourists, so money is trickling in. Having said that, the heart of Gisenyi remains the same and many of the places in the book are there to be seen: the post office, the market and the shop.

Motorcycle taxis in Gisenyi, RwandaMotorcycle taxis in Gisenyi, Rwanda – Image courtesy of Dave Proffer via Flickr

Tell me about the forest where Arthur and Beni explore…

The forest that Beni and Arthur explore is imagined but the research came from the opening chapters of Gorillas in the Mist so its accurate in terms of vegetation. The inspiration for the forest, cave and crater came from someone I met on my second trip who told me about a walk you can do that took in all of these sights – sadly I never got to do the walk due to a bad back.

Mother and baby gorilla in Volcanoes National Park, RwandaMother and baby gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park- Image courtesy of Russavia via Wikimedia Commons

If you could suggest three things for people to do on a visit to the area – what would they be?

  • Atelier de Poupees, Avenue du Marche, Gisenyi – a project set up for widows of the genocide. They make beautiful dolls, bags and dresses, all of which can be bought in their little shop or ordered and made for collection the next day.
  • Maison St Benoit – a convent about fifteen minutes south of Gisenyi where you can stay in perfect peace for a donation.
  • Ubumwe Community Centre – a centre for the disabled. They do great work and they have products for sale that have been made by those who attend. All profits are fed back into the centre.

Nora Anne Brown at Maison St Benoit convent, near Gisenyi, RwandaNora Anne Brown with the sister in charge of the Maison St Benoit convent – Image courtesy of Nora Anne Brown

Is there somewhere very specifically related to the novel that people could visit? Perhaps somewhere the characters themselves have been?

The Imbabazi Orphanage/Flower Plantation, 7km from Kabali (approx 30km from Gisenyi) – the place that inspired Arthur’s home.

The Imbabazi Orphanage and Flower Plantation, near Gisenyi, RwandaThe Imbabazi Orphanage/Flower Plantation – Image courtesy of Nora Anne Brown

Do you have a favourite cafe, bar or restaurant to recommend?

The view of Lake Kivu from the cafe at Hotel Malahide, Gisenyi, RwandaView of Lake Kivu from Hotel Malahide, Gisenyi, Rwanda – Image courtesy of Nora Anne Brown

Is the Hotel Kivu based on a real place? Could we stay there?

The Hotel Kivu is an amalgamation of several hotels in Gisenyi but it is perhaps most like the Gorillas Hotel on the shores of Lake Kivu.

What about a favourite place to sit and read while on our visit?

Serena Hotel bar and beach – not an authentic Rwandan experience but a great place to rest weary feet.

Will you be remaining in Africa for your next novel?

I hope to write a novel set in 1950s Kenya based around the Happy Valley Set and the Mau Mau uprising.

Anything else you’d like to add for people interested in visiting this part of Rwanda?

Gisenyi borders the DRC and the city of Goma. When I was there the cost of crossing the border was minimal. It’s rather more expensive now, and of course Goma has its troubles, but if you can stretch to it I’d definitely recommend a trip into the city with a guide. The comparison is a good way of seeing just how rapidly Rwanda has developed, how ordered it is and how fecund it is too.

Volcanoes National Park, RwandaVolcanoes National Park, Rwanda – Image courtesy of Neil Palmer (CIAT) via Wikimedia Commons

If you do decide to visit this area of Rwanda, you will be right near to the the Volcanoes National Park, the base for Dian Fossey’s groundbreaking work with gorillas and her fight against poachers. The park runs limited gorilla tours as well as trips to the lakes and volcanoes. It is heartening to see that Rwanda’s beautiful landscape and natural habitat are attracting people from all over the world. Reading The Flower Plantation is bound to get those feet itching to make the journey yourself.

A big thank you to Nora Anne Brown for taking the time to tell us more and to Alma Books for their complimentary copy of the novel.

I highly recommend it,

Suzi

MORE IDEAS ON THINGS TO DO IN GISENYI:
One family’s experience of Gisenyi and staying at Maison St Benoit
A travel blogger’s suggestions for things to do in Rwanda, including Gisenyi
Another blogger’s perfect day in Gisenyi with some great photographs!

Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)

Your votes are counted…

Just a quick note to thank you for all your votes on which shelves I should be building next at the Packabook Store.

Your choices have all been counted and I can now inform you of our upcoming destinations.

I hereby give you the latest league table for our next country!

COUNTRIES
Albania – 1
Austria – 1
Belgium – 1
Belize – 1
Bulgaria – 1
Cambodia – 1
Canada – 1
Costa Rica – 1
Ethiopia – 1
Israel and Palestinian Territories – 2
Jordan – 1
Kenya – 1
Kuwait – 1
Myanmar/Burma – 2
New Zealand – 1
Scotland – 1
Seychelles – 1
Sri Lanka – 1
Syria – 1
Qatar – 1
Vanuatu – 1

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I’m loving seeing such a wide variety of countries on the list, but this of course makes it harder for a single place to edge ahead. In fact, we had a tie between Myanmar/Burma and Israel and the Palestinian Territories — two destinations that have had to go in the Nepalese hat for a draw before.

And here they go again….

September voting

This time Myanmar (or Burma – I’ll let you read this explanation at the BBC as to why there are two different names) makes it through. I am really looking forward to this one, as is one of our keenest Packabookers, Mona. Mona has made at least one trip to Myanmar, though I think it might be two, and I’m hoping she’ll be offering us some fabulous reading suggestions…

Moving on to U.S. states… here’s the table!

U.S. STATES
Alabama – 1
Delaware – 1
Florida – 4
Georgia – 1
Illinois – 1
Kansas – 1
Massachusetts – 2
Montana – 1
New Hampshire – 1
New York – 1
New Mexico – 1
Ohio – 1
South Dakota – 1
Vermont – 1
West Virginia – 1

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As you can see we have an overwhelming winner for this one, so it’s time to pack those bags for Florida. A big thank you to Linda and Mandy for your votes this time round and to Kelly and Marla from a previous round.

And a clear winner too for our U.K. county…

UK COUNTIES
Cambridgeshire – 1
Cumbria – 1
Cornwall – 1
Derbyshire – 1
Devon – 2
Durham – 1
Kent – 2
London – 3
Manchester – 1
Northumberland – 1
Shropshire – 1
West Midlands – 1

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It seems you are hankering for a city-break this time, with London narrowly defeating Kent and Devon. Choosing novels set in London is going to be an endless delight, as I suspect new books are being published in my home city faster than I can add them – so while I won’t be offering you every single London-set novel out there, I can guarantee a fabulous selection…

Right – loads of work to do to get started…

Apologies if you didn’t get your choices this time, but your votes stay on the table for the next round, so they will have a head start then.

See you soon…

Suzi

 

Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)
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Time for your votes again…

With the Argentina, Arizona and Dorset bookshelves now safely constructed in the Packabook Book Store, it’s time to turn our attention to the next country, U.S. state and English county you’d like me to focus on.

Iraqi woman votingIraqi woman voting – Image courtesy of DVIDSHUB via Wikimedia Commons

As usual, I’d love you to give me your votes for each in the comments below, on the Packabook Facebook page or via email to suzi@packabook.com –  I will add your selections to our previous tally and declare a winner for each category.

Don’t forget – you have three votes 1) Country 2) U.S. state and 3) English county – you could choose somewhere that’s currently in the news, your next holiday destination or just somewhere that you have never read a book about before. It’s up to you!

You can vote for places you have put a bid in for before, or you can choose new ones… they will all be added to the previous tally. The list of places to choose from is below. Voting closes on Sunday September 1st and I will announce the winners soon after.

Which ones will you go for? I can’t wait to see where you are sending me next!

