A Place for Us – London, Bath, Paris, Florence – Harriet Evans

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Why a booktrail?

Welcome to Winterfold, a fictional town in England but one you can visit with this tale of a secret hidden in the past…..

Story in a nutshell

Ooh a secret that comes out after 80 or so years…….An old woman who has kept this secret is finally ready to tell it and so she calls her family to the home in Winterfold (apparently somewhere near Bath) and a secret that could ruin the idyllic life she and her husband David have spent over fifty years building…

But she has to let her family know what she and David have sacrificed. She can’t live a lie any more.

The pretty house in the countryside is the setting for the secret reveal but what will happen once things are out in the open? will the peace and tranquility be shattered for ever?

Place and setting

 slade school of art http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slade The national gallery - http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/ Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
 chapel market - where david walks past and eats an apple thinking of how he got out of a bad situation The Lyons corner house at marble arch where david sits to meet someone Stonehenge - Cat and Luke visit here  winterstoke - an old area in somerset bath denoting old feudal and tax boundaries  Florence - Via Dei Sapiti Rue de Charonne in Paris

LONDON – slade school of art http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slade
The national gallery – http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/

chapel market – where david walks past and eats an apple thinking of how he got out of a bad situation
The Lyons corner house at marble arch where david sits to meet someone
BATH – Stonehenge – Cat and Luke visit here
BATH  – winterstoke – an old area in somerset bath denoting old feudal and tax boundaries
Florence – Via Dei Sapiti
Rue de Charonne in Paris

The setting is a time gone by – a peaceful ramshackle house deep in the English countryside where the scent of wisteria climbing up the walls floats alongside the aroma of something being baked within. gingerbread covered hands wiped on tea towels then someone comes to the beautifully painted door opening to let you in. Only when you get inside, and meet your mother, she sits you down and tells you the truth, shattering everything you believed in in the process….

The settings come to life in the snippets learned from flashbacks –

Husband David – David was just a young boy living in London during WW2. some of the most fascinating scenes are set here and the life of the young man in such a turbulent time is captivating as well as being vital to understand later on in the book.

He met Martha at the Slade School of Art and wonders what would have happened if he had not met her that day. She had saved him and that is something he is sure about.

Florence – Daughter Florence is an academic/Professor of art and lives in – Florence in the via dei Sapiti! Her lack of social skills and awkwardness is endearing compared to others in the family.

Paris – Cat spends a lot of time in Paris and eats at the Abesses and at the Bar Georges on the Rue De Charonne. Ambling through life as indeed she does through the streets of Paris.

Bookish thoughts

Originally posted in four parts like a serial read, I would think each part would make you read the next so it would be easier to read all in one volume such as this one. I would think that a  book format rather than an ebook would be better as in the earlier part, each chapter flits from one character to the next and I often had to check back.

The story is in the form of a saga and I just love it when old people give up their secrets and reveal something to their children years later. Many of my favourite reads involve such a scenario and so I was enthralled from the get go. Despite a slow start, the tension and intrigue do build and I was really wanting to know what happened but also not sure that I did – as if I was one of the family.

Tell you what though, despite the darkness behind the facade, living in Winterfold sounds very nice indeed.  A family saga that spans time periods, war and peace, london and italy and a range of characters with secrets and histories of their own if Harriet ever decides to branch out and explore this more.

Which I hope she does.

Travel the world with the Atlas of Us – Tracy Buchanan

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From San Francisco, via Exmoor, Venice, Serbia, Finland to Thailand. and Australia..

Travel the world with the ATLAS OF US

atlast

This is a booktrail which takes you far and wide – to the stunning locations such as that as evoked on the cover to England, Australia, Dubai, San Francisco and even Serbia  – an usual location for a novel maybe and certainly an eclectic mix, but one which is used to dramatic and stunning effect. Finland, as the author’s personal favourite location is also evoked beautifully on the page.

 

 

Louise Fenton decides that she has to travel halfway across the world to the site of the 2004 Tsunami  in order to find her mother Nora who was there when the disaster struck. She meets up with Jay a journalist who is looking for Claire, a friend who seems to be connected with Nora in some way. Louise is curious and wants to know more. What she discovers is far beyond whatever she can imagine.

