Posts Tagged ‘goreads’

Travels in India

June 29, 2011

For me, when I think about it, all books are travel books. I read because I want to travel, to experience different places, different times, different lives. My favourite book takes me to India in the 1950s, just after it gained independence. Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy is an epic read at almost 1,500 pages, but so delightful that I didn’t want it to end. It is full of vibrant colours and emotions, engaging characters and landscapes and fascinating details of Indian lives from the most impoverished to the very wealthy. The characters, including the country itself, have stayed with me and I have tried to recapture the glorious feel with other books set in India ever since.

Perhaps it wasn’t the best move to start with A Suitable Boy because I have not found a book to match it and have never read another book set in India that manages to capture such beauty and hope amidst the struggles. Tishani Doshi’s The Pleasure Seekers and Susan Kurosawa’s Coronation Talkies come close and I do love E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India and Rumer Godden’s The Peacock Spring, both set during England’s rule. Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance appears on so many favourites lists but I confess that I found it the most depressing novel I have ever read! A country of great contrasts, I’m not sure I’ll ever visit India in person, but I do love to go there in a book. I like going to China too, and England and France and Japan and……



Halo: the novelisation of games

June 28, 2011

When Star Wars: episode IV : a new hope hit the big screen in 1977 it was a huge success and led to a myriad of franchise elements – alongside clothing and toys there arose an ongoing range of novels following the exploits and adventures of the numerous characters and exploring the worlds this space opera movie series introduces. More recently it has become common practice for high grossing movies to produce a broader range of merchandise to satisfy public demand, this expansion is not just into clothing, novels and toys but also into games – for example, Pirates of the Caribbean and Avatar.

The flip of this is when a game does the reverse and produces clothing, toys, movies and novels.

When Halo: combat evolved was launched on xbox in 2001 it was a huge success and led to a massive cult following. Not only have there been more games (Halo 2, Halo Wars, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo: Reach), a dvd of short animated films (Halo Legends) and plans for a movie, but a range of novels written by noted sci-fi writers exploring much of the back-story to the world of Halo and the various characters met and played throughout the games. The true value of these novels  (The Fall of Reach,The Cole Protocol,  The Flood, First Strike, Ghosts of Onyx, Contact Harvest, and Evolutions) is the way they complement the story-line of the Halo games and satisfy public demand whilst waiting for the next game to be launched.

Halo is a space opera, the games transport players to an alien landscape which is both familiar and foreign and where the aliens species are both enemy and friend. The Halo novels allow further explorations of these landscapes, and relationships, and satisfy player demand to know more about these worlds. It’s also pretty cool that a game is so popular, among its unique audience, that it demands and gets its own novel series.


some great time travel reads

June 25, 2011

As promised in yesterday’s post, here are some of my favourite time travel reads. I tried to include something for everyone – from the geek, to the history buff, to the romantic.

my four favourites, behind the cut

tempus fugit or tempus frangit

June 24, 2011
Tempus Fugit, by flickr user Forty Two

Tempus Fugit, by flickr user Forty Two

My ultimate #goreads are about travelling not so much geographically, as temporally. Time travel provides a reading paradox, because it breaks us from our normal understanding of time as a linear thing. This is not only refreshing, but also offers a particular imaginative insight into history.

While I like history, and read a lot of historical novels it is in time travel fiction that I often find the tiny minutiae of day to day life, the banal details of the daily and the ordinary – the kind of detail that you can’t always get from history books. Time travel novels are works of fiction, born of the imagination, but there’s something about that imaginative experience that draws me in. I read for the imaginative discovery of history. As the reader, I am also a time travel protagonist… a 21st century person taking in a whole new world.

I started my time travel obsession early, with Penelope Lively’s A Stitch in Time – a wonderful slightly paranormal children’s/YA novel about a girl who forms a curious, unexplainable bond with a girl who lived in her Victorian house 100 years earlier. This novel was inspired by Penelope Lively’s love of her childhood home… and she wrote a follow up non-fiction work a few years ago exploring the living history of houses over generations.

Penelope Lively has written other ‘timeslip’ novels, as have fellow UK writer Alison Uttley, and New Zealand YA author Sheryl Jordan. It seems a very popular way of exploring time travel and history for YA readers, possibly because the idea of a time slip… suddenly, accidentally finding yourself in another time… requires no explanation, allowing readers to get right to the heart of the narrative without too much exposition.

