1. Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway (1961)
I know this book finds its way onto a lot of my lists but I make no apologies for that because I think it is a masterpiece. Set during a couple’s extended Mediterranean honeymoon, in an era before the Mediterranean was ruined by tourism, it makes me yearn to return to Spain, where I half-believe I lived in a past life!
2. A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion (1977)
An American woman comes to the derelict Central American nation of Boca Grande hoping to be reunited with her fugitive daughter. An unsettling story of dissolution and emptiness, told in Didion’s characteristic astonishing prose.
3. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro (1995)
My favourite of Ishiguro’s novels, in which a renowned musician visits an unnamed Central European city to give the most important performance of his life but finds himself waylaid by a series of Kafkaesque distractions.
4. Mara and Dann by Doris Lessing (1998)
An epic adventure featuring a brother and sister with a mysterious past, travelling across a future version of Africa, seeking a place to call home.
5. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (2002)
It would not be an exaggeration to say that when I first read this novel, it blew my tiny mind. The story of a young Jewish-American who travels to the Ukraine in the hope of finding the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis is told in fresh, playful and heartbreaking prose.
6. Between Mexico and Poland by Lily Brett (2002)
Though I enjoy Brett’s novels, I think her essays are where she really hits her straps. Humour and tragedy are close companions in this collection which describes her travels in Mexico and Poland, as well as her life at home in New York.
7. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2003)
I am always mistrustful of books that ‘everyone’ is reading, because, in my snobbish way, I suspect anything very popular probably isn’t very good. So I resisted this book for ages, and then fell in love with it. For the 3 people left on Planet Earth who haven’t read it, it is the story of the passionate love affair between an artist and a librarian, who travels extensively, not through space, but through time.
8. The Keep by Jennifer Egan (2006)
Though it is not quite in the same league as my beloved A Visit from the Goon Squad, there is much to like about this gothic psychological thriller set in a medieval castle in Eastern Europe.
9. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (2011)
Mitchell loves Madeleine. Alas, Madeleine falls for the charismatic but mentally unstable Leonard, driving Mitchell to India, looking for meaning, a section of the book which is apparently autobiographical, according to this interview John Freeman did with Eugenides.
10. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (2012)
Bernadette: wife, mother and retired architect, increasingly estranged from her life in Seattle, absconds to Antarctica. Warm, funny and surprisingly moving, this is an easy and very worthwhile read.
Your turn: Have you read any of these? What are your favourite novels featuring travel?
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