What a journey in both the emotional and physical  sense of the world. There is the heartbreak of seeing the destruction of the Tsunami at first hand, the war torn parts of Serbia and the desolate and rather chilling backdrop of Exmoor.

But walking off the map is at the heart of this book – exploring, letting yourself go and discover things, opening up your mind and daring to dream and hope.

Let’s Walk off the map –

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Krabi Thailand

The opening scenes of setting where the Tsunami happened are heartbreaking as louise goes in search of answers –

When I close my eyes, the water comes: the violent thud of waves, the tar smell of salty dampness  seeping through the cracks of my dreams. But when I look out of the bus window, it’s nothing but mangled cars again; boats that have somehow found their way onto the roofs of two -storey buildings; suitcases flung open, their innards spilling out on to the dusty pavements below

It is  perhaps the most naturally stunning of al the locations in the book but one stepped in sadness and human disaster – being recent in our memories makes it all the more distressing as we can only wonder what it would feel like to be searching for a loved one – whilst thanking our stars or a god that we ‘re not really there ourselves.

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Exmoor, UK

We are introduced to Exmoor by a drawing tucked inside the Atlas of Us –

The water colour of grey pooling around the edges of moss green valleys, ready to plummet  downwards and destroy everything below

This is the setting for the main part of Claire’s story and we attend a wedding there on the rocky, windy british valley, the slopes of the cliffs into the sea, the sheer drops and the blustering wind – Claire takes her dog Archie for a walk. Th opening line to this chapter and locations sets the scene in more ways than one –

In Exmoor, there a feeling that, at any moment , something might suddenly plummet.

Such evocative writing is not just evocative of location but of emotion too and that makes for some powerful travelling experience. This is the setting for a wedding, a farmer with a secret past and a woman who gets drawn into the evocative and secret past of a family and their rustic home. There are many issues evoked alongside this setting with Claire and her growing relationship with a man called Milo – a strange and secret man indeed. His rugged demeanour and mysterious ways was as wild and mind-blowing as the Exmoor setting….

The ragged outline of the Exmoor cliffs - Wikipedia
The ragged outline of the Exmoor cliffs – Wikipedia

 

Snapshots – 

ITALY

Claire takes a trip to Italy – no spoilers here and evokes the location here via just a few words

Venice reeks of secrets. Its air is heavy with them: its narrow alley ways and shadowed canals  tailored for them

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Based in San Francisco before her travels, we get s glimpse of her home and early life –

Claire hesitated for a moment peering out of the vast windows that overlooked the Golden Gate bridge. It shone bright red against the stark black sky….

She’d even rented a room in one of San Francisco’s painted ladies, the multicoloured Edwardian houses that lined the city’s Haight-Asbury district

But the scent and air of Thailand never goes away and away from the destruction of the tsunami we see the beauty of the country – this is the scene I imagine describing the cover –

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Ko Phi Phi Don, Thailand

The rickety old boat bobs up and down on the turquoise seas  and I press my hair against my flyaway hair, trying not to get sick. The girl shad been so excited when I told them I was going to Ko P{hi Phi Don by boat, especially when they heard the boat’;s name meant ‘ Sea monkey’ in thai

In another location, we see and experience the war torn country of Serbia for the first time – 

A Belgrade and B Fruska Gora
A Belgrade and B Fruska Gora

Fruška Gora – Serbia

Claire tried to conceal her  shock as she took in her first views of belgrade. the buildings outside her taxi window were  scorched and windowless, like charred paper decorations hanging from the sky, ready to  crumble at one puff of breath

What the author describes as her favourite location in the interview at the back of the book, there are stunning descriptions of this beloved place –

Inari and Iso
A Inari where Filipe’s family have land and B Iso – Syote, Finland

IsoSyöte, Finland

Claire looked out at the  white landscape spread out before her – skies as pink as a child’s blush…

…like a scene from a Christmas card…

Finland was ideal; she‘d never been before so there were new vistas t explore, new foods to taste, new scents to smell, and something to get her writing teeth into: the land disputes between the indigenous Sami people and the Finnish government were ideal material for her.

