A is for AFRICA and ASIA….

AFRICA-MAP

Travelling the world with books is interesting and fun and there’s so much to see in even just one continent! Today we look at two..Africa and Asia…since there are so many favourites from this part of the world. Having said that, we are dying to go back via fiction so will be hunting out more and more!

TWO favourites from AFRICA

BOOK

Morocco – Pamela Windo

Need a good travel guide to Morocco? Then look no further that Zohra’s Ladder and other Moroccan Tales by Pamela Windo as she guides us around some of the more lesser known and hidden parts of the country. From the Souk to the Hammam, this is a real insider’s tour…..

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/travel-around-morocco-using-zohras-ladder-by-pamela-windo/

Marrakech

The Saffron Trail by Rosanna Ley

saffron

From Cornwall to exotic Morocco, this is a journey on so many levels as two young women become friends and find that Morocco will change their lives in many very unexpected ways.

Nell has just lost her mum, a mum who has been hiding things from her and which she now wants to find out. She grew up on a  saffron farm in Cornwall and is recently married but her mother’s death haunts her so her husband offers her a trip to Morocco and a cookery course which she uses to explore her past

Amy on the other hand is a photographer who goes to Morocco to capture the sights sounds and smells of an exotic land. Amy is also searching for the truth – this time about a postcard she found on her Aunt Lillian’s mantlepiece from her missing son Glen.

Morocco reveals many secrets thought buried in the sands…

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/the-saffron-trail-from-cornwall-to-exotic-marrakech-rosanna-ley/

TWO favourites from ASIA

Sri Lanka

Tea planterThe Tea Planter’s Wife – Dinah Jefferies

19 year old Gwendolyn Hooper is newly married and soon follows her husband to his tea plantation in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka)

However life there in this hot and humid country is not at all what she expected and her husband seems like a completely different man. Their neighbours are hardly the kind of people she would hope to know and the plantation workers are resentful of their rich bosses and their working conditions. There is tension in the air as well as the sound of birds and the whistling of the wind.

Gwen finds herself alone and so soon starts to explore. What she finds are clues to the past – her husbands past and just what is that overgrown gravestone in the grounds?

Some secrets she is about to find out, don’t stay buried for long.

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/09/09/ceylon-asia-the-tea-planters-wife-dinah-jefferies/

Phillippines

2015-novel-UK

The Blue by Lucy Clarke

Ever wanted to go sailing with with a group around the Philippines? But how well do you know the others in the crew?

Paradise can suddenly turn very dark indeed.

Now – Lana is in New Zealand when she hears some shocking news – The Blue, the fantastic yacht which she and her friend Kitty joined for the adventure of their lives, has sunk. All crew, Lana’s friends are still missing. What on earth happened and why did Lana leave the yacht a few months ago?

Then – Lana and Kitty join a group of travellers in the Philippines and become part of the elusive crew living and sailing on The Blue. The ocean and islands are their playground, where they stop, fish, live and swim  – a perfect existence and escape from the world.

Nights are spent drinking on deck, navigating the island and having fun. But things soon turn dark and paradise turns sour. The Blue becomes one floating nightmare. Lana becomes desperate to leave.

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/the-blue-the-phillippines-and-new-zealand-lucy-clarke/

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South Africa, Edinburgh, Outer Hebrides – Sewing the Shadows Together – Alison Baillie

cover STST

Why a booktrail?

In the seaside suburb of Portobello, Edinburgh, a dark secret from the past hangs over the present

Story

30 years ago, Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh. A crime which has cast a shadow over the area and the family ever since. Brother Tom and best friend Sarah in particular have never forgotten that dreadful day when their Shona died and their worlds came crashing down.

Now, modern technology and DNA show that the man who was convicted of killing Shona could not have committed the crime. So who did? And what does this mean for Shona’s friends and family?

Place and setting

SCOTLAND-1

Set in Edinburgh, the Outer Hebrides and South Africa, the real horror of who killed a young girl all those years ago is revealed, across the years and across continents.