Suzi

Countries

Albania
Algeria
Andorra
Angola
Antarctica
Arctic
Armenia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Barbados
Belarus
Belgium
Belize
Benin (Dahomey)
Bhutan
Bolivia
Botswana
Brunei
Bulgaria
Burkina Faso (Burkina, Upper Volta)
Burundi
Cambodia
Cameroon
Canada
Cape Verde
Cayman Islands
Central Africa Republic
Chad
Channel Islands
Chile
Colombia
Comoros
Congo (Congo-Brazzaville)
Cook Islands
Costa Rica
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Djibouti
Dominican Republic
DR Congo (Congo-Kinshasa, Belgian Congo, Zaire)
East Timor
Ecuador
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Estonia
Ethiopia
Falkland Islands
Fiji
Finland
Gabon
The Gambia
Georgia
Ghana
Gibraltar
Guatemala
Guinea (French Guinea, Gineau-Conakry)
Guinea-Bissau
Guyana
Haiti
Honduras
Iceland
Indonesia
Isle of Man
Israel & the Palestinian Territories
Ivory Coast  (Côte d’Ivoire)
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Kiribati
Kosovo
Kuwait
Kyrgyzstan
Latvia
Lebanon
Leeward Antilles
Leeward Islands
Lesotho
Liberia
Libya
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macedonia
Madagascar
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Mali
Malta
Marshall Islands
Mauritania
Mauritius
Micronesia
Moldova
Monaco
Mongolia
Montenegro
Morocco
Mozambique
Myanmar (Burma)
Nagorno-Karabakh
Namibia
Nauru
Nepal
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Niger
Nigeria
Niue
North Korea
Northern Ireland
Norway
Oman
Palau (Pelew, Belau)
Panama
Papua New Guinea
Paraguay
Philippines
Pitcairn Islands
Portugal
Qatar
Romania
Rwanda
Samoan Islands
San Marino
São Tomé and Príncipe
Saudi Arabia
Scotland
Senegal
Serbia
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
Solomon Islands
Somalia
South Korea
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan (North Sudan)
Suriname (Dutch Guiana)
Swaziland (Ngwane, Swatini)
Sweden
Switzerland
Syria
Tajikistan
Tanzania
Taiwan
Togo
Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
Tunisia
Turkmenistan
Turks and Caicos Islands
Tuvalu (Ellice Islands)
Uganda
Ukraine
UAE
Uruguay
Uzbekistan
Vanuatu
Vatican City
Venezuela
Wales
Western Sahara
Windward Islands
Yemen
Zambia
Zimbabwe

American States + Washington D.C.

Alabama
Alaska
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
Washington D.C.
Wisconsin
West Virginia
Wyoming

English Counties – with some adaption for practical purposes, making places easier to find for those from other countries!

Bedfordshire
Berkshire
Bristol
Buckinghamshire
Cambridgeshire
Cheshire
Cornwall
Cumbria
Derbyshire
Devon
Durham
Essex
Gloucestershire
Hampshire
Herefordshire
Hertfordshire
Isle of White
Kent
Lancashire
Leicestershire
Lincolnshire
London
Manchester
Merseyside
Norfolk
Northamptonshire
Northumberland
Nottinghamshire
Oxfordshire
Rutland
Shropshire
Somerset
Staffordshire
Suffolk
Surrey
Warwickshire
West Midlands
West Sussex
Wiltshire
Worcestershire
Yorkshire

 

Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)
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Discovering Argentina… Eva Peron, The Tango and The Dirty War

As requested in our last round of voting – I’m delighted to offer you a selection of novels from Argentina. So if you were ever planning to dust off your tango shoes and explore this land of mountains, lakes, steamy forests and even steamier dance clubs, then now’s the time.

The Disappeared

While tango does of course features in a number of novels on our list, by far the most common topic for books set in Argentina appears to be the Dirty War. This period of state repression in the late 70s and early 80s when tens of thousands of dissenters were kidnapped, tortured, killed or ‘disappeared’ has left deep scars in Argentina. There have even been allegations that Pope Francis collaborated with the regime at the time – something he has strongly denied.

Mothers of Plaza de Mayo - Books set in ArgentinaThe Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo whose children ‘disappeared’ during the Dirty War hold one of their regular protests. Image by Roblespepe via Wikimedia Commons

In Carolina de Robertis’s recently published Perla, a young woman is forced to confront the past and the role of her father in the Dirty War after a mysterious visitor turns up at her door. What she discovers takes us to the heart of the atrocities of the time.

The novel has attracted glowing reviews from critics and readers alike. Here is a selection of five-star reviews from Amazon.

“In my opinion, and I have read many novels about Argentina’s Dirty War, Perla is the masterpiece.”

“I often went back and read lines twice or three times, marvelling at their beauty. And when I reached the end, I broke down in sobs, not because of a manufactured sad ending but because the story was so very powerful.”

“ ‘Perla’ is one of the finest novels I’ve read in years; the beauty, the growth and the internal questions that it asks of it’s readers are both beautiful and life changing.”

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Nathan Englander captured the grief of families throughout Argentina with his novel The Ministry of Special Cases. In this story, Kaddish and Lillian Poznan find themselves among the thousands of parents desperately trying to find information on their children after their rebellious teenage son ‘disappears’ in 1976. Here are some of the generous reviews for this heart-breaking novel…

“If you choose books for their clever and detailed plots, Ministry will disappoint you. But if you revel in complex characters and writing that transports you to a particular time and place, then Ministry will suck you in and keep you mesmerized.”

“This universal story of identity and community takes my breath away.”

“This is one of the most beautiful, lyrical and heart-breaking books I have read this year. It is also one of the most philosophically challenging. Englander’s language is transcendent and his ear for a specific South American Jewish manner of speech is pitch perfect. You will not be disappointed.”

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It is almost impossible to imagine what this time must have been like for Argentinians, especially as there is still so little closure for the families involved. Up to 30,000 people disappeared and since then, only 600 have been found and identified. Recently the BBC published this article on its website  in which it talks of new evidence on where bodies may have been disposed of at the time.

Don’t cry for me Argentina…

If, like me, you grew up belting out the soundtrack to the musical Evita in your bathroom, your interest in Argentina may be piqued by two novels from Tomas Eloy Martinez based on former president Juan Domingo Perón and his wife Eva.

Eva Peron - Books set in ArgentinaEva Perón in 1951. Image uploaded by Andrew Parodi via Wikimedia Commons

Santa Evita is a fascinating story which explores the obsession Argentinians had with Eva by following the path of her embalmed body after she died of cancer at the age of 33. While this story is a mix of fact and fiction, it is true that her corpse disappeared a few years after her death, turning up in Milan 16 years later.  It was then flown to Spain where the exiled Juan and his new wife Isabel apparently kept it in a bedroom and sometimes even on their dining room table. In 1976 Eva was eventually laid to rest in her family’s tomb in Buenos Aires. You can just imagine what a novelist can get up to with that basis for a story! Here are some of the five star reviews

“This book was so powerful. It drew me in, kept me glued, and haunted me for WEEKS after I put it down.”

“If the facts about her life aren’t enough to get you hooked on this book, the circumstances surrounding the fate of her embalmed corpse are more then enough to draw you into the story. Be careful, though, because even after you put the book down, you still will feel Evita’s magnetism pulling at you.”

“The story of her wandering cadaver is haunting, tragic and at times quite hilarious, and always mind-blowing.”

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Perhaps less intriguing, but still able to give us a glimpse of Argentina’s slide into the violence of the 1970s, Martinez’s The Perón Novel provides a portrait of Eva’s husband Juan following his return from exile in 1973.

Seduced by Buenos Aires…

Returning to modern times; if novels are anything to go by, it seems a ticket to Buenos Aires is what’s in order if you are a woman looking to flee your ordinary life to find a bit of excitement.

The Tango - Books set in ArgentinaImage by Carlos Luque via Wikimedia Commons

Take The Foreigners by Maxine Swann, in which two women – American and Austrian – seek passion and vitality on their travels to Argentina, while in The Buenos Aires Broken Hearts Club by Jessica Morrison, serial life-planner Cassandra Moore seeks spontaneity in this bewitching city when her life in Seattle falls apart.

And finally, we turn to the tango. There’s bound to be some tango in the two novels above, but here are two other books in which it plays a central role.

Tomas Eloy Martinez is back with us for The Tango Singer in which a New York graduate student (a bloke this time!) travels to Buenos Aires in search of an elusive, unrecorded tango singer, giving us a fantastic tour of the city in the process. And in Wolfram Fleischhauer’s Fatal Tango, a dancer turns dangerous, kidnapping and torturing the father of his dancing partner.

By now, I’m hoping you have been thoroughly enticed by the city of Buenos Aires and the fascinating history of Argentina. Try one of these novels or the many more over at Packabook’s Argentina shelf, and I’ll see you in a sultry dance club somewhere…

Suzi

Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)

Novel about photographer Robert Capa takes us to Paris

“Amid the several million or so souls that inhabit this city, what a happy accident it is, I consider, what an obliterating coincidence that we have found each other. What have I done to deserve this, to be so singled out?”Seducing Ingrid Bergman p96

Click here if you don’t see the video

I discovered the novel Seducing Ingrid Bergman (which I talk about in the video above)  after reading this article about war photographer Robert Capa. The article included the heartbreaking story of how most of the negatives for the photographs Capa took during the D-Day landings at Normandy in 1944 were destroyed before a single print was made, due to a mistake in the London photo lab of Life Magazine.  I cannot imagine Capa’s  frustration at this after putting his life in danger and witnessing such bloodshed. It makes the few surviving iconic images all the more precious (their appears to be a difference of opinion as to whether there were 10 or 11 of them, depending on where you read about it!)