As an adult, though, I required more answers as my obsession with time travel grew. My time travel reading explored a vast array of different theories and temporal places – from chaos theory, to genetic temporal displacement disorder, from Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America, to a secret society of time traveling cyborgs addicted to chocolate (!!!), to a medieval princess trapped in the 23rd century (a science fictional retelling of Sleeping Beauty).

It’s a great genre to dip into if you like the comical (like Jasper Fforde’s much loved Thursday Next novels), if you like historical detail, or if you just like a little bit of a mind bend, or the unexpected. And it’s a great way to experience history from both a great height (the privileged moment in which you can observe a great moment in history, as it happens – but with the luxury of hindsight) and from the often benighted, murky depths of those who must live through history as it happens. The contrast between these two experiences is, I think, the thing that I love best.

So whether you like your fictional universes explained in convoluted detail, or are just happy to suddenly have a fresh 20th or 21st century perspective on the past, I suggest giving time travel a try.

Tomorrow I’ll share some of my favourite titles and authors.


Eighty Years of Tintin and Still Travelling

June 22, 2011

For eighty years, Herge’s Tintin books have been a formative reading experience for most kids. And for many children, it is Tintin that first introduces them to the life of reporters, travelling the world and solving mysteries along the way. His adventures saw him visit the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and even the Moon. But for Tintin, it was not about the journey. It was the story he had to write. The setting was incidental and understanding the culture and terrain went along with solving and reporting his mystery.  And for many avid fans following Tintin’s travels becomes a planning guide for their own journeys.

Vol 714 Pour Sydney

Tintin never reached Australia. He had all intentions to get to Sydney but somehow, in the investigative Tintin way, after he took off from Jakarta his plane made an unscheduled stop on a Dutch East Indies island instead. Thankfully, Tintin, in the form of books, did get to Australia. And whether you owned his books, borrowed them from a friend or discovered them at the library, the foreign correspondent resplendent in plus fours, a long beige coat and his wire fox terrier remains one of literature’s instantly recognisable characters.


Armed with an Atlas

June 21, 2011

I am innately curious about the world around me (makes sense that I’m a Reference Librarian then). I love watching Global Village and will often organise dinner around when it is on TV so I can sit down and watch. I love the fact that I can watch it on SBS1 and then flip to SBS2 and watch a previous show that I may have missed (or watch it again if I’ve already seen it).  Exploring a country (sometimes my own) from the comfort of my lounge chair is a relaxing and rewarding experience and seems to satisfy a deep need to know things within myself.

But I simply cannot watch Global Village without my handy 20+ year old Atlas beside my chair as I like to know the exact location of the show in relation to the rest of the world. When watching shows like Ice Truckers I rely on the topography maps in my atlas to help me appreciate the isolation and dangers being faced by the truck drivers in this show – to put everything I’m seeing into context. Food Safari, Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam, Jamie does…., any cooking show which explores the culture and cuisine of another country is guaranteed to find me sitting there with my handy dog-eared Atlas on my lap pinpointing precisely where in the world that little town or country is.

Let’s be honest, sit me down in front of a documentary and lo and behold I’ll grab my Atlas and have it open before 5 minutes have passed – I’ve even told my family they can buy me a new one for my birthday! Next to the family dictionary it’s the most used book in the house – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. An Atlas opens up the world around us in ways that are suprising, unique, and oddly informative – and a great way for the whole family, not just me, to learn about and explore the world.


Have eReader – Will Travel

June 18, 2011

or how my holiday luggage was liberated

Back in 1993, I travelled across Mexico for 3 weeks with my sister and a friend. I left Australia with 7 kgs in my backpack. I travel light. I had 2 books with me. My Lonely Planet Mexico and a novel (I am sure – yet I cannot recall the title). When I was boarding the plane to fly home my backpack was in excess of 20kg. Apart from 1 rug, 1 hammock & 1 dress, all the extra kilos were books that I had accumulated, and read, during my 3 week holiday. I had scoured bookshops, bought travel brochures from different archaeological museums and I picked up a number of discarded novels at youth hostels and resorts, as is the habit with many travellers.

Subsequent travels through Europe were no different. I would leave home with minimal luggage and I would return laden with books. On one particular trip I had so many that I mailed them, cargo style, on a 3 month ship journey as I couldn’t afford the excess luggage cost. I love reading but, en masse, it is a heavy, space consuming habit.