South Africa – Plettenberg Bay

Tom McIver, Shona’s brother returns from South Africa, the very warm and scenic Plettenberg Bay,a coastal village. He thinks back to how he enjoys driving along the scenic garden route, seeing the sky change colour but then is brought back to reality with the “fishy Scottish air”

SCOTLAND-2

Scotland -Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides

“Herds of white wild Eriskay ponies wandered freely over the roads, knowing that every car would stop for them. At each house they were welcomed in”

Island life. Tom meets old relatives, delves into his own family history and in particular that of his father as he spends time to scatter his mothers ashes and remember her homeland. This is a rural, windswept place, the silver water of the Eriskay sound and the traditional wooly jumpers. With hills of ancient rock and Eriskay, South Ulst and Barra having remained catholic whilst other islands became protestant, religion tradition and community are important here.

Portobello, Edinburgh

“Portobello had not changed much in the last thirty-seven years: the wide sweep of the bay, the faint distant coastline of Fife and the huge pale sky.”

It’s a return to your childhood haunts, the places you knew linked to your sister and her friends. It’s a visit to your old school, meeting the golden boy of your school day who is now somewhat of a local TV star. Sarah, married to this golden boy becomes involved in the discovery of the truth and she and Tom become close. A small town starts to look in on itself and all that it has thought and known for years has been a lie.

There is still a killer in its midst who has been hiding in plain sight all these years.

Review

This was a cracking debut! Had the pleasure of meeting the author at an event and she is passionate about her work and her debut so I really wanted to read this long before I received it! And I was not disappointed in the slightest as this is a book that not only has  a very strong sense of place but one which uses them to dramatic effect. The small island setting and nostalgic trip back to the past, the horrors of the school reunion and the secrets which come back to haunt.

The plot weaved its way in and out of the present and the past and built up a knot of circumstances and twisted secrets. The characters were people everyone of us knows in some way – so believable and complex. She got me doubting everyone at some point and feeling for their concerns.

The author has had this story in her head for some years now she says and only later thanks to encouragement did she decide to write it. Well, I’m glad she did as this was worth waiting for.

Africa – South Africa – Up Against the Night – Justin Cartwright

up aginst night

Why a booktrail?

Frank is descended from the Boer Leader Piet Retief and his story is the story of South Africa

Story in a nutshell

Frank McAllister is a wealthy man living in Notting Hall, London. He has several homes and one in Cape Town, South Africa, a place where both his heart and heritage lie. Frank is a direct descendant from the Boer Leader Piet Retief, who was murdered by the Zulu King Dingane along with all his followers in 1838.

He is preparing to head back there with his lover Nellie and await the return of his daughter Lucinda from rehab where she has been battling an addition. Then there’s Jaco, Frank’s cousin who once a You Tube star has now found Scientology.

PLACE

Zululand - KwaZulu-Natal Ulundi is the seat of the area Johannesburg The aunt’s farm Welgelegen is 100 mils South West of here Cape Town - Table Mountain The story of Piet Retief comes to light Robben island An iconic place in South Africa’s history
Zululand – KwaZulu-Natal
Ulundi is the seat of the area
Johannesburg
The aunt’s farm Welgelegen is 100 mils South West of here
Cape Town – Table Mountain
The story of Piet Retief comes to light
Robben island
An iconic place in South Africa’s history

Frank McCallisterr is fixated on his Boer ancestor, Piet Retief, who was brutally murdered by the Zulu hordes in 1838(The shocking prologue) Frank’s South Africa is in his blood as Piet in in the blood of South Africans ever since. Since the leader’s murder, he has been the iconic symbol for Afrikaners ever since.

“Retief – cloaked in righteousness, blessed by God, free of his creditors – had undoubtedly arrived in this land in order to take it

As Frank and his family of sorts travel to the Cape, they go and explore and see the land that Frank loves and feels part of. The food for one is rich and homely, the safaris take him back to his roots and the landscape of his memories. Nellie’s son even joins in and starts to learn to surf. This is a family,a disparate family, a group of people adapting to and learning from their environment.

When in this beautiful and stunning landscape, South Africa and its iconic history are characters in the background. The Afrikaaner culture and people are those which cousin Jaco thinks are the victims of the new black establishment. Things are changing in South Africa he sees and not always for the better.

This novel has a personal touch to it – the author himself was born and raised in South Africa, before he moved to Britain as a student. 

Justin is in reality a descendant of Retief himself so this is very much a homage to his country and its people.