I wanted to know more about this good looking Hungarian who lived life on the edge, found solace in women and drink and put himself in enormous danger so the world could witness global conflict, only to die after stepping on a land mine in Vietnam at the age of 40.

What a gift then to find a highly-praised novel in which Capa himself is one of the main characters. In Paris for the city’s liberation at the end of World War Two, Capa is at a bit of a loss. What does a war photographer do now that peace has broken out? Capa and his friend, writer Irwin Shaw, find themselves at the Ritz when who should arrive but Ingrid Bergman, the married Swedish-born movie star, who has taken the world by storm with films such as Casablanca and Gaslight.

Capa is smitten immediately and it is not long before he charms his way into Bergman’s affections and the beginning of an intense relationship. It was more than an affair for Bergman, who wanted to marry Capa but…. well, I think I should leave it for you to read the novel to see how it all ended up…you’ll get no spoilers from me!

We see a little of Paris throughout the book, especially as Bergman and Capa take to some famous streets, restaurants and nightclubs for their somewhat clandestine meetings, and it’s great to get a sense of what the city was like during this time of liberation.

“The newspapers are full of the Japanese surrender. V-J Day. People swarm in the streets with renewed fervour, waving flags and handkerchiefs, many clustered around boards where the front pages of the newspapers are displayed. Ingrid is with me on the back of a jeep as I take photographs. We’re driven slowly as part of an improvised victory parade through the wildly celebrating crowds.”– p68

While this is a work of fiction, it is highly researched, and much of it based on autobiographies by both Capa and Bergman. How much of it is “the truth” is always questionable in novels such as this, but it appears to capture enough of the man to help bring his work alive, and if you read it, you will always feel you know a little of the photographer himself whenever you see his images.

This part of Capa’s life is not the only novel in which he features. Susana Fortes’s Waiting for Robert Capa (which I have not yet read) is the story of the complicated relationship between Capa and one of the first female photojournalists to die on the frontline, Gerda Taro. The novel explores their lives and careers as the pair re-invent themselves from young radical Jewish exiles living in Paris by the name of André Friedmann and Gerta Pohorylle to two of the world’s most celebrated war photographers. Changing their names and re-inventing the art of war photography, the two produced some of the most recognised images of the Spanish Civil War. Read more about their relationship here.

There is much more to the Robert Capa story than I have room for here, but if you’d like to know more about his extraordinary life, here are some suggestions.

And as a special treat, there are two films currently in development  about Capa and his life – based on our two novels.

It seems that 100 years after his birth, Capa’s work is still having an impact, while his event-filled life continues to fascinate.

I hope you enjoy the novel and if you are looking for more books set in Paris, you’ll find a huge selection here.

Suzi

Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)

Dorset here we come…

“Through the open middle sash is visible the crescent-curved expanse of the Bay as a sheet of brilliant translucent green…On the left hand white cliffs stretch away till they terminate in St. Aldhem’s Head, and form a background to the level water-line on that side. In the centre are the open sea and blue sky…” – Thomas Hardy  “The Dynasts”

Bat's Head - Dorset coastThe Dorset Coast – Image courtesy of HerbyThyme via Wikimedia Commons

Well, it’s nigh on impossible to discuss novels set in the beautiful English county of Dorset without beginning with Thomas Hardy.

Hardy’s novels may have been written more than 150 years ago, but they have well and truly stood the test of time; his literary themes spilling down through the generations of writers that followed.

Location was extremely important to Hardy, so much so, that he made up an English county in which to set many of his books, calling it Wessex. Wessex did really exist as a medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom but became extinct as a political unit around the time of England’s unification in the 10th century. Hardy decided this would be a great name for his ‘fictional’ West Country county of which present day Dorset is at the heart, but which also spreads into a good chunk of south-west England including Hampshire, Wiltshire and Somerset. Hardy’s Wessex (and the area it actually covers) causes much fascination amongst his fans and even gets its own Wikipedia entry. Within ‘Wessex’ Hardy uses fictional names for real places. To find out what place is where in the Dorset-based novels, this article is a great help. Some of the more famous Dorset locations include ‘Casterbridge’ for Dorchester, ‘Budmouth’ for Weymouth and ‘Havenpool’ for Poole.

If you haven’t read any Hardy, I really urge you to give it a go. My favourite ever description of English weather comes from his Far From the Madding Crowd, in which he describes a day as having “a summer face and a winter constitution”. It’s something that I first read when I was 15 and is such a perfect description of a crisp, winter day I have never forgotten it. As a ‘landscape novelist’ he really brings Dorset and its surrounding counties to life, but also creates some truly memorable characters and great stories. Hardy favourites with clear Dorset connection are Tess of the D’urbervilles, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge – but there are many others.

If you happen to be in Dorset itself, check out the Thomas Hardy Society website which has lots of info about locations and holds talks and walks galore to really take you into Wessex life. For a taste of what’s available for Dorset explorers, here’s a Hardy walk recommended by The Guardian newspaper. And for some real Hardy indulgence, get some friends together and take this five-day guided tour… You will emerge from that one completely steeped in Hardy knowledge having enjoyed some stunning countryside along the way.

Finding fossils on the beach
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Lyme Regis Beach Huts - DorsetBeach huts at Lyme Regis – Image courtesy of Stuart Wilding/Geograph via Wikimedia Commons

Turning to other novels, beaches figure quite heavily in Dorset-based fiction, and so they should as the county has a fantastic coastline; so good it has been designated a World Heritage site. But where I just see dramatic cliffs, amazing rock-like formations in the shape of arches and pebbled beaches, people with far more scientific minds know that the Dorset coast is in fact a geological marvel, so much so that it forms part of the area given the rather grand title of The Jurassic Coast and has rocks which apparently record 185 million years of the Earth’s history.

Now if you are like me – then you need a novel to bring all that science alive – and with Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures we can make a start. Famous for her book Girl With A Pearl Earring, Chevalier is renowned for her ability to take real historical figures and create a compelling work of fiction around their story. This novel tells the story of Mary Anning, a 19th century working-class woman form Dorset’s Lyme Regis who became one of the world’s most well-known fossil hunters. By combing Dorset beaches she made some of the most significant geological finds of all time. Chevalier explores the challenges Anning faced coming from a poor, uneducated background at a time when women struggled to be taken seriously by the scientific world and as she says herself, the aim of the book is to “make fossils sexy”.

Here are some of the comments on Amazon.

“This book is one of the best I read this year. Don’t look any further if you’re looking for some good entertainment mixed with interesting history.”

“This book is a must read. You will learn so much about fossils and yet, while fossil finding and the creatures discovered is so very scientific, Chevalier makes it so totally interesting and wonderful.”

“Tracy Chevalier’s writing is perfect. I felt myself discovering the fossils, the wind in my face, the obstacles of being a woman at that period of time. For those who loves a very good book.”

“The way Chevalier was able to describe the Lyme Regis area in England has compelled me to put it on my list of travel interests! But, regarding the story itself, I enjoyed learning about this would-be heroine that actually changed the course of scientific history by just doing what she was gifted to do… very inspiring… I have read it again and again. Each time, I walk away refreshed and aching to see those cliffs and beaches! I WANT AN AMMONITE!!!”

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And here’s one other interesting fact about Mary Anning – she is apparently the inspiration for the tongue twister “She sells seashells on the seashore”, so I think we’ve all grown up with a little Mary Anning in our lives and never ever knew it. If you find yourself in Dorset, you must pop in to the Lyme Regis Museum to find out a lot more about this fascinating woman, and you can even go on a Mary Anning Walk around the city.

Chesil Beach
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Chesil Beach Walkway - Books set in DorsetWalkway onto Chesil Beach, Dorset – Image courtesy of C.Masssey/Geograph via Wikimedia Commons

Just 25 miles to the east of Lyme Regis is Chesil Beach, an 18-mile shingle (pebble) beach which also has significant geological importance. It is the setting for Ian McEwan’s novella of the same name. At barely 200 pages, this book tells of the agonising first night of a young couple’s marriage in the early 1960s. They have booked into a small Chesil Beach hotel, and while they are very much in love, they are both virgins and are approaching the evening with trepidation, if not dread.

What follows through the course of the evening is a breathtaking example of how a lack of communication and comfort with intimacy can have devastating effects on a relationship.

There are plenty of Amazon readers who adored this novel.

“What an amazing, amazing book! Days later, I re-read the last 50 pages or so, aloud, to a friend, and even knowing it all ahead of time, had to stop several times. Couldn’t go on. The last chapter, the fifth one, is among the most moving pieces of writing I have ever encountered.”

“I am awed by this book. McEwan is a master, a compelling and powerful storyteller, with an all-important message to convey.”

