When I read books while traveling, I end up associating the book with the place and vice versa. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently because I’m preparing for the school year and reading some non-fiction on Jane Austen. They keep referencing Northanger Abbey, which I read (most of) on a train from Florence to Venice.
When I see the cannals of Venice, I see Catherine Morland immersed in her Gothic novels. When I read about Catherine, I think of rumbling along on that train (which you’ll notice was oversold, hence sitting on the floor for hours) reading my little green Penguin classic.
I read most of my Shakespeare assignments from my Oxford University study abroad semester in Port Meadow. I love that place for a lot of reasons, but a big part is my connection between it and the 18 plays I read that semester. I can start reading The Tempest and be blown away into the quiet meadow where horses grazed and birds called, peaceful and happy.
( …even though we got to go to London and the Globe Theatre and see Shakespeare’s plays unfold in the same way people would have watched it in the 1500s!)
For another paper, I had to read Jane Austen’s Emma and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, which I did mostly in my room in our lovely flat on Walton Crescent. (Sometimes the weather was a little rough to go read Port Meadow). When I pick up those books again, I’m reminded of the beautiful little green backyard view from my room.
My grandmother was a librarian, and when she babysat me, I was basically locked in the library with her and given free rein to wander through the shelves; I read most of the “Boxcar Children” series there and picture those four siblings as much in a library as they were in a boxcar. My family spent a week at Solana Beach every year growing up, and we always got to buy a new book right before we left. I always tried to pick giant ones because I read fast and didn’t want to run out of reading material. So at a young age I picked “The Count of Monte Cristo” to take because I knew I could spend the whole week reading it! Haha… I really liked it, too. I should give the movie another try.
Some of the associations are not so happy–I was reading “The Remains of the Day” while my grandmother was in hospice, and it was in my hands at the moment she took her final breath. So it’s certainly not counted among my favorite books. I read the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy while moving in my freshman year of high school, so as dramatic as leaving all my friends felt, it was heightened by feeling like I was marching with Frodo and Sam into Mordor, too. (Okay, I’ll confess that’s a little comical though. Oh, the teenage years…). Those are tied more to events than places, though I can remember the “scene” I was sitting in for each one.
But for the most part, I love that I’ve associated so many books and places. What about you? Do you have a book that’s become tied to the place you read it? I can’t wait to travel again and make more memories like these!