Travel Around Morocco using Zohra’s Ladder and Other Moroccan Tales by Pamela Windo

Need a good travel guide to Morocco? Then look no further that Zohra’s Ladder and other Moroccan Tales by Pamela Windo as she guides us around some of the more lesser known and hidden parts of the country. From the Souk to the Hammam, this is a real insider’s tour…..

Your guide - Pamela Windo
Your guide – Pamela Windo

Take this book with you as Pamela shows us around – (The places and stories in the book they refer to are mentioned at the end of each answer)

BOOK

You start your prologue with the line “Landscape or its absence, is the setting for our lives”  – can you expand upon this?

If you were born and live in a big city, instead of a landscape of green fields and trees, mountains and streams, you have towering buildings, asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks. When I wrote: “landscape or its absence,” I meant whichever “landscape” you have shapes your lives. [Prologue]

You were born in England and now live in New York but it was North Africa which claimed you, when you went to Morocco to be alone and write. How do you think your experiences have shaped you?

I went to Morocco with the idea I would hide away and write a book. What I found was a lifestyle and culture that brought echoes of my childhood in England—before the consumer cult took hold, and the simple things of life were still valued beyond money. In Morocco, I gradually let go of all my ideas and ambitions and listened to a different rhythm in which people live in the present moment, in close connection to other people, whether family or strangers. [STORIES: Rabiah’s House; The Street Cleaner’s Clothes —

In both these stories, I loved the house I was living in; one was in a working-class neighborhood in Agadir, the other in a quiet neighborhood in the Medina of Marrakesh.

An impressive home in Morocco (C) Simon Russell
An impressive home in Morocco (C) Simon Russell

The bathing ritual you describe in An Afternoon at the Hamman is very evocative – the smell of the room, the feel of the sludge clay paste you put in your hair. What are your lasting memories of this early experience?

My first experience of the hammam was in a local one, not in one of those designed for tourists in a chic hotel.  I felt shy but was immediately put at ease by the relaxed atmosphere… the women were of all ages and clearly felt neither shame nor embarrassment at being naked except for a pair of knickers. Veils and djellabas and scarves are worn in the street to hide women’s bodies from men’s lust. In the women’s hammam, those disguises are left in the lockers. All I felt was acceptance and friendliness, and a serious intent on getting clean, especially as most of the women didn’t have hot water, let alone a shower or bath, at home.  I was shown the ritual and helped by whoever was nearest me, and quickly noticed that all the women had the same tried and tested traditional toiletries…. No need for anything fancy and expensive.  [STORY: AN AFTERNOON AT THE HAMMAM]

You write of the difficulty of becoming accustomed to things you take for granted such as regular post and the freedom women have in the West. What could we learn from the women of Morocco however?

The hammam in particular showed me the strength of the sisterhood the women share… the scrubbing of each other’s bodies and rinsing of each other’s hair.  But mostly I saw this solidarity in their homes, in which they reign over the men. Women neighbors come in every day to help grind the almonds, to do a mammoth wash, or make a huge couscous. Young girls watch their mothers, and learn how to cook and help with housework without complaint or excuses. By the time they marry, they are excellent cooks and take pride in the traditional dishes they present to their family. I found that women of all ages possess innate self-confidence that comes from self-acceptance.  I once complained that I had no bosom, and received this response: “You are the way Allah made you. It is wrong to want to be different.” [STORIES: An Evening with the General’s Wife; Zohra’s Ladder]

The Golden Amber Dunes of the desert. (c) Pamela Windo
The Golden Amber Dunes of the desert. (c) Simon Russell

Your descriptions of the golden-amber dunes of the desert  are so evocative and immersive. The landscape is one of colours and contrasts. Was it difficult to capture its expanse and full beauty?

Yes, it was difficult to describe the country’s beautiful and varied landscapes. I always felt a jaw-dropping awe that left me speechless…or rather wordless!  But I think that is precisely why we seek out these landscapes – to be stunned beyond words. This must be why they say “a photograph is worth a thousand words.” Even so, I had to try. [STORIES: The Desert Sky; In Search of the Argan Tree]

A souk at Night (c) Pamela Windo
A souk at Night (c) Simon Russell

Street life in the Medina is a daily theatre. As if the day spent in the Souk. What aspect of life there did you find the most fascinating?

