Girl with a Pearl Earring
I never knew that I wanted to visit Delft until I read this book. I could not have been more sucked into the writing of this book, full of colours and silence. The story is full of descriptions of the market and the houses, canals and paintings as the heroine makes her way through the big bad world. There is another book that I read at manuscript stage: Eye of the Beholder by Laura Snyder. This is also centered around Delft and the Art of Seeing. It's on my destination list in a big way.
Shadow of the Wind
A little magical realism to spice up the list, Shadow of the Wind takes you to Spain. The real Barcelona is magical enough if you ask me, but this book puts a touch of devilish dust onto it. There is a thrill when ever you recognise a reference to Las Ramblas or the route that a character takes around the park. It's a brilliant book, but its setting in Barcelona is what really drew me to it (as I was living there at the time).
With a book this big, how can it not evoke the place. This, and Behind The Beautiful Forevers by Kathrine Boo, focus largely on the slums or prisons of Bombay and therefore do not immediately draw the reader into wanting to go there. However, descriptions of industry, community and FOOD are clear lures to bring you closer to the city. More than anything there is this tourist taboo, basically if you're going to India, LIVE there. Get stuck in. Terrifying, full of crime and grime, but somehow the most intriguing country. Furthermore, Karl Pilkington, the most miserable man in the world, when asked which country he liked the most, said India. If that's not an endorsement I don't know what is.
You can read my review of Shantaram here. And Behind The Beautiful Forevers here.
... of course. It has to be on the list, but it is by no means my favourite. I have never read it through in its entirety, but if it wasn't on here, I'd be told off. The idea was to be able to rebuild Dublin if it were to be wiped off the map. The book itself is not readable, but it does capture Dublin; in the most meticulous and frankly tedious way. The fun thing is James Joyce wrote the majority (all of?) the book while in Paris and had to send a friend to find out if the wall at the end of such and such a street would be climb-able and what its exact measurements were. #Unfriend.
I read this a long long time ago but was immediately drawn in to the world of Halide's konak and the story of her childhood and growing up into an influential figure in Istanbul. It's mainly based in Old Istanbul, but a glimpse of the feel of a rapidly expanding city is already coming through. Its brilliant company if you've got time to wander around the streets and hills of the city. It's also interesting to read about the city from a woman's perspective at the time, and having that juxtaposed against the female movers and shakers today.
Death in Venice
I studied this bad boy at University and my fabulously groundbreaking teacher had us create a google map of all of the places that the character Gustav von Aschenbach mentions or goes to. What a brilliant way to immerse the class into the sense of place that the book creates. HOWEVER, much of the book is centred around the festering and stinking city in stagnant water and a similarly failing love. It's not much of an incentive to visit, but what a book to put you right in the middle of all that water. I still want to visit, perhaps find a sickly and pale boy in a sailor suit of my very own.
What's your favourite book about/set in a city?
After I wrote this post I went home from work and was feeling sad, and down, and like my life was not the full rainbow that it is. I've booked my flights to Madrid. Any books about Madrid you can suggest other than the Lonely Planet?