“Despite its brevity and simplicity, On Chesil Beach is not an effortless read, but it is beautifully written and a fine, sensitive piece of literature. I loved this book.”

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On Chesil Beach is a very short book, which some reviewers weren’t happy about. Others found it depressing. But I thought the novel was stunning; McEwan has an amazing ability to express things I have thought myself  but never thought to put into words, and his insight into how human beings respond when they are trying to protect themselves from hurt is very powerful.

To be fair – we don’t see a great deal of Dorset itself; most of the action takes place in the hotel, the past and the characters’ heads – but we do get some glimpses of the water and a sniff of the salty air from time to time, until the final scenes when the beach takes on a greater role. But the impact of this novella is such that I could never walk along Chesil Beach without thinking of Edward and Florence, and remember how tragic it is when human beings are unable to express their love and fears.

One more honourable mention for Dorset before I leave you to explore all the books selected for yourself. The coastal town of Lyme Regis was a popular spot for 19th century visitors and Jane Austen was one of them. And while she rarely set her novels in real places, Lyme Regis has a pivotal role in her classic novel Persuasion. Read more about it here.

Finally, if you are planning a trip to Dorset make sure you first head over to the official Jurassic Coast website to read about all the great things you can do to really explore the area, such as walking the Dorset bits of the South West Coast Path which sounds sensational. Just don’t forget to pack that Tracy Chevalier to take with you!

Find my selection of books set in Dorset here. You’ll need to look over to the menu on the right hand side and select ‘Dorset’.

Suzi

Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)

Exploring the real life Museum of Innocence in Istanbul

Museum of Innocence collage.jpgAs you know – Packabook’s main aim in life is to find that special sweet spot between novels and travel to help bring real life places alive through the books you read.

And on a recent trip to Istanbul I managed to do that with a bit of a twist – it was more like bringing a book alive by visiting a real live place!

Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence is one of Turkey’s most famous novels. It is set in Istanbul – mainly in the 1970s – and tells the story of one man’s obsessive love for his distant relation Füsun. Over time this wealthy businessman, Kemal, collects objects connected to his relationship with Füsun – such as her hair clips, cigarette butts and dirty coffee cups. These objects become a ‘museum’ to his obsession. As well as a love story, the novel is seen as a glimpse into the lives of Istanbul’s wealthy classes and the dilemma they faced in balancing their traditional values with the increasingly attractive Western culture of the time. It addresses issues of sexuality, gender, modernisation and religion, while whipping us along  the streets of Istanbul in vintage American cars and taking us on ferry journeys up the Bosphorus.

But Pamuk has gone a giant step further than most novelists. Several years after writing the novel, he has built a real life Museum of Innocence  in the part of Istanbul where Füsun’s parents have their home, and where Kemal spends a lot of time hoping to catch a few moments with his love (and stealing the odd tea cup for his collection). I have to tell you – I couldn’t wait to go and see it!

Having worked out the museum should only be about a half hour walk from my hotel, I set off on foot – my preferred way of getting around when exploring a new city. Before long, I’d left the main road, and not having the world’s best map with me, found myself slightly disoriented on some steep residential streets. But after a few wrong turns and some energetic twisting of the map, I saw what I was looking for – a corner building painted in a deep maroon colour. This was it…

Museum of Innocence - Istanbul, Turkey

The Museum of Innocence – Istanbul – Image by Suzi Butcher

Now I had heard that if you brought along your own copy of the book, you could gain entry to the museum for free. That is because in the book itself, there is a printed ticket for the fictional museum – well it was fictional when the book was written in 2008 because the museum didn’t exist, but since 2012 when the museum opened, I guess it can no longer be considered fictional – very confusing! The entrance to the museum is a tiny little door with this unobtrusive plaque…

IMG_1315

Entrance to the Museum of Innocence – Istanbul – Image by Suzi Butcher

…and you have to walk a few feet further on to find the ticket office, where I handed my book through the bars for stamping. It all felt like I was on some kind of secret mission…

Ticket office at the Museum of Innocence - Istanbul

Ticket office at the Museum of Innocence – Istanbul – Very blurry image by Suzi Butcher

And finally I had my own very special stamp and my ticket. Yay!

Stamped ticket - Museum of Innocence - Istanbul, Turkey

Very excited to have the ticket in my copy of the book stamped! – Image by Suzi Butcher

I have no photos of my own from inside I’m afraid, as cameras are strictly forbidden. But one of the first items you are met with is a giant wall of cigarette butts, 4213 of them in fact, all of which have apparently been smoked by Füsun. Accompanying each of the butts is a little handwritten note which refers to something relating to the day on which she smoked that particular cigarette. Are you beginning to get the idea of how much detail is involved in this exhibition?

The rest of the museum is made up of 83 glass display cabinets, one for each of the chapters in the book. Inside each cabinet are items related to that particular chapter. There are photographs, crockery, glassware, ashtrays, jewellery;  a plethora of everyday items that provide a snapshot of life in Istanbul at the time.

Of course – as a visitor you are then faced with a challenge. How do you reconcile what you are seeing with the book in your hand? Can you really stand in front of each cabinet and read the chapter it relates to and see exactly where the items fit into the story? I have to tell you – I did try. But, I only had three days in Istanbul so it wasn’t exactly practical…even for me, who doesn’t mind spending many hours in a museum!

So instead – I just had to pick some random display cases and read those chapters as I stood in front of them, cross-checking the items with the novel, and then speed-gaze through the rest. It was slightly frustrating as I wanted to know about EVERYTHING and I really wished it hadn’t been such a long time since I’d read the book.

Next time, I’m going to re-read the novel first and then sign up for one of their guided tours, which apparently you can book via email before your visit. I’m not sure how enjoyable the museum would be if you hadn’t actually read the book, though some of the comments on Trip Advisor suggest non-Innocence readers also found value in it. It gets a good four and a half stars from reviewers, though I suspect that most of those who make the effort to visit are already big Pamuk fans, so are pre-conditioned to enjoy it.

What is evident is that this is a huge labour of love for Pamuk. He spent years collecting all the objects as he wrote the novel and a pretty penny putting it all together. Apparently it cost him about as much as he earned for his Nobel Prize – 1.5 million dollars.

After your time in the museum, I’d suggest you wander further up the hill where you will find an interesting array of antique and second-hand shops and a few lovely cafes… all in all, a perfect way to spend an afternoon in Istanbul as a Packabooker.

A cup of tea after visiting the Museum of Innocence - Istanbul, Turkey

Enjoying a cup of tea (and a little bit of a read!) after the museum visit – Image by Suzi Butcher

You can find The Museum of Innocence and many other novels set in Turkey over at the main Packabook site

Suzi

If you are becoming as obsessed as I am, here’s some further reading (some with pictures of inside!)…
Visiting Orhan Pamuk’s ‘Museum of Innocence’ – The Monthly
Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence opens in Istanbul – CS Monitor
Slideshow of images from the Museum of Innocence – xinhuanet.com

 

Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)

Arizona here we come…


Wow – what an amazing place Arizona is for lovers of fiction.

After a bit of hunting and foraging, I have found more than 50 novels set in Arizona for your sojourn to this south-west American state and put them up on the main Packabook site (just click on ‘Arizona’ over to the right of the page).

Arizona has a bit of everything — well ok, no beaches, but I guess the Grand Canyon kind of makes up for that — there are deserts, forests and mountain ranges to explore, as well as a border with Mexico that provides plenty of action and intellectual fodder for readers and writers alike.

So, the only question now, is where to head to first on your Arizona journey

You could make your way along the Colorado River…

Grand Canyon - Colorado River

Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park – image courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park Service via Flickr Creative Commons

Get your adrenaline flowing (well, as much as you want your adrenaline to flow sitting in your armchair!) with Elizabeth Hyde’s In the Heart of the Canyon. Fifteen people and a dog make a 13-day journey along the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Forced together, there’s plenty of physical and emotional challenges for this disparate group as they navigate the rapids and their own dramas.

Here’s some of the glowing reviews from Amazon readers…

“How much did I love this book? I couldn’t resist gulping it down in two sittings, oblivious to my own real life (yeah, sorry about that frozen pizza dinner, honey…but I was busy rafting down the Colorado River). A huge, enthusiastic thumbs-up for this riveting page-turner.”

“Hyde is a stunningly vivid writer who reveals the natural world of river, canyon, and sky with color and accuracy. A consummate storyteller, she surprised and entertained me with In the Heart of the Canyon.”

“I was enthralled by her imagery, captivated by how well nuanced she captured the inevitable transformation that happens to anyone who opens their heart to the navel of the West that is the Grand Canyon.”

