The Sunday Salon – Armchair Traveling


The Sunday

With spring, my fancy turns to travel…something about blue skies and warm breezes stirs the wanderlust in me, and I find myself with a persistent urge to jump in the car, open wide the sun roof, set the cruise control, and drive.

Alas, I have had to be content with armchair traveling this week, and lucky for me, my assortment of reading has been most helpful in that regard.  The week began with a summer in Greece, courtesy of  Roseanne Keller’s novel, A Summer All Her Own.  The plot was rather trite (a recent widow finds new purpose to her life whilst spending the summer on a remote Greek Island), but the scenery and atmosphere was nicely done.   The novel’s heroine, Anna Sandoval, spends hours of time sunning herself, swimming topless in the Aegean, drinking wine on her bougainvillea covered terrace, and rediscovering her inner artiste with sketch pad and pencils.  Sweet, no?

After my sojourn with Anna had ended, seeing her safely back at her home in Georgetown and launched on her long awaited career as an artist, I found myself in San Francisco, mid-1980’s, amidst A Collection of Beauties at the Height of their Popularity.  This rather interesting novel by Whitney Otto,  is a series of vignette like tales centering around a group of 30 something women and men who congregate night after night in the Youki Singe Tea Room.  Over the course of a year, their lives become conjoined in convoluted and unexpected ways, their relationships as much of a jumble as the decor of their favorite haunt, which was an “eccentric combination of…kitsch cliches and genuinely lovely elements.”  Come to think of it, that is a perfect description of the book itself. 

Lastly, I traveled across the pond to Dorset, to P.D. James country, where Commander Adam Dalgleish and his team find themselves ensconced in a stately country home cum private clinic, where a patient has died in mysterious, and decidedly unnatural circumstances (The Private Patient).   As usual, James’ dense, detailed prose sets the scene impeccably, and I could just feel the chill of the December air and smell the moist earth around the mist-enshrouded stone circle.   I didn’t dare take this one up without a piping hot cuppa tea by my side.

So, having closed the book on my armchair traveling for the week, I must now peruse the stacks and see what adventures next await.  I can tell you that several nice, new things are in the pile…Paola Kaufman’s The Sister arrived in the mail last week, and along with it, Afternoons With Emily, by Rose MacMurray.  Both these books are novels about Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite American poets.   The Sister comes highly recommended, while Afternoons With Emily was ordered purely on impulse. 

I also have an ARC copy of Coventry, which I’m quite excited to read.  A slender novel by Helen Humphries, it “captures brilliantly the terror of one of the most infamous bombing raids of the Second World War,” and specifically, the effects of one violent night on the lives of three people…Harriet Marsh; a young “fire watcher” named Jeremy; and his artist mother, Maeve. 

Now tell me, have you done any traveling this week – literally, or of the armchair variety?


8 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon – Armchair Traveling

  1. I liked The Private Patient, too. Will miss Dalgliesh. PD James certainly knows her folklore, and how to create atmosphere. Heard good things about The Sister; will enjoy reading your take on it. Also, I’ve left you something on my blog, if you do that sort of thing (don’t sweat it if you don’t; it’s fine).

  2. You had quite a busy week, it seems. I wished I could read as much as you. It’s just so impressive. I am struggling with two books right now that will take me a long time to finish: The Sufis by Idries Shah, and The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky by Sylvia Cranston. I’m in no hurry with the Sufis, because it is such a dense and marvelous book and I want to enjoy and ponder over each paragraph, but the Blavatsky book has me a little too bored to want to finish.

    Anyway, I’ll be waiting for your reviews of the Emily Dickinson books. I feel I should read those.

  3. I’ve been all about armchair travelling this week! I haven’t really read much in the nonfiction travel genre, but that’s all I’ve been exploring for the past few days. I got several anthologies, which I like because they give me a taste of so many different writers.

    I’m also in the middle of The 8.55 to Baghdad, a travel book written in 2003 in which the author follows Agatha Christie’s journey on the Orient Express. So far, I think the parts about Christie are really neat, but I’m not a huge fan of the author’s personality (i.e.: his reaction to the places he visits).

  4. Spring Fever and the traveling bug have both hit me hard lately. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get away just yet. Soon, I hope. Until then, books will have to do. Right now, I’m in 1940s Louisiana with Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying. Not exactly uplifting, but…

  5. That’s a lot of travelling and reading for one week, the journey sounds very appealing and however ‘sweet’ the trip to Greece sounds just the thing! My own ‘travelling’ is just as haphazard, from Egypt (Mahfouz) to Russia (Child 44), to India (currentlyon the bedside table is The White Tiger) and in between I am trying to get my head around what really happened in the Credit Crunch: Vince Cable’s Storm Clouds… Now, like you, I’d love to do the real thing: pack a suitcase and go somewhere really exciting!

  6. What lovely books! I like the sound of A Collection of Beauties. This week I’ve stayed in Great Britain, with my biography of the Mitford sisters (lots of fun) and Wilkie Collins’ No Name (huge but also lots of fun). But I’m planning a trip to South Africa soon with Doris Lessing! 🙂

  7. Why do divorcees/widows/jilted lovers always wind up in Greece/Paris/Rome? Don’t any of them go to Peoria to find themselves? 🙂
    p.s. I’m journeying across 18th and 19th Century France in Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France.

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