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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

London set fiction as a warm up for the Olympics

Over the coming weeks, in a pre Olympic warm-up, walk with us through the streets of London, past and present; let our chosen authors guide you through the byways and highways of this timeless city, in the company of a good storyline.

"See a location through an author's eyes"

Starting with Victorian London, let these authors take you through the dark, dank streets of the city, the echoes and reverberations of footsteps resonating into the 21st century. It was the time of overt morality, but underneath there was a seamier side of this powerhouse city:.... Jack the Ripper ..... poverty ....... industrialisation ...... smog....... 

And if you would like to share any books, set in the Victorian era in London, where that period simply lifts off the pages, then take a moment or two to introduce other readers to your suggestion (Comments Box below). We have simply scraped the surface as a starter....

London, 1896. Andrew Harrington is young, wealthy and heartbroken. His lover Marie Kelly was murdered by Jack the Ripper and he longs to turn back the clock and save her.
Meanwhile, Claire Haggerty rails against the position of women in Victorian society. Forever being matched with men her family consider suitable, she yearns for a time when she can be free to love whom she chooses.
But hidden in the attic of popular author – and noted scientific speculator – H.G. Wells is a machine that will change everything

A year after Jack the Ripper claimed his last victim, Victorian London is in the grip of a wave of crime and murder, with its citizens no longer able to trust the police to protect them. The newly formed Murder Squad of Scotland Yard, made up of just twelve detectives, battles in vain against the tide of violence and cruelty.
When the body of a Yard detective is found in a suitcase, his lips sewn together and his eyes sewn shut, it becomes clear that not even the police are safe from attack. Has the Ripper returned - or is a new killer at large?

"The first great 19th-century novel of the 21st century". It's the story of a well-read London prostitute named Sugar, who spends her free hours composing a violent, pornographic screed against men.  We learn intimate details about Sugar and her clients,about her lingering skin condition, and about the suspect ingredients of her prophylactic douches. All set against the evocative background of late 19th Century London.

And the idea of Victorian London isn't complete without a work by Dickens. We have chosen Oliver Twist, Dickens’ tale of childhood innocence, beset by evil, which depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters. 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

"You cannot be serious"... but we are! Tennis themed fiction set, well, in lots of places

Tennis themed novels that capture the feel, amongst others, of
 Moldova, England, London, New York, Florida, California

The big tennis tournaments come around again and again, in a blink of an eye. But the tennis public remains constant. So, to keep interest between tournaments, we decided to research tennis-themed books set in wonderful locations around the world. Enjoy, get your eye in, grab one of our suggested titles and settle back with a good read (when you are not watching or playing tennis, that is).

If you know of any other fiction that is plotted around tennis and brings a location to life, then please drop a note in the Comments Box - it would be great to have a definitive list of tennis-themed novels and you can help!

Playing the Moldovans at Tennis by Tony Hawks has been a Sunday Times bestseller. Naturally it is set in Moldova.

"I’d originally made the bet in a London pub during a televised World Cup qualifying match between England v Moldova and as a result I’d headed off to track down the entire Moldovan football team, and to challenge them individually to a game of tennis, and beat them all. However, along the way I discovered that I’d bitten off more than I could chew. In Europe’s poorest country, which was enduring daily power shortages, gun-toting gangsters, and even an illegal and lawless breakaway republic, I found that it wasn’t that easy to coax footballers onto a tennis court." Tony Hawks

Proceeds from the film of this book will go the children’s care centre in Chisinau Moldova – for kids with chronic conditions who are living in socially vulnerable families.

And now for something a bit different... this book is set in England in a country pile ("mansion" for anyone  unfamiliar with British-speak!)The Tennis Party by Madeleine Wickham aka Sophie Kinsella.
Patrick has the perfect setting - the White House, (bought out of his bonuses as an investment banker) for a tennis party. He hasn't actually told Caroline, his brash and beautiful wife, what the real reason for the party is. She is glad to welcome Stephen and Annie, their impoverished former neighbours, less glad to see newly wealthy Charles and his aristocratic wife Cressida, and barely able to tolerate the deadly competitive Don and Valerie......