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You could also travel back to 1928 with Lisa Michaels’s Grand Ambition where honeymooners Glen and Bessie Hyde, inspired by other adventurous couples of the time, decide to run the rapids of the Grand Canyon; Bessie hoping to be the first woman to negotiate such a treacherous stretch of the Colorado River.  Based on a true story, the novel weaves the story of the young couple’s journey with the search to find them when they fail to arrive at their destination.

Amazon reviewers had this to say

 “A rare poetic adventure novel. This is a tremendous book, the story is captivating and the writing is lean and beautiful.”

“Lisa Michaels not only succeeds in resurrecting and imagining Glen and Bessie Hyde, two obscure historical figures, she also blesses them with beautifully felt inner lives and engaging dialogue.”

“This book could be called a real page turner except one wants to linger over the gorgeous sentences describing the Grand Canyon and the wild rapids. The novel richly paints an intimate portrait of two young people striving for a charmed life.”

Or head down to the borderlands…

Arizona shares a border with Mexico which (according to the Wikipedia gods) is the most frequently crossed international border in the world; 350 million people crossing legally each year. Add that to the inevitable illegal crossings, and you’ve got a whole lot of border action going on, creating an environment ripe for dramatic and challenging fiction.

Books set in Arizona - the border between Mexico and ArizonaImage courtesy of PhillipC via Flickr Creative Commons

In Philip Caputo’s Crossers, a wall street financial analyst tries to overcome his grief after the death of his wife by moving to his cousin’s cattle ranch  on the border. Soon he finds himself caught up in illegal border crossings, drug cartels and a family history he can’t run away from. The novel tackles the divisive issues of illegal immigration and people smuggling, in a manner many readers found illuminating.

“Crossers is an amazing read– layer upon layer we are introduced to the complexities of border life from all the different angles.”

“The book is grand in scope, historically vivid and magnetic in its attraction.”

“The action is brisk and well plotted, the characters interesting, the story compelling. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and so will you.”

Similar themes are tackled in Bella Pollen’s Midnight Cactus in which Englishwoman Alice Coleman attempts to escape her loveless marriage by taking her two small children to the wilds of the border area. Alice is forced onto the horns of an ethical dilemma when she inadvertently hires a gang of illegal workers. There is plenty of praise in the Amazon reviews

“I never wanted to turn the last pages, of this book. The more exciting the climax became the more I dreaded coming to the end.  Midnight Cactus is romantic,exciting, scary,tender, and above all passionate. I loved this book.”

“This book and its stunning resolution stayed with me long after I had finished reading it. Highly recommended.”

But if you are actually from Southern Arizona, you may join a few of the reviewers who were appalled at apparent geographical and factual errors about the region, as well as some bad Spanish translations. While they conceded the story had great value – the “lack of editing” completely put them off. Don’t say you haven’t been warned!

You could even meet with some feisty women of the past…

If the following novels are anything to go by, Arizona has definitely raised some spirited women, so if you in the need for a bit of ‘girl power’ these might inspire you.

 Sarah Prine and family - books set in ArizonaFour generations of Sarah Prine’s family. Prine is third from left. Image courtesy of Nancy Turner.

These is my Words  is the first of three diary-format novels by Nancy Turner which chronicle the daily struggles of Sarah Prine as she and her family set up home in the Arizona Territory of the 1880s. It sounds like Sarah is one tough cookie and mighty handy with a rifle as she deals with all the trials of pioneer life and love. The books are based on the author’s family memoirs, and sound like a terrific read….

“Like many other reviewers, I read this book in a few sittings, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, and neglecting my husband and kids (except for reading parts to my 7-yr. old daughter), because I was so involved in Sarah’s life. I read it on the treadmill, in the car, making dinner, at work…just couldn’t put it down.”

“Nancy Turner’s characters are vivid, believable, real. They grow through the course of the novel to become your friends, family and loved ones. I have never cried, laughed and sighed with relief so many times through one book.”

Marguerite Noble’s Filaree also turned the experiences of her pioneer family into a novel which it seems is required reading in Arizona.

“I really loved this woman, and this book. It rang so true. I read it in one day, as I couldn’t put it down.”

“This book was so fascinating that I didn’t want to finish reading it because I loved the characters so much.”

And there’s more…

Also worth mentioning are a couple of big name authors who have set books in Arizona – Barbara Kingsolver gives us The Bean Trees and Animal Dreams, while in S John Updike writes of an upper-class New England matron escaping her marriage (Arizona appears to attract such women if these books are anything to go by) to live in an Arizona commune.

And if you are after a bit of crime action, then the J.A. Jance novels featuring Sheriff Joanna Brady come highly recommended by Packabook reader, blogger and Arizona local Vera Marie Badertscher from A Traveler’s Library

These are just a taste of the novels set in Arizona you can explore over at Packabook – enjoy, and let us know of any others you can recommend in the comments….

Suzi

Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)

Retracing Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – a Modern Day Pilgrimage

A little while back I came across the story of some modern day pilgrims who had decided to retrace the steps of Chaucer’s pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales, by walking from London to Canterbury. I was intrigued, and thought I’d investigate further. The result was this little video…

Does this inspire you to read Chaucer’s Tales for yourself?

If so – which version of this 14th century collection of stories should we be tackling…?

According to Henry Eliot, it’s worth having a go at the original Middle English version if you can cope with a bit of a challenge. But if you feel the need for a modern day translation, then this one comes highly recommended.

Henry’s main advice is to not read the tales in order. He reckons you should go for the “juiciest” tales first to get your love of Chaucer flowing, and then tackle the less raucous ones. Dive in and read The Miller’s Tale, The Merchant’s Tale, The Pardoner’s Tale, The Franklin’s Tale, The Reeve’s Tale and The Wife of Bath’s Tale to give you a great taste of what Chaucer was about and then take it from there.

And what if you want to do your own pilgrimage to Canterbury? Here are some more details of Henry’s route from his 2012 pilgrimage that can help you figure out where to go. You will pass some stunning medieval towns and villages as you make your way along the North Kent coast and Canterbury, with its famous cathedral, is a treat. If the four-day walk is a bit much, then you could even do it on a bicycle.

I hope you enjoy the video – it was great fun making it, despite the rain! If you liked it, it would be great if you could give it a thumbs up or a comment on YouTube – it all helps to spread the word.

Thanks…

Suzi

Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)

The mystery of Easter Island…

“Look.” Mahina pointed at the sea below them. She spun slowly in a circle. ‘’Horizon. All around.” It was true; for an entire three hundred and sixty degrees, Greer could see the hazy line of ocean meeting sky. This, then, was the grandeur. Other sights were of things: monuments, snowcapped mountains.  This view was one of absence: a horizon unblemished.  (Easter Island by Jennifer Vanderbes  – p396)

 

Rano Kao craterRano Kao crater on Easter Island. Image courtesy of Professor X via Wikimedia Commons

Easter Island is a long way away.

From anywhere.

Even if you lived on Pitcairn Island, Easter Island’s closest neighbour, you would be more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) away.

So we have ourselves an almost barren Polynesian island which is thousands of miles from anywhere – the question is, why on Earth would anyone want to write a novel about it?Easter Island by Jennifer Vanderbes

Because, dear Packabookers, this is one fascinating island. In fact, National Geographic uses adjectives like “legendary” and “enigmatic” to describe it  and who am I to argue with that?

Not only is Easter Island, or Rapa Nui to give it its Polynesian name, shrouded in intrigue – it has the most amazing gigantic statues you’ve ever seen dotted along its coast and nobody knows the details of how they got there. It has a vast network of caves, some only recently discovered, a writing system no-one has been able to decipher and the island was once apparently filled with all manner of trees and land birds which mysteriously disappeared several hundred years ago.

There’s definitely a novel in there somewhere – and Jennifer Vanderbes appears to have found it, giving us a story of love, betrayal and intellectual pursuit in the process.

Vanderbes takes us to Easter Island during two different time periods.

In 1913, a young Englishwoman called Elsa, her much older academic husband Edward, and her intellectually disabled sister Alice set off on an expedition to study the island’s culture, history and most enduring legacy, the moai — the more that 800 monolithic rock statues that represent the ancestors of the Rapanui people. While many moai stand majestically on stone platforms with their backs to the ocean, others lie fallen on the ground, or have never even been moved from the quarry in which they were carved.

 moai 1

 Moai on Easter Island. Image courtesy of Rivi via Wikimedia Commons

“Dozens more toppled moai littered the coast below. From a distance, some simply looked like rocks. Through her binoculars, though, the slope of the shoulders and the indentation of the eyes fixed to the ground became clear. The twenty-foot statues of volcanic tuff had all been carved with identical features — they looked like slender giants with huge rectangular heads. They were neither lifelike nor ornate, but the size of them and the sheer number were impressive…Carving hundreds of stone giants, then positioning them along the island’s coast — impossible to imagine.” (p113)

Sixty years later Dr. Greer Farraday, one of the world’s foremost experts on pollen, also travels to Easter Island (this journey is by plane, so its quite a bit quicker than Elsa’s year-long adventure!). She’s hoping that by taking core samples of the earth, she will find pollens that reveal clues as to how an island which was once filled with trees had became almost barren.