Last year, however, I bought an eReader while I was overseas. I loaded it up with over 80 books. Some were freebies and others were loans through my local library’s ebook lending scheme. And though I still went into a few bookshops, specialist shops, second hand shops and market stalls, I no longer needed to buy books to keep me going through a holiday. I still bought museum guides or special editions such as a collection of poetry from Wordsworth’s home in the Lakes District in England.  But for my fiction reading, I stuck to my eReader and the liberty of less weight in my luggage.

Did I read all 80 books? No. But I did read quite a few and some of those books were so enjoyable I went out and bought myself a print keeper copy.  And though, now that I am at home I rarely use my eReader due to preferring the tactile pleasure of printed books, when a weekend away is coming up or I am planning a holiday, I load up the eReader and take out the smaller suitcase.


Lord of the rings

June 17, 2011

What does Lord of the rings by J R R Tolkien have to do with travel?

Quite a lot as most of the characters spend a substantial amount of time travelling to different locations, as it is a journey through the landscape as well as through ideas.  The travel is not fast as it is often on foot, through difficult, often threatening environments.

Another way you can explore the story is by playing Lord of the rings online, which is loosely based on the novels. This game involves lots of traveling too.

Lord of the Rings Online™

What are your favourite fantasy novels which involve travel, discovery and exploration?



June 16, 2011

June 16 is Bloomsday – celebrating James Joyce’s classic work, Ulysses

The events of Ulysses follow the novel’s protagonist, Leopold Bloom, throughout his travels around Dublin on June 16 1904. Since 1954 fans of Ulysses have recreated this day, complete with period dress, readings of the novel (sometimes taking up to 36 hours to complete) and other activities to celebrate Joyce’s homage to Dublin.

I will be the first to admit that Ulysses is not an easy book to read. Yet the sense of achievement once completed is well worth the effort. Joyce’s style is complex, rich and confronting. The novel starts the morning with Stephen Dedalus atop a tower and ends with Molly Bloom in bed that night. It moves from a simple straightforward dialogue, to a series of vignettes, from a play script, to a rich stream of consciousness with absolutely no punctuation whatsoever. Throughout it strongly reflects the story of  Odysseus on which it is loosely based.

Beyond the language and the story and the characters of Ulysses though is the evocative depiction of Dublin itself, perhaps the true hero of the piece. This is the Dublin of 1904: dark, begrimed, industrial; filled with death and life and laughter and longing. A simple city, a city of character, a home.  It fills the backdrop to the events of the novel, sinuously working its way into the heart and soul of the reader. Regardless of what you are left feeling about the novel or the characters, Ulysses pays homage to Dublin in such a way that you feel richer for having visited.

[For those of you though who simply cannot face the daunting task of reading Ulysses there have been a number of film adaptations, the latest (2003) of which was Bloom, starring Stephen Rea.]


The sandalwood tree by Ellie Newmark

June 15, 2011
This book alternates between two love stories set nearly a century apart, and set against the backdrop of India. The first story is about an academic historian, Martin Mitchell and his wife Evie Mitchell, who, in 1946, travel with their young son to India, so Martin can document the end of British rule. The couple are having martial problems, and hope the move to India will help to solve these. While exploring her new residence, Evie stumbles across some correspondence between Adela Winfield and Felicity Chadwick, two ladies who lived in the same bungalow back in 1858.
You then get taken back to the 1800’s and discover more about Adela and Felicity’s unconvention life of living in India unchaperoned and unmarried. Adela has been exiled to India for a misdemeanor in England, and ordered to find a husband, and joins Felicity, who having been born in India, has returned to her land of birth to escape the conventions of Victorian society. She has subsequently fallen in love with a married Indian sikh.
Returning to Evie’s story, her fascination with the two women grows, and she finds their story helping her to solve issues in her own life.
This is a fascinating and enjoyable read, with two compelling stories which make you want to keep reading to find out what happens next. In the process, you find out interesting facts about life and times in two periods of Indian history, under British rule and during the partition of Pakistan.

Newmark paints a vivid picture, capturing the sight, sounds and smells of India, as well as conveying a great understanding of Indian culture. There are themes of mystery and love, friendship and betrayal.  A really good read!