I have two loves: books and travel. So it’s no surprise that I combined the two in my debut novel,
A setting doesn’t just have to be a backdrop; instead, it can permeate deep enough that you’re left feeling as if the locale is another main character. Here are a few of my favorite book-and-location pairings that stand the test of time.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
WHERE TO READ IT: New York City
There’s a lot Truman Capote’s slim novel taught me, the first of which is the importance of a striking title (you simply cannot beat that title!). Second, is great character names: Holly Golightly, Mag Wildwood, and Sally Tomato, anyone? And third, is how to turn an unlikely creature into a timeless heroine: Capote made it easy to love a fresh-mouthed, down-and-out call girl in New York City—and we love him for it. But Holly just wouldn’t work as well in any other city than New York—because since its birth, New York has been the place you go to reinvent yourself. And that’s as true today as it was in 1958, when the novella was first published.
WHERE TO READ IT: Côte d’Azur
Sometimes the same reason we travel is the same reason we read: to escape. Françoise Sagan’s fatalistic and oh-so-French 1950s novella is escapism as it finest. Narrated by precocious seventeen-year-old Cécile, the story captures that languid mood of a long, hot summer spent in a holiday home. (In this case it’s a secluded white villa in the French Riviera.) Rife with sun, sea, sex, and symbolism, this novel is pure satisfaction for the senses, like the South of France itself.
WHERE TO READ IT: Ho Chi Minh City
Marguerite Duras’ The Lover stars a nameless teenage girl in the crux of a tumultuous affair with a much older Chinese lover. In a series of almost sepia-toned scenes and fragments—a ferry ride on the Mekong river; the daily life in Cholon, the Chinese capital of French Indo-China—readers subtly gain lyrical learning of everything from colonialism to love.
WHERE TO READ IT: Mexico City
Every traveller loves to quote Kerouac, but I never felt an affinity until I read his novella Tristessa. Finally, I too could get lost his luminous language for days (all the while still never quite sure I’ve gotten his point), the same way I could get lost in the back alleys and side streets of Mexico City. Even at the end of the book, if you asked me whether the narrator is in love with the drugged-addicted prostitute with the given name of Tristessa or Mexico City itself, I couldn’t say. (In fact, I’m not even sure they’re two distinct characters.)
The Dud Avocado
WHERE TO READ IT: Paris
Everyone girl wants to visit Paris—even though some of its charms are thin shadows of the past, filled-in and plumped-up for wide-eyed tourists. Paris has had many heydays, but Elaine Dundy’s 1950s Paris is hard to beat. The novel opens on heroine Sally Jay wearing an evening dress on a morning in Paris because all of her other clothing is at the laundry. To me, that captures the frivolous, pink-hued glamour of Paree that will always keep us girls visiting the city of lights—not just to fall in love with the city, but also to fall in love with ourselves.
Which books are you reading right now?
Words by Nicole Trilivas; Illustrations by Fernanda Navilli
Nicole Trilivas is the author of
Fernanda Navilli is a Brazilian graphic designer, art director and illustrator who has produced everything from 8-foot light installations to a series of flat illustrations about yoga. Her latest thing is sign painting, and her other passions include jazz, quirky zines and kale crisps.
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