 

Australia

Ayers Rock or Uluru is at the heart of Australia's red centre
Ayers Rock or Uluru is at the heart of Australia’s red centre (Wikipedia)

The Red Centre of Australia is a land on fire,burned up with fever, hot and agitated

 

And a quote that sums up both the essence of what we love at The Booktrail and what we believe reading and travelling means –

Photo courtesy of Tracy Buchanan
Photo courtesy of Tracy Buchanan

They’d been there for her when she was a kid craving consistency too, curling out in a little nook somewhere, the characters she’d read about becoming her friends when she only had her family for company as they travelled from one place to the next.

The Atlas of Us – and the world of books – seen through the eyes of the author – meet Tracy on twitter – @TracyBuchanan and http://tracybuchanan.co.uk/site/index.php/

The Snack Thief – Sicily – Andrea Camilleri

Warning - you will need food to hand whilst reading this book
Warning – you will need food to hand whilst reading this book

 

 

This is the third book in the Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series, and oh how we love this Italian police series!

He has a certain way about him  and a determination to get to the truth.

In the case of the snack thief, Montalbano exposes a viper’s nest of government corruption and international intrigue when an elderly man is stabbed to death in an lift. A crewman on an Italian fishing trawler is machine-gunned by a Tunisian patrol boat off Sicily’s coast. Is there a link between the two cases?

And who is the Snack thief and is he involved in some way?

Sicily - setting for Vigata - which is actually the home town of the author - Port Empedocle
Sicily – setting for Vigata – which is actually the home town of the author – Port Empedocle

Sicily comes to life in the sounds, flavours and landscapes of Sicily – oh and of course the sarcasm and dry with of Inspector Montalbano. He is in the middle of investigating a man found murdered in a lift but keeps getting called into investigating another crime  – both of which destract him from getting to the Comissioner’s house for a heavenly dish of pasta in squid ink. When a long distance visit from his girlfriend threatens to scupper the plans further, he manages to get her invited too  “Saturday’s feast was saved”

The joy of seeing this man get his food and the hot headed way he blunders about the town makes for a delightful read although why am I always so hungry when reading this series?

The Snack Thief really brings the Italian culture to life – not just the mid day snacks of the children which gives the book its title. Every character is an exaggerated  (or not) Italian  – talking with their hands, the way they talk and the way in which they savour their food all makes the snack thief more of a sumptous feast than a quick snack.

You can feel the heat from the page and the heat sometimes coming out of Montalbano’s ears since he gets so wound up on nearly every page which is very amusing at times. But don’t let his anger and hotheadedness make think he doesn’t care- he does and his passion – even going as far as waking someone up in the night at 4am to get a copy of the le Carré novel ‘Call for the Dead’ as it could contain a clue to the murder, then this is a sure sign of his dedication.#é

A book which starts explaining that wolfing down three pounds of sardines will make your stomach feel tight like a mummy  – well you just know the wit and style is going to make it a good one. See the author’s home town where he still has a home and savour the novel in its locations, sights and smells –

th emain setttings of the novel - the port of the town, the slopping street of xxx and Villa Seca where Karima lives
the main setttings of the novel – the port of the town, the sloping street of Salita Granet and Villa Seca where Karima lives
 

Vigata -ficitonal – modelled on Porto Empedocle

mazara  – where the man on the fishing boat was from

The port  –  where the man is found

Salita granet , 28- the sloping street where the murdered man in the lift had his business premises and where Karima lives
 
 

The Italian Girl – Italy, New York and London – Lucinda Riley

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Imagine yourself in a grand theatre near the canal in Naples, sitting in the darkened auditorium, scared to breath as you don’t want to break the silence of anticipation. What awaits you is a musical spectacle with some of the greatest performers of their age..

The curtain rises, you shiver with excitement..

What must it feel like for those performing right in front of so many expecting eyes, focused and just waiting to capture every single moment of the spectacular that unfolds..

