Friday, September 05, 2014

More on Reading Fiction for Travel: Reading for Scotland

No less a travel expert than Anthony Bourdain recommends reading fiction about your destination:

On the plane, I like to read fiction set in the location I'm going to. Fiction is in many ways more useful than a guidebook, because it gives you those little details, a sense of the way a place smells, an emotional sense of the place.
Of course, he uses the example of Graham Greene's "The Quiet American" as suitable reading for a trip to Vietnam. I'm prepared to go much lower brow in a quest for that "sense of place."

So, in honor of the highlands, the new STARZ tv series shot at many beautiful locations, and an special offer, I decided to give "Outlander" a try. I'd known about this series for some time, and stayed away as romance novels aren't my thing. Also, I'm always suspicious of long, multi-volume fantasy epics, and they too often spin on forever without actually getting anywhere. While there are things I do like about the story, I kind of wish I'd stuck to my prejudices.

In the plus column, I'm a sucker for time travel. Better yet, the story takes place in two historical timelines, as Claire is transported from her life as a former WWII nurse to Scotland of the Jacobite rising (circa 1745). I sense the bones of a good story, but for me the romance tropes get in the way. Bodices are ripped, cut, and simply unlaced. There's arranged marriage, and hurt-comfort too. I would much prefer the emphasis to be on the adventure and the history, with the romance in the background.

If I liked romance novels, I'd probably like this one. As it is, I think I'll probably finish the audiobook and stick with the show, but I don't plan on grabbing up the next volume in the series.

Glencoe, Scotland, UK, 1966
Upper Glencoe, Scotland, 1966
The "destination reads" I have been enjoying are the first two books in the "Shetland Island Quartet." I've already posted about "Dead Water," which is actually the 5th of Ann Cleeves' mystery novels set in the Shetland Islands. I've recently finished "Raven Black," the first in the series, and am now working on "White Nights," with two more left to save for the plane trip. These are atmospheric mystery stories; interesting characters with a lot of forward, page-turning drive to the reading experience.

I've also decided to start Bernard Cornwall's series on the consolidation of 9th century England. It's not Scotland, I know, but we'll be visiting areas that were once essentially viking bases, so there is a distinct tie there. Book One of the Saxon Tales is "The Last Kingdom." As a long time fan of Sharpe series, I'm anticipating good things, but I'll let you know if it lives up to my hopes!


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