Daily life in the souk – Yes, to me it was a “theater” – the constant crowds were like a river streaming madly in all directions, a lack of order that creates scenes that are both spontaneous and magical –sleek Mercedes cars and mangy mules missing each other by a hair’s breadth; exotic enticing aromas mixing with the stench of animal and vegetable debris.[STORY: Pilgrimages to the Post Office; Observing Processions; The Days of Ramadan]

You immersed yourself in all aspects of life – the religion, the bathing rituals, the food. What have your continued to include in your life now?

I think that what have stayed with me most since I left Morocco are the people’s kindness and hospitality, and their insistence on authentic connection with others. You must stop in the street to say hello, even if the person is just an acquaintance; you must look the person in the eye to acknowledge them, and touch them with your hand, or with a kiss on the cheek. You must ask after their health and their family’s health before you take your leave. Of course, the music and dancing have stayed with me too, and perhaps the main thing that has remained a part of my life is the Moroccan cuisine – I am always cooking couscous and tagines for family and friends. [STORY: Lunch with the Sheikh; Baba Halou]

With many thanks to Pamela for taking the time to show us around and showing us a side to Morocco we’d never seen before. We’re off to the souk now for some authentic Moroccan tea. See you later!

Pamela Windo – http://www.pamelawindo.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pamela.windo

Simon Russell – http://www.simonrussellphotography.net/

The Saffron Trail – From Cornwall to exotic Marrakech – Rosanna Ley

saffron

Why a booktrail?

Even the name sounds good to us – Scent of Saffron and a trail to Morocco! Yes please! Don’t read if you’re hungry though…

Story in a nutshell

From Cornwall to exotic Morocco, this is a journey on so many levels as two young women become friends and find that Morocco will change their lives in many very unexpected ways.

Nell has just lost her mum, a mum who has been hiding things from her and which she now wants to find out. She grew up on a  saffron farm in Cornwall and is recently married but her mother’s death haunts her so her husband offers her a trip to Morocco and a cookery course which she uses to explore her past

Amy on the other hand is a photographer who goes to Morocco to capture the sights sounds and smells of an exotic land. Amy is also searching for the truth – this time about a postcard she found on her Aunt Lillian’s mantlepiece from her missing son Glen.

Morocco reveals many secrets thought buried in the sands…..

Place and setting

Marrakech Riad Lazuli - http://www.riadlapis-lazuli.com/ Where the cookery school is to be held. This is a real school so we’re off! Plage Tagharte Glen sees Essouria for the first time and marvels at the sandy moon crescent shaped beach Taliouine where the saffron is gathered for the cookery school Meknes olive and mint from here Fez Citrus fruits from Fez
Marrakech
Riad Lazuli – http://www.riadlapis-lazuli.com/
Where the cookery school is to be held. This is a real school so we’re off!
Plage Tagharte
Glen sees Essouria for the first time and marvels at the sandy moon crescent shaped beach
Taliouine
where the saffron is gathered for the cookery school
Meknes
olive and mint from here
Fez
Citrus fruits from Fez

From the beautiful evocative cover to the aromas and fragrances within,  this is a novel which if you shake it hard enough, there will no doubt be spices, saffron which come tumbling out from its pages.

Amy and Nell’s journey is one of discovery – of the city and its culinary marvels for one. The cookery course is as much a delight to read about as it must have surely been to taste –

‘During the next few days we will be seeking out local ingredients such as saffron from Taliouine’ she said. ‘Olives and mint from Meknes, Citrus fruits from Fez. And we’ll be discussing the history of Moroccan cuisine”

That Morocco and the saffron fields there might hold the clue to her past is something she can’t wait to explore.

There is a lot to explore about the cuisine and food of the country too – do you know the legend in folklore about why a crocus has a golden middle? What else is a tagine if not just a cooking pot? What is the art of Zellige? Morocco is a maze of labyrinth streets and a melting pot of cultures and fragrances….and these secrets and more to discover.

Marrakech was a riot of souks and spices, colour and noise. it was fun but it was crazy.