Lucinda Riley allows us to go behind the curtain of the most glittering opera houses in Italy and those of Convent Garden and New York to meet two great performers whose story behind the scenes was as operatic if not more so than that on the stage..

Settings – Naples, the Metropolitan Opera house in New York and La Scala in Milan. (to name but a few)

Rosanna Menici is just a girl when she meets Roberto Rossini. She has dreams of becoming a great opera singer like him and her journey to becoming a singer with some of the greatest opera houses over the world is a journey paved with obstacles, hardships and an obsessive love. When they fall in love, that’s when Rosanna’s life really starts to play out as if on the stage itself.

Naples and the small narrow streets where Rosanna lives as a young girl
Naples and the small narrow streets where Rosanna lives as a young girl

Rosanna ‘s journey starts from her humble beginnings in the back streets of Naples – in the Piedigrotta. As she writes in her diary –

Walking down the Piedigrotta, it looked as though the residents were in state of perpetual celebration , with the different-coloured clothes on washing lines strung high above our heads.

The locations, as always with Lucinda’s books are stunning and evocative in every way by the sights, sounds, smells and the air around you. You are with Rosanna and her brother as she stands in the garden of a local singing teacher and performs hoping to catch his ear –

The found themselves on the corner of a gracious terrace decorated wit large clay pots filled with dusty-pink geraniums and deep-purple periwinkles.

From that moment, Rosanna’s career begins and as she performs in front of her unsuspecting family who haven’t known she has been having singing lessons, we are sitting in the audience willing her family to accept her –

As the last notes died away, there was silence from the audience. Rosanna stood in a trance as her mamma’s face, the face she had sung to for the past few minutes, disappeared. A storm of Rapturous applause broke in her ears..

What Rosanna would have seen when singing at La Scala
What Rosanna would have seen when singing at La Scala

The setting of the opera scene was not one that I had ever been immersed in before. I’m not an opera fan and have never even been to a performance but that didn’t matter reading this as now I feel as if I was right beside Rosanna every step of the way and that I felt the tension of what it meant to want to be on that stage so badly, and to sing so that the silence afterwards was deafening.

Rosanna’s career takes off yet she never forgets the man who inspired her – Roberto Rossini and the fact she wrote in her diary as a child that one day they would marry. When their paths cross again, an obsessive love forms and we really catch a glimpse of the large personalities that we imagine the opera world to be famous for –

Roberto Rossini –

The packed bar was buzzing with talk of Roberto, who was producing an outstanding vocal performance. Even Paolo had relaxed as he’d watch him command the stage his magnetism eclipsing the other members of the cast.

Roberto was portrayed as this great maestro in the opera world who despite being quite odious at times, certainly self-absorbed, prone to acting like a drama queen, was still capable of sympathy and understanding to some degree.

It was Rosanna that totally captured me though as this was her journey from Naples to standing on the stages of the opera houses of New York and Covent Garden – this world and the palatial homes she lived in a result were wrapped up in Lucinda’s captivating prose – hard to believe this was one of her earliest books rewritten. Rosanna, was a worthy leading lady..

Rosanna had settled in to her new life in la Scala with surprising ease. She enjoyed the performances to study and learn from the principal singers she worked with

Then there is Covent Garden –

Covent Garden opera house
Covent Garden opera house

Handsome opera stare Roberto Rossini was caught outside one of London’s finest restaurants yesterday holding hands with his co-star, the beautiful young Italian soprano Rosanna Menici. The tow of them are singing La Traviata to packed houses at Covent Garden.

And the metropolitan opera house of New York – 

The Met in New York
The Met in New York

In a few hours time I will stand on the  stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York  and sing an aria……. especially for Roberto Rossini

All growing dreams but as the scenery gets more sumptuous and more glittering, Rosanna finds that the old cliche is true and that all that glitters is certainly not gold. For her obsessive love for Roberto is not nurtured in the way that it should be by him and she finds out secrets from the past are always waiting in the wings….