Double Fault by Lionel Shriver is a realistic, detailed and thought-provoking analysis of the deterioration of a marriage set against a tennis background. Set in the States, Willie is married to Eric who starts off ranked well below her on the tennis circuit but ends up in the US Open. The passages about tennis mirror the increasingly competitive and jealous nature of the two people in a close relationship.

Backhand by Liza Cody features Anna Lee, on the tennis court, where she is asked to investigate a missing person. The investigation becomes increasingly complex, taking Anna from London to Sarasota, Florida, where she is drawn into the underworld of high finance, violence, and murder.

Doubles by Nic Brown
Slow Smith is in a slump. He's a professional tennis player stuck in his hometown, serving to an empty court. His wife is in a coma and he's afraid he's to blame. One afternoon his old coach Manny appears and persuades Slow to return to Forest Hills with him - the site of a six-year winning streak. Here they reunite with old friends who call up long-buried desires and reveal a secret that threatens to destroy Slow's marriage. At once hilarious and heartbreaking, Doubles serves up a tale of melancholy and redemption--both on the court and off.

In Crooked Little Heart by Ann Lamott Rosie Ferguson, in the first bloom of young womanhood, is obsessed with tournament tennis. Her mother is a recovering alcoholic still grieving the death of her first husband; her stepfather, a struggling writer, is wrestling with his own demons. And now Rosie finds that her athletic gifts, once a source of triumph and escape, place her in peril, as a shadowy man who stalks her from the bleachers seems to be developing an obsession of his own...set in Marin County, California

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is set in the near future with a light sci-fi angle. The residents of Ennet House, a Boston halfway house for recovering addicts, and students at the nearby Enfield Tennis Academy are ensnared in the search for the master copy of INFINITE JEST, a movie said to be so dangerously entertaining its viewers become entranced and expire in a state of catatonic bliss ...

And last but not least The Total Zone a novel by the one and only Martina Navritilova set in New York, London and Florida, a tad difficult to get hold of but there are lots of secondhand copies out there

"A tennis thriller, against great tennis backdrops" 

FloridaThe Academy is the hottest international sports school for teen athletes. There are only two ways in: money – and lots of it – or enough talent to earn a scholarship.
Young tennis star Maya’s dreams have finally come true! She’s got the scholarship. She’s got the drive. She’s on her way from small town to pro career . . . But when Maya starts boarding at the sports training school, her fantasy of the Academy doesn’t quite match the reality – because where there are beautiful, talented teens, there’s plenty of drama.

When Abraham Verghese, a physician whose marriage is unravelling, relocates to Texas, he hopes to make a fresh start as a staff member at a county hospital. There he meets David Smith, a medical student recovering from a drug addiction, and the two men begin a tennis ritual that allows them to shed their inhibitions and find security, in the sport they love and in each other. But when the dark beast that is David's addiction emerges once again, almost everything Verghese has come to trust and believe in is threatened.

If you are looking for more tennis-themed novels, then click here for a further selection compiled by @gilbyroberts 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Venice and Varanasi - 2 novellas in one

We are always on the lookout for new books set in locations to feature on our site - and we are grateful to receive review copies from publishers and authors, and suggestions from around the world - and sometimes we come across truly memorable books. This is one of them!

A single book, two novellas. Why Venice and Varanasi in one book? Both cities start with "V"  (as a good a starting point as any...) and have in common "Tiny lanes, crumbling old palaces, the water....." In this book the locations are the real stars, Venice and Varanasi are beautifully brought to life and whether you are accompanying Jeff along a Venice Canal, or visiting a Ghat in the second novella, the reader is just drawn into another world.

