Sunday, May 11, 2014

Book talk: I read because I travel and I travel because I read

Not too long ago, I read one of the most marvellous historical YA fiction novels ever.

The book, which is called Revolution, and is about, ahem, a revolution (in this case the French one), features two heroines from two different eras who are connected to each other in ways that overlap in the most unexpected ways.

Now, if you've read Sepulchre or Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (another author whose work I adore), you'll know that she's fond of employing a dual-narrative structure, alternating between the past and present; telling the stories through the eyes of two different women.

Revolution is a novel that employs a similar tactic; one that I'm becoming increasingly fond of. The juxtaposition between cities and landscapes of today, against the backdrop of a yesteryear-come-to-life is something that makes me want to relive that in all of its contemporary and historical glory.

Revolution took me to a world both brutal and beautiful. It's a world where the settings of the story become the catalyst for the modern day heroine's healing.

It's a story of music and its composers (from Bach to Radiohead), and a story of lost kings and street art performers. The novel is imbued with a Paris both alive with promise and rotting with death. It's a time of anarchy and a time of art.

The scents, smells and sounds leapt off of the page, leaving me with a desperate longing to be there.

Yes.

Amidst both the beauty and the tragedy (You can read the rest of my review here).

Doesn't the best kind of novels do that? Make you long to escape the dreary and mundane world we live in? And isn't that why we read? 

Originally sourced from Pinterest
Because we get to live more than one life, while astral projecting many versions of ourselves into different worlds; from contemporary settings (which is the closest to our reality), to the world of make-believe we often encounter in fantasy and science fiction.

Some people say that physical travelling beats escapist reading, but that's because most of the people I've come across who've said that, are people who don't read.

Sure, I can see the merit in physically putting your feet on foreign soil. Basking in all the new sights and sounds, and embracing the wonder of what an exotic culture brings… it's definitely something that I would love to do.

But, since I'm not in the financial position to do so at the moment, I thought I'd focus on the advantages of fictional travel and why there are some things that make this means of travel far better than physical travel.

1. It's cheaper.
  While you obviously still need to pay for books (and I'm talking to those people who support authors and the book industry by buying the books and NOT ILLEGALLY DOWNLOADING THEM - a column which I'll definitely be writing about some time) - in comparison to booking flights, sorting out your visa, paying for accommodation and food - books are the cheapest form of pleasure-travelling you can find. 

2. You can go back anytime you want. Sure it applies both ways, but the one doesn't require that you pay for it a second time.  Sometimes, you don’t even have to pay at all – not when there are so many libraries which you can go to.

3. All the world in one room. Be it your own house filled with an impressive collection of books residing on your shelves, or stepping foot into the library, you have instantaneous access to whichever place you want to be.

And as one advert put it, you really do have the world at your fingertips. 

4. No packing. Unless, you’re unpacking and repacking your bookshelves for the sake of reorganising it. Which, actually, is more therapeutic than trying to ensure that you have everything you need for your trip to Saudi Arabia.

5.  The only dilemmas you have to deal with are the story arcs and your feels about them.
In real life, and in tangible places, you can go through anything from getting sick and losing your ID (oh the horrors of that), to having your luggage stolen and dealing with rude locals who refuse to explain how to get from point A to point B.

I really could go on, but I won’t because I’d rather hear from you.  What’s the last book that had you feeling the same way I did? And what was it about it that made you long to travel to that book world?

Disclaimer:
This column originally appeared as part of Women24’s monthly book club newsletter. Keen to receive this as a monthly newsletter in your own inbox? You can subscribe here.

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