Take a bow Italian girl...
Take a bow Italian girl…

A glorious epic story of two singers – crackling with the passion and the prima donna mood swings that we might associate with huge stars at times.

But its the story behind the wings – of how they got there and the sacrifices they made along the way which is the most thrilling story of them all.

Take a whirlwind tour of the worlds most stunning opera houses and enter in to the musically crafted world of Lucinda Riley. Rapturous applause

Lake Como and the magic of Italy

What do you look for in a holiday?

Sun?

Beautiful views?

Italian ice-cream?

lake

 

Well then this literary trip to Lake Como should be just the ticket. And incase you’ve already got a holiday booked and can’t go for real  –  a perfect opportunity to go there and sample the delights of the area.

 

The story in a nutshell – 

Floriana it would seem is a girl after our own hearts as she is kind of a booktrailer – well she’s an Oxford Tour guide and takes people round Oxford on literary tours such as that of Inspector Morse and Lewis.

Lucky in her work she may be, however she is not so lucky when it comes to love –  Seb is the one that got away. She should have told him how she felt but instead they split. Two years later, Seb writes to her to tell her that he is getting married in Lake Como.

This simple card sets off such a chain of events that Floriana can not believe what is happening. She is so distracted with the news that she doesn’t see the oncoming car for a start…

But all is not lost…yet. Floriana is rescued by two people who encourage her to get well and then go to Lake Como to attend the wedding. With her narrow escape clear in her mind, will she now seize the chance to get back the love of her life?

Oh and one of her rescuers, Esme, has reasons of her own why she wants to return to Lake Como –

 

The story starts with a quote from Franz Liszt –

When you write the story of two happy lovers, let the story be set on the banks of Lake Como

The setting of the story starts with the Dreaming Spires of Oxford, England…

Ah to be on a Dreaming Spires literary tour….with Floriana

Oxford today  - setting of the Dreaming Spires literary tours- image courtesy of Wikipedia
Oxford today – setting of the Dreaming Spires literary tours- image courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Today she had been conducting what Dreaming Spires Tours called their Classic University and City Tour, culminating in afternoon tea at the Randolph Hotel.

But  home in North Oxford was exactly where she was now heading. Avoiding Broad Street and the tangle of bus queues on St Giles, she took the quieter route of Parks Road.

The Oxford setting is ideal for literary tours and Erica sprinkles her prose with additional spice – mentions of Harry Potter for example and of the book shop Blackwells, is lovely as they bring the literary meaning of her work to the fore.

 

 

Erica James at Lake Como - photo courtesy of Erica James
Erica James at Lake Como – photo courtesy of Erica James

 

Lake Como

 

What do you say about paradise on earth? The booktrail only spent a day there once and that was long ago but it is a place that just has to be revisted and savoured.

Hotel Margherita is fictional yet there are many stunning villas dotted around the lake that could have been chosen for the inspiration behind it. The hotel in the book , a home for the Montford Family back in the day when it first opened.

Esme has the most fascinating and wonderful back story, and we get to wander the streets and feel the cool breeze on her face just as she does and travel via boat to see the sights as she does –

 

After the boat had stopped at the village of Lenno, it went on to Tremezzo and Cadenabbia and once again Angelo adopted his role of tour guide, pointing out the Grand Hotel Tremezzo where Greta Garbo had stayed and the villa Carlotta known for its colourful garden of Azaleas and rhododendrons.

 

….towards the middle of the lake where on the far shore and shimmering in a bluish haze was their destination: Bellagio

 

Aah the views! Lake Como  as seen by author Erica James.
Aah the views! Lake Como as seen by author Erica James.

 

Bellagio

 

It was smaller than she had imagined, and with its warren of dark and narrow cobbled alleyways it reminded her of Venice, except here the streets were all steeply inclined.

 

She visits the Romanesque church of San Giacomo and then goes to have a drink beside the waterfront

 

As well as the landscape, the sights and sounds of the Lake Como area jump from the page and you can see how this might be both the perfect place for a wedding as well as the place to inspire a girl to try and get her man back!