Then there is Aunt Lillian’s postcard on her mantelpiece sent many years ago from her son Glenn. Interspersed throughout the modern day story was the story of Glenn as he travels the world in the 1970’s and eventually settles in Morocco. Glen’s story reveals his and Lillian’s early life and the two Moroccos are carefully contrasted – this is the Morocco that Jimi Hendirx is said to have visited, the city of adventure for Glen and his friends, of a whole world away from the Vietnam war..

Despite the focus being on Marrakech and Essaouria, not  to mention early scenes in a Paris bookstore – Shakespeare and Company? Cornwall also takes a leading role in the story and the saffron farm on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall where Nell grows up helps to explain her wanderlust for Morocco now.

Bookish musings

Whatever you do, don’t read this book if you are the slightest bit hungry! I did and well I had to raid the fridge for anything exotic I could find. The next day I did pop out to buy some Moroccan food such was the pull and attraction of it from this very novel.

Like a series of ingredients all mixed together bubbling away in a tagine, take off the lid and boom – you’re in Morocco, eating, tasting, hearing and feeling the pulse of the city. From the dusty streets and the ancient walls, to taking your first aroma of saffron, this is a book which I am now going to use as a springboard for learning more about what I can do with the tagine someone bought me last christmas and those broken tiles I’d collected from my travels.

I was swept away by the stories and legends contained in this novel. There is so much to this story that at first the cover and blurb might not do it justice. This is no flowery story but a deep and meaningful search for the truth in to family secrets.

Once again Rosanna Ley has transported me to a whole new world and inspired me to read more  about Morocco and its vibrancy.

Utterly and totally recommended for a literary travel experience of a lifetime!

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith – your perfect guide to Edinburgh and Gaborone

Take a tour of Edinburgh and  Gaboronne with your guide Alexander McCall Smith
Take a tour of Edinburgh and Gaborone with your guide Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith
The man himself – Alexander McCall Smith

Join McCall Smith and Good Housekeeping magazine and meet the man who introduced us to Precious of Kgale Hill, Gaborone, Botswana and Bertie of Edinburgh

If you ever fancy travelling to Edinburgh or Gaborone, Botswana then you could wish for no better guide than Mr Alexander McCall Smith. this is a man who has not only lived in both places but who has a deep affection for them and the people there that this emotion comes flooding from each and ever page of his books.

Today he is appearing on the Good Housekeeping magazine Twitter account – a takeover of epic proportions, where he will be answering questions. We’ve sent a few already so why not take your chance now –

@GHmagazine

Allow us to remind you of the place and the things we have seen as we walk in the footsteps of Mr McCall Smith on this very special #Booktravel excursion!

Itinerary of the McCall Smith Tour –  part one Edinburgh

Scotland Street - where it all happens Drummond Place Bertie and his mum are spotted walking along here Dundas Street The home of the Art gallery and Big Lou's Morningside Road - where they go in the search of the Peploe painting only to discover that a certain Ian Rankin has bought it!
Scotland Street – where it all happens
Drummond Place
Bertie and his mum are spotted walking along here
Dundas Street
The home of the Art gallery and Big Lou’s
Morningside Road – where they go in the search of the painting only to discover that a certain Ian Rankin has bought it!

Although Scotland Street is real and can indeed be visited (as we did) no.44 not surprisingly is fictional due to the risk of people, readers etc knocking on the door.

The corner of Scotland Street - 44 would be where the trees are.
The corner of Scotland Street – 44 would be where the trees are.

The street was on the edge of the Bohemian part of the Edinburgh New Town, the part where lawyers and accountants were outnumbered – just – by others.

Ah here we are
Ah here we are

Still, to visit Scotland Street for real is to walk in the footsteps of Irene, Bruce, Pat and of course Bertie and his mum

“That’s where young Bertie lives. you will have heard him playing the saxophone last night I presume..”

Oh the places to visit and the places to linger –

Inside the literary haven that is Big Lou's  on Dundas Street
Inside the literary haven that is ‘Big Lou’s’ on Dundas Street
The inspiration for the Something Special Art Gallery - Dundas Street
The inspiration for the Something Special Art Gallery – Dundas Street
Is that Bertie there with his mum?
Is that Bertie there with his mum?

