Thursday, September 22, 2016

Booking Through Thursday – ‘Location’

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In real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. But how about books? Does where a book is set affect your reading choices? Are you more or less likely to read books set in places you know or love?
Question from
Deb on September 22, 2016

I would say yes on both points. Where (and also when!) a book is set does affect my choice whether to read it; probably more often than I’m conscious of. 

For example, I usually do feel a lot more “at home” reading British books compared to American. (I’ve never been to the US, but travelled nearly all over Britain on family holidays back in my teens.) And, thinking about it, with Swedish books too I suspect I’m probably often drawn to the kind of settings (landscapes) that I feel I can easily visualize in my head. (On the other hand I sometimes feel that too detailed descriptions, depending too much on the exact location of real streets and buildings in big cities, can be rather tiresome, whether I’ve been there or not.)

But of course, sometimes it’s the other way round too, and I get interested in reading a book set in a foreign country precisely because I realize I know very little about it, and hope to learn more.

A memory pops up while I’m thinking about all this - from a holiday to Germany back in the 1980’s, while I was studying German at the university. It was my first trip to Germany at all, and it was in late August or even beginning of September, which means I missed the first week or so of the term (but I had asked permission). To somewhat make up for that absence, I had brought one of the study course novels with me: Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers / The Sorrows of Young Werther. I remember it as a rather special experience to sit outdoors and read this particular book, and look up and find myself overlooking the very landscape where it was set - the valley of the river Lahn, which was where I happened to be staying. (Not the exact spot where Goethe sat, perhaps… But close enough!)

15 comments:

  1. This certainly got me thinking. I enjoy books set in places I have never been. If I have been to the location I find I question many tiny details in the story.

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    1. An interesting aspect, Louise! :) I'm not sure I have ever read a book set in a place that I know so intimately as to really question tiny details in someone else's description... (And if it happened, I'd probably put it down to the author doing it on purpose. Like inventing 221B Baker Street...)

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  2. I do enjoy reading books set in places I have visited or where I have lived (California, Wisconsin, Paris, Istanbul, Great Britain), and also like reading books set in places I have not been (like India, Botswana, Sicily and Laos for some of my favorite series).

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    1. Botswana would be the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, I'm guessing...? ;) I have read all of those too and enjoyed them, even though I've never been to Africa. (But then again, the author is still British - even if he also lived in Botswana... hmm...)

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  3. I think this book is considered a classic. It would be great to go to the location of a favorite book! We have done this before. Well, it was a movie taken from a book, and it was filmed here locally. Also the movie "Bruce almighty" They built an exact replica of the Ark. They built it here and filmed the Ark scenes here. So many gawkers bothering the film set! Me being one of them!

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  4. Strange that "Leiden" was translated "sorrows" and not "sufferings", but then again, suffering is something more influenced from outside a person, while sorrows more often have their origin in a person's mind, which was very clearly the case for young Werther.

    Back to the original question: Yes, I definitely am interested in reading books set in places (and times) I can relate to, but not exclusively. For instance, I always like island settings - the idea of confined space, of having to "make do" with that spae and the very same (few) people all the time is really intriguing. Therefore, if I come across a book that is, say, a mystery set on a small island somewhere I've never been, I'll still want to read it.
    Hardly surprising, I like books set in Yorkshire - my second home :-)

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    1. Meike, I just copied the English title from the English Wiki page (having looked it up in German first - I often find that to be the quickest way to find out things like that!) (I'm not sure I've ever had reason to write about Goethe's Werther in English before!)
      I agree with you about island settings. For example, I think I might well have wanted to read Peter May's crime trilogy (set in the Hebrides) even if I hadn't already known "the setting" from GB's blog... (But while reading, the author's descriptions mingled in my mind with scenery that already seemed familiar to me even though I've never physically set foot on those islands.)

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  5. Usually I prefer my crime set in the UK rather than USA and in the past I would tend to avoid fiction set in certain countries, like India and most of Africa, because I knew so little about the culture and geography. M M Kaye changed all that! Her writing is so good and she manages to teach one about the environment and culture at the same time as telling a good crime story.

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    1. Now I'll have to look up M M Kaye...

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    2. And I did, and found there is no Swedish version of the Wiki page; which probably means her books weren't translated into Swedish, which gives me an excuse for never having heard of her... :)

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  6. I like to read books set in places I know and don't know! I enjoy the best of both worlds ♥

    summerdaisycottage.blogspot.com

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  7. Well that was a surprise. I would have answered in the negative but, in fact, I probably do take location into account in certain circumstances.

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    1. That's how my thoughts went when I first read the question, Graham!

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