 

 

The novel is a lovely read and a gentle pace with evocative descriptions on every page – never getting in the way of the plot but allowing you to indulge your five senses  – you’re not just reading but experiencing Erica’s world.

 

The author has a home there and loves the views and it shows. Take a stunning lake, a few grand houses, a cool breeze, a cocktail and some Italian charm and you have the perfect ingredients for a summer at the lake.

 

Bellisima!

Cruise away on a booktrail

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The story in a nutshell  –

Frank and Heleen’s anniversary cruise is going perfectly, until the unthinkable happens and Frank disappears. Heleen does everything she can to find her husband, but is ultimately forced to return home, alone and distraught.

After spending months searching for some kind of answers, Helen finally gets some sort of news but it is not what she hoped for: Frank was leading a double life. The man she married was not who she thought he was. Not at all.

How and WHY did Frank go missing. What does this mean for Heleen? Can she ever really get the answers she deserves?

The setting

A cruise liner named Columbus - image from Wikipedia

The setting of the cruise ship is obviously a good one for the initial mystery of someone going missing from what is a closed environment with no visible means of escape – apart from the obvious which is too awful to contemplate.

Frank tells her of the trip he would like to take her on for their wedding anniversary

They are particularly enthusiastic about their eight-day trip that begins and ends in Nice. He pointed his finger to the corresponding information in the brochure. “Naples, Palermo, Tunis Mallorca, Barcelona……..’

The port in Nice - image from Wikipedia

The port in Nice – image from Wikipedia

The Columbus starts its journey from the Quai Amiral in Nice and immediately you want to be standing on the balcony with Heleen..

The picturesque view of Nice from the balcony would make a perfect postcard. The coastline with its stately buildings and luxury hotels, and the  promenade , which was surrounded by palm trees and neatly kept lawns, exuded the exquisite atmosphere of the South of France.

The beauty and serenity of the scene are a stark contrast to what comes next but this makes it all the more chilling following the beautiful setting.

Quirky detail made it all the more interesting and brought back memories from a personal trip –

Meanwhile the extremely long promenade changed names. Promenade des Anglais turned into Quai des Etats-Unis.

Naples is the first stop

Mount Vesuvius seen from Naples bay - image from Wikipedia

The Columbus had gone straight from Nice to the Southern Italian city. “And those ruins that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius?”

Soon, following a few ‘surprises’ on the cruise, Heleen and Frank wave goodbye to Mallorca –

Once upon a time this had been where mass tourism started in Spain….

Mallorca - image from Wikipedia

They spend some lovely moments together in Mallorca –

They had lunch in a small fishing village. The tapas tasted fresh and delicious, the view was lovely and peaceful. 

After the scrumptious dinner, they strolled along Mallorca’s major port, where many very impressive yachts were docked.

But then Heleen’s worst nightmare becomes reality…..

The setting of course changes for the worst and is reflected in the descriptions –

The sky over Barcelona was grey. Over the water it appeared to be even darker making the view rather gloomy

We then return to Heleen’s home in the Netherlands and the mysteries that start to come out of the wood work..in Rotterdam, Marseille and back to Nice –

The water was dark, almost brown. Rusty-coloured crests swallowingone another whole. clouds rushed by, dreary andn gray. The dark body of water only seemed the same in its size but nothing else about it seemed he same. It was azure blue then.

Setting is linked to emotions and to both the physical and psychological journey made by Heleen as she searches for her husband.

A cruise like no other

An interesting premise for a couple’s life that goes so drastically wrong.

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And finally  – It wasn’t just the setting that got the booktrail excited –  the Cruise starts off really well with two choice quotes –

Helen reading and, as we see it, pondering the delights of a booktrail….

On the nightstand next to the bed was a novel written by her favourite author. She had devoured all nine books written by the English writer. The books all took place in Africa. The author really managed to fire up her imagination with the unique atmosphere and circumstances.

