We read and write to visit places in our mind. I’ve been inspired to visit cities because of books I’ve read, and I’ve been inspired to write about places I’ve lived.
India – Venice – Paris
These three places are exotic and familiar to me at the same time. I remember the first time I visited each one. First, when I traveled to Paris as a high school student only to be overwhelmed by the traffic and at the same time very proud of my terrible French phrases. In college, I lived in Venice for a semester, luxuriating in daily life, getting to know a genuine food market, walking everywhere with no car in sight, and appreciating old buildings. I journeyed to India for the first time in my thirties. Exotic is an understatement, but very quickly I grew to love the country and knew I would return many times. Since then, I’ve revisited all three of these places in books whenever I can’t be there in person.
Heat, mystery, and adventure
There are many excellent books set in India, too many to list, however, three rank high for me in terms of how they transport me with the pages. Sujata Massey’s series began with The Widows of Malabar Hill and the introduction of attorney Perveen Mistry, one of the first female lawyers in India. Perveen finds herself drawn into mystery after mystery, usually tied to her championing of women’s rights. The entire series is a peek behind the veil of 1930s Bombay.
Another of my favorite mystery series set in India is written by Tarquin Hall. Centered around Vish Puri, “India’s most accomplished detective,” the books are charming. If you love Alexander McCall Smith, this is a series for you.
The third book on my in-love-with-India list is the epic novel Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. I read this during my first trip to Delhi and was partly convinced it was memoir not fiction. The epic adventure (epic is an understatement) touches upon the lives of prostitutes, rag men, soldiers, and exiles from other countries, as we follow the life of an escaped convict with a false passport who has arrived from Australia. A remarkable story for a remarkable country.
This has been a long year of armchair-only travel, yet now, when we can actually go places again, I still enjoy books that take me away in an instant. War and Peace whisks me to Russia under threat of Napoleon (good reading during the current heat wave), Jane Austin sends me to a country village in England, and The Martian will forever be the closest I’ll get to space travel. What books take you away? Share them with us on Facebook and Twitter.