On visiting bookish places


durrell quote

All right, so I know that Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals isn’t on the list of 1001 Children’s Books, but:

a) I think it should be;

b) I just finished rereading it; and

c) I don’t care.

Gerry (Gerald Durrell) & Spiro

Gerry (Gerald Durrell) & Spiro

It’s one of my favourite books and has made me want to visit Greece since I first read it. And now (or rather, in September), I will be! I’m very excited to travel not only to Greece, but to the little island of Corfu, where My Family and Other Animals takes place. I’ve found a villa to stay in, with real life vineyards and a wood oven outside (it’s not pink, or daffodil-yellow, but it’s close enough) and plan to explore lots of wildlife when I am there.

Books with a sense of place, a sense of setting, can be so thrilling to read. They really make you dive into another city, or country, or space, whether real or imagined. But books that are actually set in a real place, that one can visit – when they are done well, all you want to do is visit the place and see if it is as you imagined it in your head. I’m sure you have all read at least one book that has made you yearn for travel, made you want to see a place with your own eyes rather than on a written page. Journey to the River Sea makes me want to go to the Amazon, I Capture the Castle makes me long for a castle to live in of my very own, and Fiddle-back (the sequel to 45 & 47 Stella Street and Everything that Happened) makes we want to go bush for a while. But none of these are as strong as my longing to see Corfu. I can’t believe that this will actually happen!

Durrell Family in Corfu

Durrell Family in Corfu

I’ve got a few bookish places lined up for my trip – I’m now visiting Odense, where Hans Christian Anderson grew up, and will wander the streets of Edinburgh, thinking of Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as picturing numerous books and characters when in London, and my friend at Oxford University is taking me on a Harry Potter tour of the university. I am already creating a long list of books I think I need to read or reread when on this trip.

Where else in Europe makes you think of a particular author, or book, or character? Is there any bookish place that I simply must see while travelling? All ideas welcome.




  1. Will think about this. Don’t forget Pullman’s His Dark Materials is also set in Oxford, as is the Alice stories. You could visit the Lake District for Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome. Paris for the Hugo Cabret book and The Three Musketeers. And where is Emil and the Detectives set? Barely remember anything about it, it’s been so long…

    • Oooh all good ideas. I forgot about His Dark Materials and Oxford, excellent reminder. And it looks as of today that I will be working on a festival in the lake district, so will have to tie to into Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome. Emil and the Detectives is Berlin, which is another great suggestion. Thanks for those!

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