Although they live more than half a century apart, both women are doing their best to get to the bottom of the island’s mysteries, while at the same time trying to escape the academic dominance of their husbands and be acknowledged for their own scientific contributions – which are indeed hefty. I especially enjoyed Elsa’s determination to decipher the ronorongo writing/symbol system carved on wooden tablets throughout the island, despite her lack of formal training in this area.

 “The tablet could record a genealogy, a legend, a codification of ancient law. It might help unravel the story of this island. If she can learn to read it, or grasp some small part of it, it will mean all her choices have served some higher purpose… She is thankful, now, for the distance from England, from scholars, from those qualified to take on this job. She knows it’s not the kind of project for a former governess, even the daughter of a professor. But she is here. And what, after all, is better than opportunity and desire?” (pp208-209)

Today, only about two dozen objects with rongorongo appear to have survived, none of which are on Easter Island itself. It seems as if the wooden tablets were a favourite souvenir for various ship captains and foreign clerics over the years, and the local people themselves may have used them for firewood after those who could read them were captured or killed by Peruvian slave traders and the small pox they so generously gave to the islanders. I told you there was a lot of story behind this island!!

This novel is beautifully written and even though I sometimes found myself glossing over the science, I was intrigued by how much history can be learned from a few specks of pollen.

What to do on Easter Island

Of course – if you happen to be heading off to Easter Island for a visit anytime soon, Vanderbes’s novel should be compulsory reading.

Seeing the moai for yourself would be enthralling no matter what the circumstances, but it could only be enhanced by having read this book, and shared in the experience as one of Greer’s fellow scientists attempts to re-enact the moving of the statues from the quarry where they were carved, to the island’s edge up to six miles away.

 

Anakena Beach

 Anakena Beach on Easter Island. Image courtesy of Rivi via Wikimedia Commons

But the moai are not all there is to see on Easter Island. There are white, sandy beaches as well as opportunities for scuba diving and snorkelling. And if you are feeling particularly adventurous, you could consider exploring the caves – though you may want to take a local with you, it would be pretty easy to get lost in there.

“Sliding forward, Greer saw a small crack in the face of the rock, a sliver of an opening. Of course, a cave. The whole island was perforated with relics of its volcanic past: lava tubes left by the magma that flowed thousands of years earlier. Beneath the yellow grass, beneath the basalt, these caves formed a subterranean world of elaborate passageways hidden from view, littered with the skeletons of ancient islanders.” (p117)

Meet Hoa Hakananai’a

For those of us who can’t get to Easter Island (which now belongs to Chile in case you were wondering) in the near future, perhaps you can do your own bit to track down the remaining rongorongo. I found it surprisingly difficult to find out this information on the internet, so thought I’d take a stab in the dark and try the British Museum, given that it has a pretty good record of ‘acquiring’ extremely important artefacts from other people’s countries. Bingo! Not only does it have a rongorongo tablet  – it has somehow managed to obtain a moai of its own.  His name is Hoa Hakananai’a and appears to be quite an imposing character. Goodness knows how the crew of the English ship HMS Topaze managed to get all four tons of him onboard in 1868, but it seems they did.

I’m now very anxious to meet him, so intend to take a trip to the British Museum sometime soon. I will of course update you when I do!

Have a read of Easter Island. It’s a fascinating novel, and I hope there are more to come from this great location. I, for one, want to know more about the Peruvian slave traders and their dastardly deeds with smallpox….

Suzi

Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)

And the results are in…

 

Huechulafquen Lake Patagonia - Books set in Argentina

Huechulafquen Lake Patagonia – Image courtesy of Andres2190 via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to one and all for your votes on which country, state and county we should be adding next to Packabook. And I’m pleased to say, the results are in… Here is the current tally following the latest voting.

COUNTRIES
Albania – 1
Argentina – 3
Austria – 1
Belize – 1
Canada – 1
Costa Rica – 1
Ethiopia – 1
Israel and Palestinian Territories – 1
Kenya – 1
Myanmar/Burma – 2
Scotland – 1
Seychelles – 1
Sri Lanka – 1
Qatar – 1
Vanuatu – 1 .

.
As you can see – our winning country is Argentina with three votes. A big thank you to Marla and South American Travel (who may be a little biased!) for their votes this time round, and Bea who put in a previous vote. I’m really looking forward to immersing myself in the land of the tango for a while and seeing what I can find.

US STATES
Alabama – 1
Arizona – 3
Delaware – 1
Florida – 2
Kansas – 1
Massachusetts – 1
New Hampshire – 1
New York – 1
New Mexico – 1
Ohio – 1
South Dakota – 1
Vermont – 1

.
For the USA – we are heading off into the desert to Arizona. I’ve already done a bit of investigating and have discovered a hefty haul of fiction for this one. I hope you all have your water bottles ready, we may need to spend some time there! Voting thanks to Vera, Jackie and MC… And how’s this for a co-incidence – there is a Colorado River in both Argentina and Arizona!

UK COUNTIES
Cambridgeshire – 1
Cornwall – 1
Devon – 1
Dorset – 2
Durham – 1
Kent – 2
West Midlands – 1

.
In the UK – it came down to a tie between Kent and Dorset…so it was time to get out the Nepalese hat and pick one out.

IMG_0737

IMG_0739

IMG_0741

And as you can see from the photos, Dorset got the nod. Kirsten and Deborah – this one is for you. Dorset is situated in the south-west of England, and it has some wonderful countryside. In fact, three quarters of its coastline is a World Heritage Site. And given it is the birthplace of the wonderful Thomas Hardy I think we have some treats in store. I do not believe Dorset possesses a Colorado River unfortunately, but it does have a River Piddle, which is infinitely more entertaining…

Piddle_passes_through_Athelhampton_-_geograph.org.uk_-_473364

The River Piddle in Dorset – Image courtesy of Chris Downer via Wikimedia Commons

Right – I’m off to explore…. See you on the other side with my discoveries. In the meantime – if you have any suggestions for any of these places, I’d love to hear about them in the comments…or feel free to drop an email to suzi@packabook.com.

Suzi

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Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)
No Comments • Posted in General

Thank goodness for Colin Cotterill…..Books set in Laos

Pha_That_Luang,_Vientiane,_LaosA national symbol of Laos – the Pha That Luang in Vientiane – Image courtesy of Aaron Smith via Wikimedia Commons

Thank goodness for Colin Cotterill…

I mean it, we are very lucky that writer Colin Cotterill exists and that he is so prolific, otherwise we’d be drawing an almost blank for the fiction section of our Laos category. Laos is not a destination of choice for most novelists who write in English, or indeed who do English translations!

Let me introduce Cotterill’s creation – Dr. Siri Paiboun, the protagonist of a series of crime novels, eight of which have been published so far. The series begins in 1976 — Laos has recently become a communist state and 72-year old Siri Paiboun is appointed state coroner. It The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterillsounds like through much of this series, Dr. Siri is desperate to retire, but instead he must do the government’s bidding and handle the variety of cases which come his way, with the help of some outdated medical texts, inadequate supplies and a bit of witchcraft. Known for his wry humor and witty observations, Dr. Siri does his best to get to the truth while keeping the regime happy – not always an easy task.

According to expat-advisory.com Cotterill’s novels are “the best guide books to (the capital) Vientiane”, so we can be assured of lots of detail to help bring the city alive. And as Dr. Siri often branches out into the countryside, we should expect to see quite a lot of the areas surrounding the capital as well.

If you are off to Laos anytime soon, then it looks like the Dr. Siri Paiboun novels are a must read! And I love this article and video from Britain’s Channel 4 in which Cotterill talks about the dearth of literature in Laos, and how he hopes Dr. Siri can help.

For more info on the book and Cotterill himself, try these…
Scene of the Crime
Time Magazine 

But there is one other novel I have discovered that will take you to Vientiane…. The second book in John le Carré’s Karla Trilogy, The Honourable Schoolboy. If you enjoyed the first novel, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – then why not follow up with this one, which features Laos among other locations.

Find novels set in Laos here 

Oregon Crime… 

Oregon CoastThe Oregon Pacific Coast – Image courtesy of Klaus with K via Wikimedia Commons

Our second destination for this month, and our first US state to be highlighted on Packabook, is Oregon. Chosen in our public vote – Oregon is rich with novels, which like Laos, tend towards the criminal! Of the almost 50 novels discovered so far, well over half of them are crime novels – is there something about Oregon which brings this out in writers? I’ll leave that for the locals to let us know!

