Confessions of a Literary Traveller – Sarah Baxter on Literary Places
Literary places to travel to with Sarah Baxter
Sarah is the author of a very fine book. Perfect for travellers and literary travellers in one. The settings of the books she’s chosen to include in her book showcase the power and variety of travelling by books! And that’s not all – the illustrations are something else and really help you to visualise and imagine yourself in the literary setting. Time now for Confessions of a Literary Traveller – Sarah Baxter on Literary Places..
Excited already so let’s get going!
Where did your inspiration to mix books and travel come from?
I’m a book-worm child and English Literature graduate who has become a travel writer – it seemed the obvious combination!
Do you travel to literary settings in your free time?
Not specifically, but I do love to seek out stories in any place I go to. I find I get a lot more out of a destination, and am more engaged by it, if I delve further into its history or its spirituality, or if I can read what the great minds of the past have written about it before. All of these things add layers; they can enrich the travel experience.
Best place you’ve been to?
Possibly the question I’m asked most, and the one I most struggle with. It can change on a weekly basis. I love Nepal, because I love the mountains. But I also really enjoy exploring the English countryside, especially areas where the mysterious lumps and bumps hint at peoples who lived here thousands of years ago. You start to wonder what stories they could tell about place you’re visiting.
Place you’d like to go to most because of a book
Romania is quite high on my wish-list. The notions of Dracula and Transylvania are the initial literary draw; while a lot of that may be hokum, and Bran Castle has allegedly become over-touristy, I’d love to see the old Saxon villages and medieval landscapes that inspired such tales.
Which books really inspire you via setting?
The God of Small Things oozes India – you can feel the humidity and the exoticism seeping off the page. Great writing does that – puts you slap-bang in a place. I’ve just finished reading Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, set in the 19th-century New Zealand goldrush, and written so brilliantly. I instantly wanted to go back to New Zealand – to see the misty rivers and the Southern Alps, and imagine the stampeders panning for their fortunes.
Which characters would make good travel companions?
Travelling with Hercule Poirot would be macabre but fascinating – all those murders in exotic places! And the chance to see his little grey cells at work, close up. Beatrice, from Much Ado About Nothing, and Jo March, from Little Women, would provide some feisty female companionship.
Also, he’s not a fictional character, but exploring in the company of legendary travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor would be endlessly interesting – he was clearly the most charming man, always ending up staying in castles with minor royalty as he walked across Europe. He’d have some good stories, which we could share on lovely long walks.
Favourite fictional place you wish was real?
I’ve always wanted to walk through my wardrobe – though I’d only want to find a nice Narnia on the other side. And I’ve always fancied being transported back to those One Thousand and One Nights-style places – labyrinthine, lamp-lit souks, snake charmers, flying carpets…
Books as a child which inspired you?
As so many kids, I was enthralled by Enid Blyton, especially the adventurous nature of the Famous Five. I also loved the wit and playfulness of Roald Dahl and Douglas Adams.
How did this book come together?
We started with a LONG list of books, that somehow had to be reduced to just 25. The key was to find not just great books, but books where the locations were characters themselves – where the book couldn’t exist anywhere else, because the place was so integral to the story. Then, once the list was settled. the wonderful illustrator Amy Grimes worked her magic.
Thanks so much for this magical literary tour Sarah!
This really is a magical read in so many ways. The writing evokes the book’s setting and how it makes you feel. The reader is guided along streets, pathways and rural towns and into the realms of fantasy. It’s that little child in all of us, sitting by the window reading and wanting to be where we are reading.
The illustrations are stunning!
BookTrail Boarding Pass: Literary Places