Wild Awake Week: Reading a Book Set Where I Live

Today we have a guest post from Lindsay at Me on Books. Lindsay reflects on what it’s like to read a book set in your own backyard. In this case, Vancouver B.C.

Reading a Book Set Where I Live

Books take us to a number of different places. Bright and busy cities filled with so many people you might as well be invisible. Distant deserts where the wind brushes away your footprints so quickly it’s like you were never there. Jungles thick and lush with impossibly tall trees and leaves so broad you could almost float down the river on one. But reading a book set where you live? That’s a whole different story

Hilary T. Smith’s Wild Awake is not my first foray into reading a book set in the general area in which I live (the rainy, tree-filled, slightly mountainous southwest corner of British Columbia). When I do read a book set in and around Vancouver, even set in B.C., there’s some kind of unspoken connection between the book and I. It’s where I live, I love living here, and I want to share it with other people. I wonder if it’s a Canadian thing.

Still, reading a book set where you live can be a bit strange. At least, in a sense. Reading, at times, for a lot of people, is escaping. It’s a way of letting go of all the stress and worry of real life and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, walking a completely different path instead of your own for a couple of hours. Wild Awake is different in that it’s not a fantasy world, not London at the turn of the century, not the far reaches of space and time. It’s somewhere you’ve been, somewhere close, somewhere personal, and suddenly there’s this new connection between you and the book that not everyone will have.

The setting becomes rather otherworldly, existing in the real world but also between the covers of a book so the reader is caught at the threshold between reality and fiction. Take Harry Potter, for example. After the first movie came out, a sign was put up between platforms 9 and 10 at King’s Cross Station, proclaiming it was ‘Platform 9 & ¾.’ That sign gives an otherwise plain and ordinary wall a sense of magic, a sense that the real world is more extraordinary than we think. Perhaps anything that happens between the covers of a book is indeed possible.

Of course, when you read a book set where you live, contemporary or fantasy, you really hope the author gets it right. When the setting is a real place, a real town or city, authenticity is key. The sights, the smells, the buildings, the cultures, the weather, the people. Everything must feel real or else it’s not believable. As it’s fiction, the reader can allow the author to take certain liberties, make a small tweak here or there, but when you read it you hope it’s really close to how you remember it.

I don’t live directly in Kiri Byrd’s Vancouver, but I know it. I’ve seen the bright lights of the downtown core, the vibrant colours and wonderful smells of Chinatown, the loud music of clubs galore, the winding roads and the mysterious forest of Stanley Park, the mountains to the north and the city to the south as you look out from the Granville Street Bridge. Vancouver is an entertaining city, a dangerous city, a welcoming city. It’s a city of cyclists and musicians, artists and comedians, authors and poets, vegans and eco-activists.

Reading a book set where we live opens our eyes to parts we never knew existed, streets we walk past without a second glance, shops with hidden treasures inside that only few know about. We read to discover, and what’s more exciting than discovering something new about where you live?

Me on Books

And that’s a wrap on our #WildAwakeWeek! You have one more day to tweet or instagram your bike pictures to @HCCFrenzy using the hashtag #bikesinthewild to win copies of Wild Awake for you and four friends!

@HCCFrenzy team

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Canadian publishing professionals and bloggers. Looking for savvy readers to talk books with us!

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