This time we have two very prolific writers who have set much of their work in Oregon. Phillip Margolin and Kate Wilhelm. I am fascinated by Wilhelm; aged in her 80s, she is not only a mistress of mystery, but also a well-known science fiction writer. Up to now, she has written nearly 50 novels. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Oregon is obviously a good place to live – no sign of retirement happening there!

One of the other gems to emerge in our discovery of Oregon is Sometimes A Great Notion by Ken Kesey, who also wrote One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (thanks for the tip Kirsten and Martha!) Set in the 50s and 60s, the novel is described on Amazon as having the “mythic impact of a Greek tragedy” and is the story of a family of Oregon loggers who defy a bitter strike which rages through a small lumber town.  Amazon reviewers describe it as a “classic of American literature” and possibly the “Great American Novel”. Sounds like a must read.

I’m also tempted by Winterkill by Craig Lesley — the story of a contemporary Native American family and the relationship between fathers and sons, as well as Molly Gloss’s Wild Life. Set on the Northwest frontier in the early 1900s it tells of the adventures of a cigar-smoking, free-thinking woman who writes adventure novels.

With so much to explore, and what sounds like an amazing landscape reflected in these novels, I can’t wait to get myself off to Oregon!

Find novels for Oregon by going to Packabook’s USA page and clicking on ‘Oregon’ under the fiction category on the right hand side.

To the shipyards of England’s north-east…

Tyne BridgeTyne Bridge, Newcastle, Tyne and Wear – Image courtesy of Tagishsimon via Wikimedia Commons

And finally to our English county of choice – Tyne and Wear in the north-east of the country. This one is particularly close to home for me, as it is where my mother’s family is from. The county’s main city is Newcastle-upon-Tyne, known for its port, shipyards and history of coal-mining. But from the 1930s onwards, Newcastle experienced serious decline, with the closing of its last coal pit in the 1950s, and the demise of the shipyards in the 80s and 90s causing extensive unemployment and tough times for those who lived there. In more recent years, Newcastle has re-invented itself as a centre of business and culture, with a lively nightclub scene and some fabulous galleries.

As is to be expected, many of my book discoveries for Tyne and Wear focus on the lives of the working classes, with The Day of the Sardine The Watchers and the Watched by Sid Chaplinand The Watchers and the Watched by Sid Chaplin being two fine examples. The books are recognised as classics of regional working class fiction. And once again, we have chosen a location which attracts the crime novelists – Newcastle’s quayside being a terrific location for all manner of dastardly deeds. Check out the crime novels of Howard Linskey and Martyn Waites to get your fix of north-eastern crime.

Find novels for Tyne and Wear by going to Packabook’s England page and clicking on ‘Tyne and Wear’ under the fiction category on the right hand side.

Thanks everyone for voting for your choices for these new additions to Packabook – and I look forward to announcing the winners for the January voting next week. In the meantime, how about exploring one of these new fiction locations. And if you have any other suggestions for novels which should be added – please let me know in the comments. As always – these selections are just the beginning and will constantly be updated.

Suzi

P.S. Please note that at the moment I have a policy to mainly stick to traditionally published novels here on Packabook. It’s all part of my decision to carefully curate the books that I select. Down the track I will look at adding self-published novels, but for now, I want to be sure that the books I highlight have passed through the eyes of professional editors and publishers.

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Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)

January country – let’s have your votes!

Travel Novels

…and whatever happened to Laos, Oregon and Tyne and Wear?

Well, I have to apologise for being so late with our new additions to the Packabook site.  I have been doing a lot of travelling and had far less computer time than I was anticipating…but I’m pleased to say I’m on track to upload the pages for Laos, Oregon and Tyne and Wear by the end of the year!! So far I’ve come across around 50 novels set in Oregon, which I think is a pretty impressive starting score for the state. Though mostly it’s due to the work of two extremely prolific writers. I look forward to sharing them with you soon.

But now, let’s open the voting for our next round of additions. You are invited to vote for one country, one U.S. state and one English county from the list at the end of this post.

These votes will be added to you previous votes on the tally boards, which are here.

COUNTRIES
Albania – 1
Argentina – 1
Canada – 1
Israel and Palestinian Territories – 1
Kenya – 1
Myanmar/Burma – 1
Seychelles – 1
Sri Lanka – 1
Qatar – 1
Vanuatu – 1

US STATES
Alabama – 1
Arizona – 2
Florida – 1
Kansas – 1
New York City – 1
Ohio – 1
South Dakota – 1

UK COUNTIES
Kent – 1
Devon – 1
West Midlands – 1

If you are still keen on your previous choices, you can vote for them again, giving them a greater chance. But if you’d like to switch to a new destination, you can give those places your latest vote instead.

And if this is your first time voting, then welcome! I hope you will remain with us for a long time as I gradually build up this literary map of the world. If you are a first time voter, you might find it useful to read this previous post explaining what this is all about! But after that – make sure you pop back over here to put your vote in the comments…..

Here’s the full (long!) list of choices below – where will we head to next? Let me know your votes in the comments….Remember – one country, one U.S. State and one English county…voting closes December 21st!

Suzi

Countries

To Do: (177)
Albania
Algeria
Andorra
Angola
Antarctica
Arctic
Argentina
Armenia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Barbados
Belarus
Belgium
Belize
Benin (Dahomey)
Bhutan
Bolivia
Botswana
Brunei
Bulgaria
Burkina Faso (Burkina, Upper Volta)
Burundi
Cambodia
Cameroon
Canada
Cape Verde
Cayman Islands
Central Africa Republic
Chad
Channel Islands
Chile
Colombia
Comoros
Congo (Congo-Brazzaville)
Cook Islands
Costa Rica
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Djibouti
Dominican Republic
DR Congo (Congo-Kinshasa, Belgian Congo, Zaire)
East Timor
Ecuador
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Estonia
Ethiopia
Falkland Islands
Fiji
Finland
Gabon
The Gambia
Georgia
Ghana
Gibraltar
Guatemala
Guinea (French Guinea, Gineau-Conakry)
Guinea-Bissau
Guyana
Haiti
Honduras
Iceland
Indonesia
Isle of Man
Israel & the Palestinian Territories
Ivory Coast  (Côte d’Ivoire)
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Kiribati
Kosovo
Kuwait
Kyrgyzstan
Laos – in progress, don’t vote for this one, it will be a wasted vote!!
Latvia
Lebanon
Leeward Antilles
Leeward Islands
Lesotho
Liberia
Libya
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macedonia
Madagascar
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Mali
Malta
Marshall Islands
Mauritania
Mauritius
Micronesia
Moldova
Monaco
Mongolia
Montenegro
Morocco
Mozambique
Myanmar (Burma)
Nagorno-Karabakh
Namibia
Nauru
Nepal
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Niger
Nigeria
Niue
North Korea
Northern Ireland
Norway
Oman
Palau (Pelew, Belau)
Panama
Papua New Guinea
Paraguay
Philippines
Pitcairn Islands
Portugal
Qatar
Romania
Rwanda
Samoan Islands
San Marino
São Tomé and Príncipe
Saudi Arabia
Scotland
Senegal
Serbia
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
Solomon Islands
Somalia
South Korea
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan (North Sudan)
Suriname (Dutch Guiana)
Swaziland (Ngwane, Swatini)
Sweden
Switzerland
Syria
Tajikistan
Tanzania
Taiwan
Togo
Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
Tunisia
Turkmenistan
Turks and Caicos Islands
Tuvalu (Ellice Islands)
Uganda
Ukraine
UAE
Uruguay
Uzbekistan
Vanuatu
Vatican City
Venezuela
Wales
Western Sahara
Windward Islands
Yemen
Zambia
Zimbabwe

Done (30)
Afghanistan
Australia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazil
China
Croatia
Cuba
Egypt
England
France
Germany
Greece
Hungary
India
Iran
Iraq
Ireland
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Mexico
Pakistan
Peru
Poland
Russia
South Africa
Spain
Thailand
Turkey
Vietnam

American States + Washington D.C.

To Do: (51)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon – in progress, don’t vote for this one, it will be a wasted vote!!
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
Washington D.C.
Wisconsin
West Virginia
Wyoming

Done: (0)

 

English Counties – with some adaption for practical purposes, making places easier to find for those from other countries!

To Do: (43)
Bedfordshire
Berkshire
Bristol
Buckinghamshire
Cambridgeshire
Cheshire
Cornwall
Cumbria
Derbyshire
Devon
Dorset
Durham
Essex
Gloucestershire
Hampshire
Herefordshire
Hertfordshire
Isle of White
Kent
Lancashire
Leicestershire
Lincolnshire
London
Manchester
Merseyside
Norfolk
Northamptonshire
Northumberland
Nottinghamshire
Oxfordshire
Rutland
Shropshire
Somerset
Staffordshire
Suffolk
Surrey
Tyne and Wear – in progress, don’t vote for this one, it will be a wasted vote!!
Warwickshire
West Midlands
West Sussex
Wiltshire
Worcestershire
Yorkshire

Done: (0)


Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)
No Comments • Posted in General

And the results are in….