In her mind, she experienced all of the adventures herself……

 

 

An Italian book trail- on the 77th anniversary of Rome’s Cinecittà studios

 

To celebrate the  77th anniversary of the establishment of Rome’s Cinecittà studios, created by Benito Mussolini which became a home from home for Hollywood stars in the 1950s and 60s, the Booktrail has selected Italian set books for a little trip around the country via literature! Whoo hoo so jump on the booktrail train and off we go!

A literary tour around Italy - image from Google Maps
A literary tour around Italy – image from Google Maps

 

A -Turin

turinshroudlgeThe Turin Shroud Secret

by Sam Christer 

A book of two halves. Set in Los Angeles where Lieutenant Mitzi Fallon is trying to solve the unusual crime of  women being murdered and then wrapped in bed sheets as if in a shroud.

Set in Turin – Mitzi’s colleague has been sent to Turin to investigate the murder of a writer who has written a script for a film about the Holy Shroud. What had she found out that was so controversial that it meant that she needed to be silenced?

What is going on with these two events and is there a link in some way?

under-the-tuscan-sun

Tuscany

Under the Tuscan sun

Frances Mayes

Poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer—Frances transports us to a wonderful world of Italian food and drink wrapped up in scented and evocative tales of this wonderful part of the country

Tuscany is a unique part of Italy and definitely worth a visit

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Rome

Blood and Beauty

Sarah Dunant

 

A Spanish cardinal bribes his way to the top of the Church of Rome. Battles between Rome and cities all over Italy such as Naples and Florence. Strategic marriages, incest, cardinals who prefer to fight in battle, army chief who would prefer to be in the company of whores.

This is the story of Rome that you wont find on any guide or in any gideook!

 

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Bari

Involuntary Witness (Guido Guerrieri #1)

by  Gianrico Carofiglio

 

A nine-year-old boy is found murdered at the bottom of a well near a popular beach resort in southern Italy. A Senegalese peddler is accused of the crime. It looks like a hopeless case for Guido Guerrieri, but he soon has a fight on his hands and a fight he is determined to win

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Catania

There’s no Home

Alexander Baron

 

Se during the Second World War in 1943, when a small detachment of British troops finally arrive at the Sicilian city of Catania . The people there have suffered immense bombing and bombardment.

 

This is their story  – of the troops, the inhabitants there and an extraordinary situation brings them together.

Ooh we love literary trails here – what would you recommend? We’d love to know!

A night on the Orient Express – Welcome Aboard!

 

 

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Ever felt like boarding the Orient Express and sampling the magic travel reminiscent of yesteryear?

The perfect place to sit back and relax, maybe with a book? Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie may have been the top choice until now – despite the subject matter, it does pull you into the magic of the iconic train. Even the Orient Express Website itself describes the merits of this literary companion – http://www.orient-express.com/web/orex/collection/trains/venice_simplon_orient_express.jsp 

 

There’s a real frisson about reading this book aboard the very train on which its author travelled in the 1930s. 

 

But before the train pulls away from the station – STOP! there is a new liteary companion there on the platform. This is a book you should certainly take with you on your journey. This is the THE ultimate companion to this most magical journey –

boat

AS the clock chimes midnight, in a siding just outside Calais a train sits waiting under a still sky. Above it the moon glimmers, bathing it in a silvery glow.

The Carriages are empty, but for the ghosts of passengers walking up and down the corridors, their fingertips gliding along the marquetry, their scent mingling in the stillness in the air..

 

Who are these ghosts? Don’t you wonder who they were and why they were on the train? Well, we’re about to meet the ones lucky enough to be coming aboard on this most romantic journey of all! A dating agency is running a competition  –

Enjoy breathtaking scenery as the legendary train takes you on the journey of a lifetime…

 

Courtesy of Wikipedia
The Pullman – Courtesy of Wikipedia

Before boarding – 

 

84 year old Adele sends her granddaughter, Imogen, on a mysterious errand,

Riley, an aging photographer journeys on the train on the same day each year……Stephanie who has been dating Simon for three months and who is now attempting to find her place in his family..

