It was thrilling to read the introduction to this book. The scope and content of the book Sarah Baxter has discussed are original and clever. Her ideas are bold and interesting, her own writing just wonderful, with descriptive passages and passionate tones. She has chosen to look at the settings for twenty-five of the greatest classics (her choice).
Baxter says “Writers build places. Sometimes they conjure make believe realms unfettered by rules of sense or science. But sometimes they evoke real ones – destinations you can find on a map.” She goes on to say that the best writers can evoke sights, sounds and smells, as well as politics and history, allowing the reader can travel the world through these words.
What a stunningly simple idea, but one which also introduces a reader to a precis of great stories. Along with the overview of the story, the author reveals some of the history or politics that precede the actual tale, and explain customs and lifestyles that add more complete understanding for the reader. For example, “The heather- fuzzed, wind whipped wilderness, where the literary Bronte family lived, played and wrote, may as well be listed in the novel’s dramatis personae.”
Some of the classics that Sarah has chosen to discuss are: Les Misérables, Ulysses, A Room with a View, The God of Small Things, and To Kill a Mockingbird. There are stories from South Africa, Naples, Berlin, Bath, and Chile.
The first piece of writing is centred around Les Misérables, and therefore Paris in the early 1800’s. Paris was then a dark and dangerous place. “It was rife with inequality and despair.” There were riots in the streets and until Baron Haussman demolished much of the Medieval city, you could actually follow in the footsteps of Valjean. Victor Hugo is said to have had a deathbed wish to be buried in a pauper’s grave. However, he has been moved to the Pantheon.
The depth of information that has been gathered around each story and the beautiful style of writing, ensure the reader has a broader understanding of these marvellous stories. A great addition to the book is the quality of the illustrations. They are bold, stark and naïve. They evoke a great sense of feeling that relates to each setting. Certainly, the way Hanging Rock has been portrayed brings back the haunting sounds of pan pipes.
This book should not be missed by any reader who has an interest in quality literature. The joy and passion the reader will experience cannot be understated. This is a rare and precious addition to any Library.
|Author||Sarah Baxter, illustrated by Amy Grimes|
|Publisher||White Lion Publishing|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|