Shelf Isolation: The Travel Collection
With real life travel off the menu and all of us staying at home for the foreseeable future, we’ll have to settle for armchair travel for the moment. Here are some reads to airlift you beyond your living room.
by Deborah Levy
No one writes quite like Deborah Levy, and this novel is seething with tension and interiority. Our protagonist Sofia’s life has been paused indefinitely while she cares for her unwell mother on the sun-bleached Spanish coast. Sofia’s relationship with her mother is just as intense and inescapable as the scorching sun. It’s an extraordinarily vivid story about the complxity of the human mind and our flawed relationships with one another.
The Lost Europeans
by Emmanuel Litvanof
Based on the author’s experiences of moving to Berlin ten years after the Second World War, The Lost Europeans follows two Jews who return to Berlin after the Holocaust. It is a sharp, lively and poignant depiction of post-war Germany, and a completely unforgettable read.
The Neapolitan Quartet
by Eleanor Ferrante
Beginning in the 1950s with My Brilliant Friend, this series of four novels follows two friends, Lena and Lila, as they navigate their childhood, adolescence and adulthood in an impoverished part of Naples. Depicting the social workings of a small, poor community, and the joys, jealousies and evolutions of friendship, you’ll find yourself transported to Naples through Ferrante’s warm characters and addictive prose.
by Ayelet Gundar Goshen
When a distinguished doctor runs over a man on the way home from a nineteen hour shift, he knows he has killed him. Weighing up the impact of reporting his crime, knowing the man cannot be saved, and leaving him in order to save himself, he makes a decision that will change his life forever. It’s full of moral complexity that cuts to the bone of the human condition, and the Israeli setting is fantastic.
Half of a Yellow Sun
by Chimanda Ngoze Adichie
There are many books that I could recommend that would transport you to the buzzing, scorching culture of Nigeria, from Ben Okri’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Famished Road, to the darkly comic My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Where The Famished Road is full of folklore and mysticism and Braithwaite’s novel pulsates with the modernity and heat of present day Lagos, Half of a Yellow Sun paints a portrait of Nigeria at its most turbulent time. Telling the story of three characters living through the Biafran War during the 1960s, it’s a transportive novel that ought to be read by anyone who wants to understand the evolution of Nigeria.
Japan and Korea
by Min Jin Lee
‘History has failed us, but no matter.’ So opens this multi-generational epic, spanning eight decades and four generations of one Korean family living in Japan. It’s an incredibly heartfelt tale about family, immigration, and the impact of racial oppression on communities and individuals that also taught me a lot about the relationship between these two nations.
by E.M Reapy
Nothing so accurately transports me to the dusty heat of rural Australia as E.M. Reapy’s Red Dirt. Set against the backdrop of the global financial crash in 2008, three young Irish backpackers relocate to Australia full of hope and a sense of adventure. It’s dark and thrilling, at times heartbreaking, and an amazing evocation of the loneliness, bravado and folly of youth. Anyone whose plans to backpack around Australia have been scuppered may be pleased they stayed at home after reading this.
The Lucky Ones
by Julianne Pachico
One of my favourite short story collections, The Lucky Ones is a series of interconnected short stories that reveal the dark heart of Columbia. A young woman waits in an empty house whilst an insurgency rises outside, and an incarcerated teacher recites Shakespeare to a class of leaves and twigs as he descends into madness induced by his captivity. These stories are both bizarre and blisteringly real, a gasping, gritty collection that shocks and simmers.