Archie and Emmie are the couple who won the agency prize, but neither of them knew they would be on that train…

 

Showing the various journeys of the Orient Express. Look at the one to Venice! - image couresty of Wikipedia
Showing the various journeys of the Orient Express. Look at the one to Venice! – image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Pullman – Victoria to Calais

 

Across the crowded platform, he could see the lounge where passengers waited for the English rake – the Pullman that would take them to Folkestone. There they would cross the Channel to Calais, where the Continental rake, comprising the historic wagon-lits, would await them.

There is opulence and a lot of people watching in this novel as you might expect. I loved the way that the author wrote about one passenger and then moved onto another as if the second were watching the first. A frisson of people watching excitement really made me feel as if I was right there myself –

‘Cheese’ said Emmie, and the flash went off.

From across the lounge, Riley watched the proceedings with interest, although he almost couldn’t bear to watch.  they were such an intriguing couple…

 

Poster courtesy of Wikipedia
Poster courtesy of Wikipedia

The journey from Calais tells us more about those on the train – new relationships are formed, conflict raises its head and trouble looms. Two passengers board at Calais surprising one guest in particular. More stories unravel and more is at stake..

If you thought this was your average romantic novel, then you will be disappointed for although it is in parts, this is so much more than this – there is love aboard the train but it comes in several guises – passionate, new, enduring and destructive. Its promising and messy and oh so real..

The setting however, is the real star of the show and comes into its own towards the end of the novel once the train slows to its final destination – and I for one LOVED the image that the following line created in my mind –

boat

Coming out of the Santa Lucia train station and into the bright sunlight of Venice was rather lik stepping thought the wardrobe and into Narnia, only with water, not snow.

Aah Narnia…

Everything just looked so soft. There were not hard colours or surfaces, just corals and orchres and turquoise with a touch of grey.

 

…gothic arched windows  with stone mullions hinted at the mystery that lay behind them.

 

We walk past the Rialto, bridge, the church of Santa  Maria della Salute and past stalls selling Venetian masks.

Venetian masks - image courtesy of Wikipedia
Venetian masks – image courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Then we take a boat ride – well a water taxi

 

The island of Giudecca - image courtesy of Wikipedia
The island of Giudecca – image courtesy of Wikipedia

 

As they approached the island of Giudecca….past the long parade of shops and restaurants , then finally the classical Chiesa del Redentore, resplendent in white, its stone steps ready to welcome worshippers

Venice - image courtesy of Wikipedia
Venice – image courtesy of Wikipedia

Close your eyes and let this book take you to one of the most magical cities on earth..

take the most magical train of all

Close your eyes and escape

 

As one of the characters sums it up herself –

 

None of it matters. It will still all be there when you get back. What matters is living for the moment. For now. I want an adventure.

 

If you do, pick up A Night on the Orient Express – soon to feature on the Orient Express website itself I hope.

Angels and Demons, Rome

I enjoyed reading the Angels and Demons book of Dan Browns which I had read long before the famous Da Vinci Code came out. And I must say what a fantastic guide to Rome this is. Putting the story to one side, if you take the book around Rome, you get to see and appreciate a lot of the sights that a tourist might normally miss, or at least see them in a different light.

The imposing and eerily lit  Castel Sant’Angelo and St Peters Square is amazing in any situation, but after having read the novel, you can imagine and ‘see’ so much more. The secret passageway is more noticeable after reading the book and the act of Conclave comes to life in the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. Particularly down in the Catacombs!!

The book describes a path – a path of illumination with four points which has been set as a trap by the Illuminati. The Illuminati are a secret society who set the path as a means of inducting new members to the order. Four priests have been kidnapped and are to be killed at four sites around Rome. This leads Langdon to four places where each is associated with one of the primordial elements: ‘Earth’, ‘Air’, ‘Fire’, and ‘Water’.

I also enjoyed learning about the ambigrams – an art form that may be read as one or more words not only in its form as presented, but also from another viewpoint or orientation. I have used this in some typography work I have been involved with recently.

I admit I did the journey following the path to see the fountains and the churches and to trace in Langdon’s footsteps. I didn’t think I believed in all the hype but I admit I didn’t dare take it into the Vatican as a mark of respect just incase.