Giorgione's"The Tempest"

The first  novella is set in Venice and features Jeff, a journalist who embarks on a passionate affair with Laura from the States, during the Venice Biennale (it includes scenes of a sexual nature!). Jeff has certainly got the TripFiction idea, he gens up on Venice by reading Mary McCarthy's Venice Observed and having enjoyed her description of Giorgione's painting "The Tempest" sets out to find it. The dark canals, the heat, the little campi and calli all star in this well written book.

Varanasi (or Benares) is the setting for the second part of the book and the narrator guides us through time spent in the city, his observations of the different ghats ("walking along the ghats is like going on safari"), the friends he makes, and the frenzy of  daily life for most of the inhabitants (but not all). The pulsating, noisy and colourful city simply lifts off the pages as if the reader were there too.  This is a city full of vibrancy and destitution and traffic and animal chaos - if you were to find yourself driving all you need is need a "Good horn, good brakes and good luck". This book is a pantheon of interesting events and experiences ....

The hotel which is featured appears to be real 

Hope you enjoy this book as much as we did!

Help needed to find a specific novel set in Japan

We have kept a fairly meticulous record of all the books we have read over the last 15 or so years that are "set in"  and evocative of location; but we have mislaid details for one very specific book that we would very much like to rediscover. Please can you help?

The novel is set in Tokyo, it tells the story of a turn of the 20th century British woman who set sail for Japan and ends up working in a department store there, selling stock, cloth and generally adjusting to life in a very new environment. This  book was so detailed of life in Japan in that period, that it sowed the inital seeds for But despite our best endeavours we cannot recall the title/author. By a Western author, definitely. Based on this very limited description can you help us rediscover the novel? A pile of novels that are strong on location awaits the first person to identify the book. Please use the Comments Box for any thoughts.

And in anticipation, a BIG thank you!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A poignant novel set in England and Nigeria

As we continuously research books "set in" locations around the world, we sometimes come across novels that deserve their own blogpost, because they are particularly evocative of a place,  and they combine a terrific story with beautiful writing; and this, to our mind, is one of them....

The Other Hand by Chris Cleave, set in the south of England and Nigeria, stuck with us because of the storyline and because of the sometimes whimsical observations. It sooo captures the feel of  England, the South East and London in particular, how the British approach life, how they observe situations, and generally how they 'get on' with their lives. There are well drawn perceptions, too, of others looking in on the British way of life. And the sections set in Nigeria depict a country ripe and full of ominous portent....

And as for the tremendous storyline.....we will leave you to find out....

Have you noticed, by the way, if you screw up your eyes, or hold the book at arms' length, the cover seems to have a pronounced cross, or an "Angel of the North" image, composed of the child against the horizon? How clever is that?

If you have read a brilliant book that is evocative of location and makes a good story, share it with others in our COMMENTS BOX below - and if we don't already feature it, we will add to to our site.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Football and fiction - novels set in countries taking part in Euro 2012

At TripFiction we  suggest a novel that is evocative of each country taking part in Euro 2012, especially those a little fatigued by football. We have chosen authors who in their own way bring each country to life and enable us to see, feel and enjoy that country through fiction. 

Please feel free to add more novels that you think really capture the essence of a particular country/place in our Comments Box below and if we don't already feature it we will certainly add it to our database.

A traveller's words that sum up a feel for football: I still found it difficult to let go, especially now that the Euopean Championship had alledgedly resumed. It wasn't just the games themselves; it was the whole structure that football lent to one's life, the shared belief system, the stories and controversies that reinforced it." (extract from Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer)


May, 1992. Hana is twelve years old when she is put on one of the last UN evacuation buses fleeing the besieged city of Sarajevo. Her twenty-one-year-old sister, Atka, staying behind to look after their five younger siblings, is there to say goodbye.  But as the Bosnian war escalates and months go by without contact, their promise to each other becomes deeply significant. Hana is forced to cope as a refugee in Croatia, far away from home and family, while Atka battles for survival in a city where snipers, mortar attacks and desperate food shortages are a part of everyday life.


