We live in strange times. We haven’t been able to go to restaurants, couldn’t go to concerts, we’ve had to work from home, and we couldn’t even visit our favourite bookstores. But the worst thing, to me anyway, was not being able to travel. It can become quite boring to be in the same room every day, staring at the same walls as the day before. Even now we don’t even know whether we can travel abroad at all. Thankfully there’s books. Books help us escape the monotonous days and place us in different places, countries, perhaps even worlds. Over the last year, I’ve visited countless literary places I was unable to visit in real life, and somehow it felt like I was really there. Today, we’re going on a literary city trip.
I love cities. Even though they’re busy, they’re smelly, and there are way too many people, I love the culture and history that is apparent on every street corner. When I read Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, for instance, I heard the Big Ben, I saw St James’s Park, and, for just a moment, I wasn’t at home, but I was in 1920s London. Even though the book is about Mrs Dalloway and the people surrounding her, the real main character is the city itself. Everything takes place right there, and it is through the city that we learn more about the people living in it. London is the one thing that connects them all.
If you want to know what life was like on the other side of the ocean, you should read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Right now, it is inconceivable that countless people gather every single night, eating fancy food, drinking cocktails, and getting so drunk that they forget to go home. I’m not sure I would really like living in 1920s New York, but it sure sounds like a great alternative to the solitary world we’re living in right now. Also, it’s a joy to discover more about Gatsby’s mysterious character, described by the seemingly down-to-earth Nick Carraway.
If you want to challenge yourself (I haven’t been able to do so yet, unfortunately), you can also travel to Dublin, reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. He takes you on an adventure through the entire city – and really, finishing this colossus of a novel would take you even longer than visiting Dublin would. I wish you good luck.
Or finally, if you’d prefer to travel to a non-English speaking city, then Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being might be perfect for you. Taking place during the Prague Spring, this novel is about the invasion of the Soviet Union and the notion of free will, love, and freedom. I’ve actually written about this one before – read all about it here. This might be one of the best books I’ve ever read, and not only because Prague is described in such a beautiful way.
What do you think of these books? Which book taking place in a specific city is your favourite? Do let me know in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow me for more book-related posts!