If you’re not able to take time off this summer to travel, don’t despair: you can book your vacation with great reads instead. Pick up novels with international settings to experience their ambience, history, and culture. To help you plan your literary itinerary, we scoured the Armchair Adventurer archives and selected six favorites for you to explore. The settings of these novels are so vividly depicted, you’ll immediately feel transported—and you don’t even have to pass through customs!
Explore Puerto Rico with Esmeralda Santiago’s Conquistadora
Inspired by an ancestor’s diary, young Ana Larragoity Cubillas travels across the ocean from Spain to Puerto Rico to find love and a new life. Her dreams are thrown into relief by the unrelenting heat and the slave labor on which life at Hacienda los Gemelos depends. When the American Civil War erupts, threatening life on the hacienda, Ana will sacrifice nearly everything to keep hold of the land that has become her true home. Puerto Rico is a top summer destination, and now you can take a tour of some of the island’s most beautiful and enduring sights with this edition of Armchair Adventurer!
The Fascinating World of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84
Haruki Murakami is indubitably the most celebrated contemporary Japanese writer—so what better guide to walk us through the streets of Tokyo? Set in Japan’s capital in 1984, Murakami’s 1Q84 blurs the line between fantasy and reality. In this Armchair Adventurer, we visit the real-life places that Murakami has incorporated into his intricately beautiful novel.
Visiting the North of France with Irène Némirovsky’s All Our Worldly Goods
After growing up side-by-side in a placid seaside town in northern France, Pierre and Agnes marry for love against the wishes of his parents and his grandfather, the tyrannical family patriarch. Their marriage provokes a family feud that’s just the beginning of the changes that will ripple through France during the coming wars. In this Armchair Adventurer, we take a closer look at the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France, where Pierre and Agnes fight to make themselves a home.
Dhaka, Bangladesh and The Newlyweds
Amina Mazid, the heroine of The Newlyweds, moves from Bangladesh to Rochester, New York, for love. A hundred years ago, Amina would have been called a mail-order bride. But this is the twenty-first century: she is wooed by—and woos—George Stillman online. When Amina first arrives in Rochester, she is in utter culture shock, not being able to come to terms with the differences between the United States and her home in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital. In this Armchair Adventurer, we learn more about Amina’s background by taking a tour of Dhaka’s most interesting attractions.
Exploring London with Alexander McCall Smith’s A Conspiracy of Friends
In the third installment of Alexander McCall Smith’s Corduroy Mansions series, the charmingly eccentric residents of the Pilmico neighborhood in London all struggle with their nearest and dearest. Named after the crumbling but beloved mansion block that McCall Smith’s characters call home, the series will immediately draw you to the hustle and bustle of central London. Read this Armchair Adventurer to visit some of the most unmissable sights in and around the Pilmico neighborhood!
Visit the Tuscany of Chris Bohjalian’s The Light in the Ruins
For the traveler, Tuscany, one of the most emblematic regions of Italy, offers the joys of lush gardens, towering cypresses, and vintage wine. But in late 1943 and 1944, when one of the storylines of The Light in the Ruins takes place, Tuscany was in turmoil. During World War II it was one of Italy’s most afflicted regions, with more than 3,000 people losing their lives during the German troops’ retreat in 1944. Read this Armchair Adventurer feature to learn more about war-time Tuscany and why Chris Bohjalian chose it for the setting of his bestselling novel.