A wealthy young couple in depression-era Czechoslovakia commission their modernist dream house and live there until personal betrayal and the Nazis arriving on the doorstep end the idyll. The Landauer House is based on Mies Van Der Rohe's art-deco masterpiece, the Villa Tugendhat in Brno. Simon Mawer follows the history of the house over the next 50 years, but of course the Landauer family and their friends are the main point of the story.


Set in Denmark, Bess is coming to terms with the death (by shooting) of her husband Halland. Why was he shot?
The chapters are short, vignettes, describing her encounters with different people who move in and out of her life, discoveries she makes along the way. The TLS describes this kind of contemporary literature as "2 hour books to be devoured in a single sitting: literary cinema for those fatigued by film" (or football?)


Grace, erstwhile maid at Riverton Manor tells the story reflectively from a grand age. The story of a grand English country house, the home of Hannah and Emmiline Hartford. There is mystery, there are secrets, love, loss and tragedy.
Here, hidden beneath the layers of time the ghosts of old memories start to stir.
Their story is told by Grace Bradley. One time housemaid at Riverton. As the tale unfolds a secret is about to emerge, something forgotten in the midsts of time but not as it seems by Grace...


Recenty published, this new novel from Joanne Chocolat. Fictional Lansquenet, in south-west France, is once again the setting for this novel, no. 3 in the Chocolat series. Vianne Rocher receives an unexpected letter from her old friend Armande Voizin, asking her to return to Lansquenet, so Vianne leaves her partner, Roux, on their houseboat in Paris and takes her daughters, Anouk and Rosette, back to the small town where she opened her beautiful chocolate shop just under a decade ago.


Set in rural 1950s Germany, the narrator of the book returns to an isolated rural community where a whole family and their maid have been murdered and the rest of the community has turned a blind eye.


On the fictional sunlit Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation's annual lecture is to be given by Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. He turns out to be surprisingly young and charming -- not at all the intimidating figure they had been expecting. The Foundation's guests are soon eating out of his hand. So, even sooner, is Nikki, the attractive and efficient organiser.

"Captures the Greek feel impeccably!"


In 2010, when the recession took root in Ireland, the young people looked at the ground they were standing on and realised it was rotten. Rotten in so many ways, but especially in the ways made by man. 
In the winter of 2010, a group of college students had a different idea. They weren't going to leave. They would simply find a patch of land that hadn't been contaminated and live off it. Just like their forefathers had always done before the land became rotten and the country corrupted by greed. This is their story.


A gastro-memoir! And don't let the cover lead you to believe it is chick-lit, it isn't!! L’appetito vien mangiando! – Appetite comes while you are eating. Vicky arrives in Tuscany to study the language and culture of Italy, but soon falls in love with charismatic chef Gianfranco and starts to learn the art of Italian cooking in his trattoria. On Sunday nights, after benches are stacked on tables, they explore the countryside by car, passing glassy lakes and ancient hill towns. This colourful and intoxicating gastro-memoir takes you behind the scenes of romantic restaurants and bars in Tuscany, Umbria, Elba and Perugia. Interspersed with recipes, humour and heartbreak, it will leave you entranced and with a hankering for tagliatelle and truffles.


Schama shows how, in the 17th-century, a modest assortment of farming, fishing and shipping communities, without a shared language, religion or government, transformed themselves into a formidable world empire – the Dutch republic.
‘Schama is one of the few historians writing today who can recreate the mentalité of another culture.’


The author spent five years living and working in Poland and he recounts his time there in a vivid and enjoyable style.