Just a quick note to let you know the results of the voting for our next country, U.S. state and English county to add to Packabook.

If you are wondering what on earth I’m talking about, here’s the link to the post which explains!

As we had lots of countries getting one vote each, and no clear winner, everyone’s vote went into a hat and I drew out a winner. We had two states at the top of the table, so they too went into a hat, but we had one clear winner for our English county, so no need to do a draw for that one.

You can watch the video below to see who won….

If you have any book suggestions for the winning places, I’d love to hear them (I’m afraid I can’t include self-published novels at this stage); you can either add them in the comments below or head over to the Packabook Facebook Page where the discussion is already underway.

And the good news is – all the votes already received will remain on the tally board, so next month, when you vote again, your old votes remain. So that means that if you vote for the same country next time as this time, then both your votes will be counted. If you continue voting for the same place, it is sure to win eventually!

Thanks to everyone who took part – it’s just fabulous having you all involved!

Suzi

Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)
No Comments • Posted in General

I need your help! Where should we go next with Packabook?

Travel Novels

I need help!!

When I dreamed up the idea for Packabook I decided to start with around 20 countries, and then add more as and when I could. But a couple of years later, I am a little disappointed with how few new countries I have added between now and then. Currently I am sitting on about 30, and there are just SO many more places in the world which are not yet represented.

On top of that, there are places which you just cannot really put on as one single country, because there are far too many books to group together – yes USA, I am talking about you! The United States absolutely must be divided into states from the beginning, and so too England should have been divided into counties from the start…

So – this is the plan…and I’m going to need your help.

Each month I’d love  you to nominate a world country, an English county and an American state. And over the next month, those are the ones I will add. It makes sense that with so many places to choose from, I work on those you most want to see. So for those who have emailed me in the past asking about particular countries – here’s a chance for you to put in a vote for the ones you desire!

Below, I have made a list of the possible countries and territories etc (177), English counties (43) and American states (51). A girl should always have a list to work from, and I’m going to enjoy moving them from the ‘To Do’ list to the ‘Done’ list, even if it takes nearly 15 years to do them all, which it will if I stick to the planned rate. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these countries may not actually exist by the time I get to them!

Which brings us to the real challenge of doing this.

It’s hard to avoid a political quagmire when making a list of countries. While it may seem straight forward – colonisation, conflict and calls for independence result in constantly changing borders and disagreement over where those borders actually are. I am avoiding the political game as much as possible and categorising places in the way that makes the most sense to me. I started with a list of United Nations’ sovereign states, and then adapted it from there. Some of those sovereign states I have broken up into their respective countries and territories (i.e. UK into England, Scotland etc), some I am grouping together by geographic region (many of the Caribbean countries). Some have their own listing because they are disputed territories (Western Sahara), others because they are geographically so far away from their ‘Mother Country’  it makes no sense from a traveller’s point of view to list them as part of that country (Pitcairn Islands), and some because they are a combination of the two (Falkland Islands). There are even some tiny (or uninhabited) places I have missed altogether for now, knowing that I’ll deal with where best to put them, if and when I find books set there. And finally —  please understand that this is no way a definitive list. I will be adjusting it, changing the categories and making additions as I dig a little deeper and make new discoveries about countries, their borders and their history. After all – that’s partly what Packabook is all about.

It’s been a fun process putting this together and I’m looking forward to you joining me for the next bit. It is amazing how many countries there are in the world and I’m delighted to say I discovered some I didn’t even know existed in parts of the world where I should have known better – Andorra for example! How did I not know there was a separate microcountry squeezed in between France and Spain? I had always mistakingly believed Andorra belonged to one or the other.

So – will you join me in the challenge of making Packabook a truly valuable resource so that one day, wherever you go, you will be able to find the ideal novel to take with you? Even if it is in Andorra? Help me set our travel itinerary by choosing one country, one English county and one American state for me to work on in October…and if you have a favorite novel for any of the places you choose, I’d love to hear about that as well. (No self-published books at this stage please, with so many traditionally published novels to deal with first, the huge number of self-published novels will have to wait!) Once you’ve made your choices, please use the comment section below  — preferably using the Facebook comments so we can widen the discussion beyond the blog itself — to let me know what they are. You’ll have to go all the way down past the looooong lists of places to get there!

This is very exciting. You are all steering the ship….where will we go next??

Countries

To Do: (177)
Albania
Algeria
Andorra
Angola
Antarctica
Arctic
Argentina
Armenia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Barbados
Belarus
Belgium
Belize
Benin (Dahomey)
Bhutan
Bolivia
Botswana
Brunei
Bulgaria
Burkina Faso (Burkina, Upper Volta)
Burundi
Cambodia
Cameroon
Canada
Cape Verde
Cayman Islands
Central Africa Republic
Chad
Channel Islands
Chile
Colombia
Comoros
Congo (Congo-Brazzaville)
Cook Islands
Costa Rica
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Djibouti
Dominican Republic
DR Congo (Congo-Kinshasa, Belgian Congo, Zaire)
East Timor
Ecuador
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Estonia
Ethiopia
Falkland Islands
Fiji
Finland
Gabon
The Gambia
Georgia
Ghana
Gibraltar
Guatemala
Guinea (French Guinea, Gineau-Conakry)
Guinea-Bissau
Guyana
Haiti
Honduras
Iceland
Indonesia
Isle of Man
Israel & the Palestinian Territories
Ivory Coast  (Côte d’Ivoire)
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Kiribati
Kosovo
Kuwait
Kyrgyzstan
Laos
Latvia
Lebanon
Leeward Antilles
Leeward Islands
Lesotho
Liberia
Libya
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macedonia
Madagascar
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Mali
Malta
Marshall Islands
Mauritania
Mauritius
Micronesia
Moldova
Monaco
Mongolia
Montenegro
Morocco
Mozambique
Myanmar (Burma)
Nagorno-Karabakh
Namibia
Nauru
Nepal
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Niger
Nigeria
Niue
North Korea
Northern Ireland
Norway
Oman
Palau (Pelew, Belau)
Panama
Papua New Guinea
Paraguay
Philippines
Pitcairn Islands
Portugal
Qatar
Romania
Rwanda
Samoan Islands
San Marino
São Tomé and Príncipe
Saudi Arabia
Scotland
Senegal
Serbia
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
Solomon Islands
Somalia
South Korea
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan (North Sudan)
Suriname (Dutch Guiana)
Swaziland (Ngwane, Swatini)
Sweden
Switzerland
Syria
Tajikistan
Tanzania
Taiwan
Togo
Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
Tunisia
Turkmenistan
Turks and Caicos Islands
Tuvalu (Ellice Islands)
Uganda
Ukraine
UAE
Uruguay
Uzbekistan
Vanuatu
Vatican City
Venezuela
Wales
Western Sahara
Windward Islands
Yemen
Zambia
Zimbabwe

Done (30)
Afghanistan
Australia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazil
China
Croatia
Cuba
Egypt
England
France
Germany
Greece
Hungary
India
Iran
Iraq
Ireland
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Mexico
Pakistan
Peru
Poland
Russia
South Africa
Spain
Thailand
Turkey
Vietnam

English Counties – with some adaption for practical purposes, making places easier to find for those from other countries!

To Do: (43)
Bedfordshire
Berkshire
Bristol
Buckinghamshire
Cambridgeshire
Cheshire
Cornwall
Cumbria
Derbyshire
Devon
Dorset
Durham
Essex
Gloucestershire
Hampshire
Herefordshire
Hertfordshire
Isle of White
Kent
Lancashire
Leicestershire
Lincolnshire
London
Manchester
Merseyside
Norfolk
Northamptonshire
Northumberland
Nottinghamshire
Oxfordshire
Rutland
Shropshire
Somerset
Staffordshire
Suffolk
Surrey
Tyne and Wear
Warwickshire
West Midlands
West Sussex
Wiltshire
Worcestershire
Yorkshire

Done: (0)

American States + Washington D.C.

To Do: (51)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
Washington D.C.
Wisconsin
West Virginia
Wyoming

Done: (0)

OK – now it’s over to you. Which country, county and state would you like to see next on Packabook? Scroll down to the bottom of the page and let me know in the comments…

And thanks for helping out…

Suzi

 

Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk)
2 Comments • Posted in General
From the Americas? You would be better off on our U.S. site - just click on the flag...
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