Monday, February 04, 2013

A Sense of Place

What book evokes the best sense of place you can remember. What author took you to a city or country or suburbia and made you feel like you had walked the streets?

I am choosing THE BLACKHOUSE by Peter May. He takes us to the Outer Hebrides in an extremely memorable way. Other suggestions include ROGUE MALE (Household) and Charles Todd's THE CONFESSION in Essex' marsh country. And finally Graham Swift WATERLAND in the fens.
These are all British settings. What are some other setting that are especially well evoked. 

31 comments:

Dana King said...

This i an easy one for me. Adrian McKinty's THE COLD COLD GROUND, which I read last week. Wonderful book, and placed me in Northern Ireland during the Troubles to a sometimes disturbing degree.

Jerry House said...

It's a place I've never been and a place that never could be, but my vote goes to P. G. Wodehouse's Blandings Castle.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

And my vote goes to Jerry's choice of Blandings Castle. It's the best in the Wodehouse series.

RkR said...

ISLANDIA by Austin Tappan Wright, GRAPES OF WRATH by Steinbeck (his OF MICE AND MEN also), the THREE PINES books by Louise Penny.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Louise Penny is a master at this. I just pushed one of her books into my friend's hands. I had forgotten all about ISLANDIA-great evocation. Have never read Wodehouse-I know I should be put in a corner. And same for McKinty.

Anonymous said...

Pat Conroy for the Low Country in The Water is Wide and The Prince of Tides.

Ian Rankin for Edinburgh.

Anonymous said...

Jackie says The Night of 400 Rabbits by Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels), set in the Arizona desert. It made her want to go there.

I'd add Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere for London and Donald Westlake's Dancing Aztecs for NYC.

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Great question! Annie Proulx's The Shipping News (and her Wyoming books); Le Guin's Always Coming Home; Bailey White's Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living; John Straley's mysteries set in Alaska; Louise Penny; Elly Griffiths for Norfolk tidal flats; Virginia Woolf in To The Lighthouse.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Mark Twain for the Mississippi in Huck Finn and Life on the Mississippi.
Frank Baum for Oz (Not so easy to create an alternate universe that feels familiar, Laura Ingalls Wilder for life on the prairie.
I see here I have missed some great ones.

Randy Johnson said...

I have to agree on Ian Rankin's Edinbuurgh. Reading his books takes me to a place different from what i know and expresses it so well. i would love to visit.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I read a lot of Rankin early on but have let many slip by me. Have to get on it.

RkR said...

There is a wonderful book you might try sometime, SPIRIT OF PLACE by Lawrence Durrell. Also his BITTER LEMONS. Both "travel books" in a way.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Read JUSTINE by him years ago. And maybe others in that quartet?

Ron Scheer said...

Another fine book about an island in the Hebrides is Adam Nicholson's SEA ROOM.

Deb said...

John Fowles's The Magus made me want to visit Greece.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, boy did I love THE MAGUS. And THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT's WOMAN did a pretty decent job too.
SEA ROOM is new to me but will look.

pattinase (abbott) said...

How about Daniel Woodrell with the Ozarks?

Kieran Shea said...

Off the top of my head...UNDER THE VOLCANO Malcolm Lowry and ROCK PAPER TIGER by Lisa Brackmann....

Todd Mason said...

You both slogged through ISLANDIA? Really worth it?

Jon Shirota's LUCKY COME HAWAII and John Varley's other planets in our solar system in THE PERSISTENCE OF VISION; aside from these, much of what comes to mind are YA novels (Jean George and JULIE OF THE WOLVES; Scott O'Dell and ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS and SING DOWN THE MOON; Armstrong Sperry and CALL IT COURAGE) and books at least usually considered YA of late (Kipling, Twain--though FINN and the travel volumes aren't as condescended to, Jack London).

Todd Mason said...

And, of course, the Greenwich Village and Central Park, and the surrogate for components of Austria-Hungary, among other lands real and imaginary, in the work of Avram Davidson...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Not sure if I remember it well enough to comment. Remember my kids reading some of these, Todd. I think they were after my time.

Richard S. Wheeler said...

Willa Cather's Nebraska novels. A true sense of place is much more than environmental; it also includes the unique aspirations, beliefs, mannerisms, and dreams of those who live there. Miss Cather excelled at that.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My favorite Cather is A LOST LADY. But all of them are truly great.

Cap'n Bob said...

I'm surprised no one mentioned Raymond Chandler. Also HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL, and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. Zane Grey was big on locale, too.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - I know I'm coming late for this but my vote? The small-town South in Tom Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.

Al Tucher said...

The first thing that comes to mind is the Kramer-Zondi series by Doug McClure, set in South Africa in the apartheit era.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Tom Franklin is a great choice. He does bring MS to life.
Always meant to read McClure. Wait I did read one. Have to think of it.

Al Tucher said...

It's James McClure, BTW. How embarrassing for a librarian.

John said...

Anything by P.M. Hubbard. A master at capturing setting and making it a living character.

THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE is a sensory reading experience with all the sights, sounds, smells and tactile experiences of rural Wisconsin. The weather comes alive in this one as well.

Though not fiction Antoine St-Exupery writes evocatively of flying like no other writer. You are there with him every second in his battered airplane. And his descriptions of the merciless desert terrain are rivaled only by Edward Abbey's.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sawtelle's been sitting on my shelf for several years.
Doug McClure was awfully cute.

Cap'n Bob said...

Bill Crider's Dan Rhodes books certainly belong on this list.