Given how serious the COVID-19 situation is, it looks like we won’t be able to travel anywhere soon. While this obviously puts a damper in our plans for the summer, it goes without saying that this is a very important situation that we can’t take lightly, and it’s better to stay home than risk infecting ourselves and others. Thankfully for us readers, however, we have a secret weapon: books! Books are able to transport us anywhere in the world at any time! Below, we’ve rounded up some books that have such a strong sense of place that it will make you feel like you’ve been whisked away and are traveling the globe!
The Girl He Left Behind by Beatrice MacNeil
Since we’re based out of Canada, we thought we’d kick things off with a good ol’ fashioned road trip to the East Coast. Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in fact! 15 years ago, Willow Alexander was left at the altar by Graham. Confused and devastated, Willow remains in the small town of Glenmor in Cape Breton, caring for her ailing parents and nursing her heartache. Soon after her 40th birthday, Willow finds out that Graham is returning to town, without his new wife, after years of working as a doctor in New York City. As Willow grapples with her emotions, wondering how she will deal with Graham’s arrival, tragedy strikes again: her dear friend, Kathleen, and her husband, local doctor James Millhouse, are found dead. Willow was the last one to see the couple on the night they died and fears that she may have accidently had a hand in their deaths.
The War Widow by Tara Moss
From the East Coast to the Southern he next stop on our global reading tour is glamorous Sydney, Australia! The war may be officially over, but journalist-turned-private-eye Billie Walker’s search for a missing young German immigrant plunges her right back into the danger and drama she thought she’d left behind in Europe, and the mystery and intrigue goes all the way to the top… The War Widow is a thrilling tale of courage and secrets set in glamorous post-war Sydney.
The Summer Villa by Melissa Hill
After Sydney, we’ll be headed to Italy – the Amalfi Coast, in particular – with the help of the quaint, lovely The Summer Villa. Villa Dolce Vita, a rambling stone house on the Amalfi Coast, sits high above the Gulf of Naples amid dappled lemon groves and fragrant, tumbling bougainvillea. Kim, Colette and Annie all came to the villa in need of escape and in the process forged an unlikely friendship. Now, years later, Kim has transformed the crumbling house into a luxury retreat and has invited her friends back for the summer to celebrate. But as friendships are rekindled under the Italian sun, secrets buried in the past will come to light, and not everyone is happy that the three friends are reuniting… Each woman will have things to face up to if they are all to find true happiness and fully embrace the sweet life.
The Library of Legends by Janie Chang
The next stop on our reading world tour is the lush and vivid landscapes of China that Janie Chang so expertly transports us to in her brilliant new novel The Library of Legends. From the author of Three Souls and Dragon Springs Road, The Library of Legends is a captivating historical novel in which a convoy of student refugees travel across China, fleeing the hostilities of a brutal war with Japan.
Midnight Train to Prague by Carol Windley
After our trip to China, we’re jumping on the Midnight Train to Prague for another brief foray into Europe. In 1927, as Natalia Faber travels from Berlin to Prague with her mother, their train is delayed in Saxon Switzerland. In this time, Natalia learns the truth about her father and meets a remarkable woman named Dr. Magdalena Schaefferová. Shaken by these truths, Natalia arrives at a spa on the shore of Lake Hevíz in Hungary. Here, she meets the journalist and writer Miklós Count Andorján. In time, they will marry, and Natalia will devote herself to life on a rural estate in Hungary. When war breaks out in Europe, Natalia loses contact with Miklós. She believes they are to meet in Prague, a city under Nazi occupation. She sets up shop as a fortune teller with a pack of Tarot cards. In this guise, she meets Magdalena Schaefferová’s young daughter, Anna. Accused by the Nazis of spying, Natalia is sent to a concentration camp. In April 1945, Natalia and Anna are reunited, and with courage and determination, find the strength to begin again in a changed world. We believe that the very best historical fiction transports you to a time and a place, and this one does exactly that.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Ready for our next globe-trotting adventure? This time, we’re leaving Europe behind in favour of a narrative that spans the globe, from a remote hotel in the forests outside Vancouver, to the bustling metropolis of New York City, and finally to the wide oceans off the coast of Mauritania. From the award-winning author of Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel is a captivating novel of money, beauty, white-collar crime, ghosts and moral compromise in which a woman disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania and a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York, dragging countless fortunes with it.
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
For the next stop on our world tour, we’re heading to beautiful Pink City of Jaipur, India. Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel. And, bonus for all us Savvy Readaers, The Henna Artist is the latest Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club pick! Oh, and we forgot to mention that Alka Joshi stopped by our Facebook group and shared her recipe for samosas! Check it out here. But be warned: you will be immediately hungry.
The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin
We’re concluding our trip around the world (from the comfort of our reading nooks!) with a quick stop in Paris! When bookshop owner Sarah Smith is offered the opportunity for a job exchange with her Parisian friend Sophie, saying yes is a no-brainer. Sarah is sure she’s in for the experience of a lifetime. Plus, now she can meet up with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge, when his job takes him around the globe. Soon after landing in Paris, she feels like a fish out of water. The customers are rude, her new coworkers suspicious and her relationship has been reduced to a long-distance game of phone tag, leaving Sarah to wonder if he’ll ever put her first over his busy career. As Christmas approaches, Sarah is determined to get the shop—and her life—back in order…and make her dreams of a Parisian happily-ever-after come true.
There you have it, Savvy Readers. From Canada to Australia, Italy to China, Prague to Vancouver and New York City, Mauritania to India, and Paris to boot, we’ve done some serious traveling and need to have a bit of a lie down. In the meantime, where should we go next? What was the last book that transported you to an entirely new place and time? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @SavvyReader!