Itinerary of the McCall Smith Tour –  part two Botswana

Gaboronne Twoklong Road where Speedy Motors is Kgale Hill where the detective agency is
Gaborone
Twoklong Road where Speedy Motors is
Kgale Hill where the detective agency is

Travel to Africa with us – to the bottom of the Kgale Hill to be more precise to visit some of the nicest and friendliest people you will ever meet.

Precious Ramotswe is the only female private detective in Botswana. Her agency – the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – is the best in the country. And the most scenic –

To the front, an acacia tree, the thorn tree which dots the wide edges of the Kalahari: the great white thorns, a warning; the olive-grey leaves, by contrast, so delicate.

The warmth of the stories not only comes from the stunning landscape but the love that both McCall Smith and Precious Ramotswe has for this land –

I love all the people whom God made, but I especially know how to love the people who live in this place. They are my people, my brothers and sisters. it is my duty to help them to solve the  mysteries in their lives. That is what I am called to do.

The view from Kgale Hill - pic from Wikipedia
The view from Kgale Hill – pic from Wikipedia

This is warm hearted fiction – a detective series set on the edge of the Kalahari desert which presents Botswana and its people in a very warm and inviting light.  Precious is a character who will stay with you for ever – she does not suffer fools, is confident full of common sense and keeps the men in their place.

Very very funny

Follow the conversation today via @GHmagazine from 12.30 UK Time

South Africa – The Undesirables – Dave Boling

the undesirables

An untold story of the Second Boer war and an unpleasant facet of British history

Story in a nutshell

This is the story of the Second Boer War – between the Dutch settlers in South Africa and the British fighters.

The Venter family live on their farm in the Orange Free State. Three of them go off to defend their country and indeed their family while the women stay at home. However war comes closer than they feared and before long the British have arrived and ripped them from their home and taken them to ‘a camp’. Daughter Aletta takes us through the story of what happens next and the horrific conditions of what they are forced to endure.

They have a tale to tell that is hard to hear. As for what their men have experienced… War has a horrific story to relate.

Place and setting

The geography of the region; theSouth African Republic/Transvaal (Pretoria) The Orange Free State (Free State),  the British Cape Colony -(Cape Town) The Natal (Pietermaritzburg) Swaziland
The geography of the region; the South African Republic/Transvaal (Pretoria)
The Orange Free State (Free State),
the British Cape Colony -(Cape Town)
The Natal (Pietermaritzburg)
Swaziland


This is the story of the ‘undesirables’  – what the British called those who would not surrender. These people were kept in squalid camps like the rest of those captured but there was a fence separating them – undesirable as they were. The Boer war has a human side and this is it. Those who were left behind, forced to the camps, the men who disappeared and those who were deemed undesirable for not wanting to surrender.

Hearing what this horrific experience must have been like from the voice of one 14 year old is a touching and poignant one indeed. Aletta arrives at the camp with her family and speaks candidly as only fourteen year olds can about the conditions of the camp and the resulting sickness and horror they find there. As well as the actual conditions of the camps and indeed the hospitals there, the tales and rumours surrounding folk remedies and superstitions held by the people there were both tragic and poignant. Many children died in these camps as did adults. We also find out about the South Africans who were in similar camps and who suffered equally squalid conditions and fates.

It is the touches of humanity that shine through and keep the human aspect very much at the fore – Aletta for example falls in love with British authors such as Dickens and hungers for the words and phrases she learns from a dictionary. The hatred and fear of the British at that time is not reflected in their language and this was a beautiful touch which said so much about the strength of the captives. As for what happens to the men…well that is another facet of the story that will make you cry and wonder just what this war actually achieved..

Thoughts and views

Having read Guernica – the authors first book about the experiences of the raid on the Basque town by the Luftwaffe in 1937. This book dropped you right in the dirty, raw experience and gave me a  real insight into the time and place as well as the human angle of the conflict and this time, in South Africa,was no exception.

The Undesirables was a tough read for the subject matter but not for the smooth yet gritty writing. The author is a writer and journalist by trade and it shows – what was a surprise was that he was not Dutch, Boer or British. He writes as if he was actually there in some way.