"All said and done, it's a funny, witty and very tender book about a country few of us (in the West) know much about. A must for those who want to discover the 'real' Poland, even if, one suspects, it has changed since the book was written"


Raimund Gregorius is a Swiss middle-aged teacher of ancient languages in Bern. His routine id disturbed when he has a strange encounter with a Portuguese woman. He learns of the work of Amadeu Prado and is energised into travelling to Lisbon where he meets with characters who have been important in Prado's life.


A thriller set in 1950s Stalinist Russia, a regime that balks at nothing and executes opponents without conscience. It wanted to be seen as the perfect society. A series of brutal murders shatter this image, but if it is the work of a serial killer, then denial is the first response.

"A fast paced novel that keeps the reader engaged"


Spain is Michener’s second home and he writes about the glories of the Prad0, th bullfights, and everything that is Spanish; such a great storyteller, he magnificently captures the stunning variety of life and culture in Spain.

"An absolute must for Hispanophiles"


Working Mother of 2 children crime reporter Annika Bengtzon is woken by a phonecall in the early hours of a wintry December morning. An explosion has ripped apart the Olympic Stadium. And a victim has been blown to pieces. Seven days. Three killings. And Bengtzon who knows too much...


The hero, Captain Alexei Korolev, a detective in Moscow's criminal investigation squad in the 1930s, dissatisfied and morose, manages to cling to his job and his life while all around him are losing theirs. He's ordered to the port of Odessa to look into the apparent suicide of a young woman film production assistant whose importance was that she was also the secret mistress of an influential state commissar. Korolev's inquiries unearth dangerous secrets.

Friday, 15 June 2012

A good cup of tea and a bit of fiction (about tea), set in Charleston, Belfast and Japan

"Good tea is eloquent enough, it turns out, to change a person’s mind" from the novel The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto set in Tokyo)

Tea themed novels for your delectation, a cup of Early Grey tea and a cucumber sandwich go down a treat with a good read in hand..... and if you would like something a bit stronger to go with your fiction then go to


A light whodunnit: The unscrupulous developer Hughes Barron is found poisoned with a cup of Theodosia Browning's tea in his hand. A friend becomes the prime suspect, Theo starts to investigate to find the real killerSet in Charleston.

Interweaving the lives and stories of several characters' stories, the tea house is the thread that binds them together. This is a book, set in Belfast, where people find comfort in tea and food .

The fortunes of a family stand or fall by the use of the proper principles of the Tea Ceremony, a story as intricate as the tea ceremony itself. Japan.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A Smörgåsbord of fiction (Denmark)

Over to Denmark, famous for (among other things) Hamlet, Hans Christian Anderson, LEGO, Carlsberg Beer, the Little Mermaid and some great fiction to bring the country to life!

Set in modern Denmark, Bess is coming to terms with the death (by shooting) of her husband Halland. Why was he shot?
The chapters are short, vignettes almost, describing her encounters with different people who subsequently move in and out of her life, and tell of the discoveries she makes along the way. The TLS describes this kind of contemporary literature as "2 hour books to be devoured in a single sitting: literary cinema for those fatigued by film".

King Christian IV of Denmark is, in the year of 1630, living in a limbo of fear and rage for his life, his country's ruin, and his wife's not-so-secret adultery. He consoles himself with the weaving of impossible dreams and with music--played by his Royal Orchestra in the freezing cellar at Rosenborg while he listens in his cosy Vinterstue above. Music, he hopes, will create the sublime order he craves. Kirsten, his devious wife, is a continual maker of Beautiful Plans to outwit, avenge, feed her greed. And she detests music.
Tremain directs the story with an eye to detail and wit and transports the reader to seventeenth century Denmark. 

(And one final thought, do Danish Beer Bottles really have a message at the bottom that says "Open Other End"?)

