We asked Jennifer Laing, author of our recent title Books and Travel, to tell us a bit about what inspired her research into books and tourism.
The genesis of Books and Travel was a discussion I had with Warwick about books we read as children and how they influenced us to travel as adults. Some of the many books that I loved reading in my youth include Little House in the Prairie, The Magic Faraway Tree and Mary Poppins. Travel, as depicted in the books I enjoyed, was mysterious and magical, but also adventurous and character-building. I took it for granted that I would travel one day and couldn’t wait to get started! Rather than drawing me to a particular place, it was more about the way they made me feel about travel. I also enjoyed books about long journeys (perhaps pilgrimages is a better word) and pitting oneself against the odds and that’s been a constant throughout my life. The Chronicles of Narnia were an early favourite and in my later years, I’ve loved The Lord of the Rings, Kim and His Dark Materials.
In my teenage years and young adulthood, I read a lot of classic novels and some of them have found their way into this book, like Pride and Prejudice and Brideshead Revisited. I’m sorry we couldn’t fit in some Dickens or George Eliot’s Middlemarch (maybe something for future work?) I am currently in an Agatha Christie phase. I love her depictions of picture-postcard but slightly sinister English villages and her observations of travellers in exotic settings like Egypt, Istanbul and Iraq. I read books all the time but particularly enjoy reading books involving travel whilst travelling, even if they are not connected to the places I am visiting. I remember reading my first Ladies’ Detective Agency book while in Budapest a few years ago and read The Beach in Edinburgh and The White Masai in Spain!
Warwick is also an inveterate reader and we discovered we have read similar sorts of books, which helped us in our co-writing. He has probably read more adventure and historical fiction, which I had to catch up on! Works by authors like Verne, Rider Haggard and Rice Burroughs for example. One of the most difficult tasks of writing Books and Travel was narrowing down the examples we used. It took us a while to do this and there was a fair bit of negotiation taking place … We are now looking at including some fiction, as well as travel books in a new manuscript we are currently writing for Channel View on explorers and adventure travellers. So I’m currently knee-deep in The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, which has to be the best title ever for a travel book!