Happy Tuesday everyone! It is the second day of the week already but I hope everyone is doing well and is safe. Tuesdays also mean one thing, a Top Ten Tuesday update! Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and is currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.
This week’s given topic is Books Set In a Place I’d Love to Visit
Title: The Bastard of Istanbul
Author: Elif Shafak
Synopsis: Asya is a nineteen-year-old woman who loves Johnny Cash and the French existentialists. She. Lives in an extended household in Istanbul, where she has been raised, with no father in sight, by her mother, the beautiful and irreverent Zeliha Kazanei, and by Zeliha’s three older sisters: Banu, a devout woman who has rediscovered herself as a clairvoyant; Cevriye, a prim, widowed high school teacher; and Feride, a hypochondriac obsessed with impending disaster. Their one brother, Mustafa, left Turkey many years earlier and now lives in Tucson with an American woman named Rose who has one daughter from a previous marriage to an Armenian man, this daughter, Armanoush, is nineteen and splits her time between Tucson and San Francisco, where her father’s family lives.
As an Armenian living in America, Armanoush feels that part of her identity is missing and that she must make a journey back to the past, to Turkey, in order to start living her life. She secretly flies to Istanbul, finds the Kazanei sisters, and becomes fast friends with Asya. A secret is eventually uncovered that links the two families together and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres.
Shafak does a great job of capturing the beat of Istanbul, her hometown. She makes the setting a seminal part of the story. This was also palpable in 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World.
Author: Susanna Clarke
Synopsis: Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has.
In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls.
On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food and waterlilies to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone.
Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims.
Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous.
The Beauty of the house is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.
Setting: “The House”
The House is a labyrinthine place where the titular Piranesi found himself stuck. I loved Clarke’s worldbuilding so much that I wanted to explore the House myself.
Title: The Makioka Sisters
Author: Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
Synopsis: In Osaka in the years immediately before World War II, four aristocratic women try to preserve a way of life that is vanishing. As told by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, the story of the Makioka sisters forms what is arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century, a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family – and an entire society – sliding into the abyss of modernity.
Tsuruko, the eldest sister, clings obstinately to the prestige of her family name even as her husband prepared to move their household to Tokyo, where that name means nothing. Sachiko compromises valiantly to secure the future of her younger sisters. The unmarried Yukiko is a hostage to her family’s exacting standards, while the spirited Taeko rebels by flinging herself into scandalous romantic alliances. Filled with vignettes of upper-class Japanese life and capturing both the decorum and the heartache of its protagonists, The Makioka Sisters is a classic of international literature.
Japan, in general, is a country I want to visit. Beyond its capital Tokyo, I want to explore other major urban areas such as Osaka, which came alive with Tanizaki’s storytelling in The Makioka Sisters.
Title: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Author: J.K. Rowling
Synopsis: Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.
Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.
Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.
This is a no-brainer.
Title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Author: Betty Smith
Synopsis: The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.
Setting: New York City
I love the labyrinthine world of major metropolises. It comes as no surprise that it has been my life-long dream to visit and explore the Big Apple.
Title: The Complete Persepolis
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Synopsis: Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.
I realize that the book paints an image of Iran I have in mind but it does grapple with the plight of young women in contemporary Iran. Beyond this, I would love to explore the country one day. I have seen amazing destinations in the country that made me want to pack up my bags and go.
Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Synopsis: All you need is Ove.
At first sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet, a curmudgeon with staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People think him bitter, and he thinks himself surrounded by idiots.
Ove’s well-ordered, solitary world gets a shake-up one November morning with the appearance of new neighbors – a chatty young couple and their two boisterous daughters – who announce their arrival by accidentally flattening Ove’s mailbox with their U-Haul. What follows is a heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unlikely friendships, and a community’s unexpected reassessment of the one person they thought they had all figured out.
One part of the world I want to visit is Scandinavia. Any of the four countries in the region will do. I want to go on an adventure there. Witnessing the aurora borealis wouldn’t be a bad idea as well.
Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Synopsis: Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets – an epic story of murder, madness and doomed love.
Another major city I have long wanted to visit is Spain’s Barcelona. I want to explore the city and trace all the architectural marvels of Antoni Gaudi.
Title: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Author: Douglas Adams
Synopsis: Seconds before Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Perfect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.
Together, this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by a galaxyful of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian (formerly Tricia McMillan), Zaphod’s girlfriend, whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; and Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he’s bought over the years.
Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? For all the answers, stick your thumb to the stars.
Setting: Outer Space
Wouldn’t it be cool to explore the world beyond us?
Title: The Island of Missing Trees
Author: Elif Shafak
Synopsis: Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chili peppers, and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he’s searching for lost love.
Years later a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited – her only connection to her family’s troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.
A moving, beautifully written, and delicately constructed story of love, division, transcendence, history, and eco-consciousness, The Island of Missing Trees is Elif Shafak’s best work yet.
Cyprus is, admittedly, not a destination that would come to mind when asked about places that are on top of my bucket list. But, again, because of Shafak’s riveting storytelling, my interest was captured. I want to get to understand the country and its people more.