Book Advent – day 23 – Booktrail top ten

IMG_0797

This year we have read some fantastic books and been to some fantastic places so here is our top ten in no particular order to inspire you to travel – via your armchair this Christmas season –

Bamburgh, Northumberland
Bamburgh, Northumberland
A journey through Cuba
A train journey through Cuba
Paris, France
The mysterious backstreets of Paris, France

 

To the dark streets of Edinburgh, Scotland
To the dark streets of Edinburgh, Scotland
The Garden of Evening Mists
The Garden of Evening Mists in Malaysia

 

experience the personal story of a small girl in Africa
experience the personal story of a small girl in Africa
Experience the cemetery of forgotten books in Barcelona
Step inside the cemetery of forgotten books in Barcelona –  in Shadow of the Wind
Explore the mystery of Keswick and it surroundings in Island of Bones
Explore the mystery of Keswick and its surroundings in Island of Bones

 

The amusing goings on in a small village in India
The amusing goings on in a small village in Pakistan. Get a cultural insight and make great friends

 

Protect yourself from the Canadian chill in Ottawa with a cracking crime thriller
Protect yourself from the Canadian chill in Ottawa with a cracking crime thriller

So, there you have it, our top ten books this year. We’d love to hear yours and we do actually have loads more except we couldnt fit them all in. How do you pick only ten? Well based on location and atmosphere, these ten really did pack some punch. And well because I had to include this one –

Cry yourself to sleep on an island beside a lighthouse in Australia with A light Between Oceans...
Cry yourself to sleep on an island beside a lighthouse in Australia with A light Between Oceans…

Well, I guess that makes it 11 – well we best stop there otherwise we’d be here all night adding all our favs. Tomorrow we chose one that has both surprised and amazed us in equal measure. An imaginary location but one which we would love to go back to very very soon…….

 

 

Local Customs – a journey from Scotland and England to Africa

Unknown

Based on real events

What happens when a Scot becomes the Governor of Cape Coast?

What happens to his English born wife?

Who knows the truth?

 

Local Customs by Audrey Thomas –

 

George Maclean,  was born in 1801 in Banffshire, Scotland and was the  council president of Cape Coast, West Africa, who laid the groundwork for British rule of the Gold Coast.

In 1838 he married the poet and novelist Letitia (Letty) Elizabeth Landon or L.E.L. as she was more commonly known. She died a mysterious death a few months later. Was it from an overdose of prussic acid? Her doctor and chemist swore that they had never prescribed such a thing.

 

There are all sorts of rumours flying about. Was Letty involved with other men? Brodie Cruickshank is in love with her. Is she all she seems? Is George? Her husband describes her –

My wife was a woman who had lived entirely in her imagination

 

But what really happened to LEL in this exotic and dangerous place so far away from her home?

 

Local customs refers to the changes and new experiences that westerners in particular must get used to in order to settle in the new country and to do their jobs. We are introduced to Fante – the local language and the tradition of washing pregnant women in the river – things that seem strange and new to Letty at first. The heat and the humidity however, she learns to cope with, despite the fact that most visitors there find this the hardest thing to bear.

 

Letty may tell most of the story from her perspective but it is the changing view points from herself and George at the beginning, that I found the most interesting. When she tells us that she is dead however, it is hard to focus on anyone else.

MARKET SCENE.indd

 

The setting of this book was of course a large part of the attraction for The Book Trail and it doesn’t disappoint.

 

The two principal streets are very wide and lined with umbrella trees.

Chickens  and children wander freely, women walk to and fro with babies trapped to their backs; men sit under a huge silk-cotton tree, talking and playing a game they call Oware

 

And of course the weather –

 

The rainy season  was supposed to be ending, but one afternoon the skies opened and a torrent of rain descended; I had never seen anything like it. It was biblical the sort of rain poor Mr and Mrs Noah must have experiences as they floated away with their menagerie in the ark.

On another book trail note, Letty mentions that her favourite book as a girl was Robinson Crusoe and she explains how she thought he was clever and brave to be trapped on a desert island. She though this might be fun – having to create everything from scratch. Her innocence is coupled with a funny anecdote of how Friday may have got his name. This level of detail enriched the story and added a unique flavour to Letty’s thoughts.

 

Published by Dundurn Press in Canada, http://www.dundurn.com/books/local_customs     –    this is an intriguing story based on real events and takes you to Africa and shows you around.