Click  on the covers to find out more about the book and click here to see all the books we feature, set in Denmark. Looking for novels set in other countries - and we do feature over 870 locations at the moment - click here for the TripFiction website.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Pimm's Iced Tea and a bit of fiction (about tea) set in China, Java and your cocktail cabinet

We are on a tea themed odyssey. We have chosen a couple of novels that just ooze tea-liciousness.  Just sit back, put your feet up and enjoy a good read whilst enjoying a glass of Pimm's Iced Tea. Please don't forget to add any tea-related recipes or details of tea-related novels in our Comments Box.

Pimm's Iced Tea

90ml Pimm's No 1
180ml brewed Orange Pekoe Tea, chilled
1 1/2 tsp honey
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Plus lemon wedges, mint sprigs, strawberries, peach slices, and thin slivers of cucumber

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the Pimm's No 1, tea, honey and lemon juice. Garnish lavishly, pick up a book and enjoy!

For all the Tea in China is about the trials and tribulations experienced by Robert Fortune and his team and their efforts to send and keep alive samples, cuttings and seeds of quality tea shrubs and send them to India; how Fortune discovered how the Chinese grew, processed and made tea (black and green teas are a result of the processing, not from different plants). Fabulous!

The story of two people, Scottish planthunter Robert Fortune and his socially disgraced sister-in-law Mary. The detail is well researched, and the reader is drawn into China of the mid 19th century. As well as romance and intrigue, there are glimpses into the history of the tea trade, with all its well kept secrets...

This Java-set saga of Dutch colonists in the late 1800s is a compelling piece of innovative historical fiction. At its heart is Rudolf Kerkhoven, who finds himself master of a plantation in Java's Preanger region. Haasse effortlessly combines an evocation of the plantation's lush vegetation with her articulation of the growing distance between Kerkhoven and his wife. This is a novel about men and their love for their land. It is also a powerful portrait of one man carving out his autocratic rule as the "King of the Preanger"

As an aside about tea, in the words of Little Bee, from the book The Other Hand by Chris Cleave (set in England and Nigeria and a very good read, by the way) :

"Tea is the taste of my land: it is bitter and warm, strong, and sharp with memory. It tastes of longing. It tastes of the distance between where you are and where you come from. Also, it vanishes - the tast of it vanishes from your tongue while your lips are still hot from the cup. It disappears, like plantations stretching up into the mist.....".

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Two top reads to introduce The Democratic Republic of Congo

To mark the publication of Radio Congo June 2012 we feature two novels set in the Democratic Republic of  Congo, both different but both hugely informative and VERY readable.

Radio Congo: Signals of Hope from Africa's Deadliest WarCongo is a country where few venture, but author Ben Rawlence traversed the country to experience for himself the aftermath of colonialism, and multiple wars – a country that has mutated from The Belgian Congo, through Zaire, to what is now a Democratic Republic.
Foolhardy or brave? He embarks on a journey through inhospitable terrain, in rust-bucket boats, on motorbikes, bicycles and on foot, his end goal, the city of Manono, the erstwhile largest tin trading city of the country. His book is full of interesting facts, that Congo has 80% of the world’s mineral resources, which is why it suffered so many incursions from neighbouring countries and the Colonial West. Yet it profits from virtually none of the income. Wars, Mai Mai atrocities and subjugation have all left their scars on this wonderful – and potentially rich – country, both in terms of disintegrating military equipment,(including 6 anti-tank mines nestling under the pier at Moba); and in terms of the emotional legacy on the people, many of whom have had to flee their homes (several times) only to return to ruined communities. Yet, they still seem determined to rebuild.

Nathan, a Baptist preacher, has come to spread the Word in a remote village reachable only by airplane. To say that he and his family are woefully unprepared would be an understatement: "We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle," says Leah, one of Nathan's four daughters. But of course it isn't long before they discover that the tremendous humidity has rendered the mixes unusable, their clothes are unsuitable and they've arrived in the middle of political upheaval as the Congolese seek to wrest independence from Belgium.


Saturday, 2 June 2012

Com'era, dov'era in Venice - The City of Falling Angels

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt set in Venice. We review this book on the new TripFiction website here