[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to welcome author Camille Di Maio to the site today. She’s sharing her favorite books that have a strong sense of setting. Take it away, Camille!]
I recently bought a luggage tag that says: “I haven’t been everywhere yet, but it’s on my list.”
It’s as if they read my mind.
As a writer, my books always start with a sense of place. I travel somewhere, soak up the culture, and begin to research the history. Then I create characters who might have lived and loved and worked in that space.
As a reader, I turn to books when my schedule or budget don’t allow me to whip out my well-stamped passport. Words assembled in the hands of a master author can transport me to places that immerse me in a sense of elsewhere.
Travel with me now as I share with you my favorite reads with a strong sense of setting:
The Summer Country by Lauren Willig
Grab your tea and get swept away to a sugar plantation in 1854 Barbados. At once epic and enthralling, Willig paints a portrait of front porch beauty, surprising entanglements, and a landscape so sweeping that you will breeze through its nearly five hundred pages. When Emily accompanies her cousins from England to Barbados, she is shocked to find that the plantation she’s inherited is in ruins – and locals whisper of ghost. But it’s the flesh-and-blood opposition to her presence that creates the obstacles that she must overcome.
Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
I have visited this beautiful and remote island in Hawai’i, an experience greatly enriched by having read this engaging story. A classic tale of dreams that take a detour, it explores life as an outcast even with the backdrop of towering, rippled mountains and an ocean blue than imagination can conjure. Rachel’s odyssey in quarantine will plant you firmly in the island’s sands while revealing the power of human spirit.
The City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre
If you were to ask which book has most powerfully impacted my life, I would not hesitate to tell you about this book. Brimming with true stores of human resilience, it is as much about setting as it is about the people who inhabit it. Lapierre takes the reader into poorest sections of Calcutta, from which a beauty I had never considered emerges. From a rickshaw owner to a Polish priest to an American doctor, this tale has been the benchmark for which I keep my comforts in check. Prepare to feel and see and experience Calcutta as if you were there in person.
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
A perennial childhood favorite, the Prince Edward Island of the Anne series turned out to be every bit as gorgeous as described. I visited a few years ago and cried the moment my foot touched PEI soil. (To the embarrassment of my family, I’m sure.) But the lush green landscape dotted with pink and purple lupines was stunning. Walking up to the real-life Green Gables (a home owned by Montgomery’s aunt and uncle) transported me back to those classic pages that tell the story of young orphan Anne who was not the boy that had been anticipated. But with her dreamy outlook and quirky charm, she quickly wins over the town of Avonlea and forges a path that will inspire the reader to be comfortable with their authentic self.
The Light Between the Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Sometimes you just want to get away from it all. Maybe to a remote part of Australia. Maybe to a lighthouse off of the remote part of Australia. Where it takes hours and hours to reach it. Where the supply boat only comes once a season. If you long to see more dolphins than people and more ocean water than land, prepare to be captivated by this debut novel. When a young married couple become the keepers of the lighthouse, they hope to start a family. But when this seems to be an impossibility, an unexpected gift arrives – an infant girl in the arms of her deceased father. Keeping the girl for their own and neglecting to report her discovery, they are soon swept up in mystery and deceit.
Wicked by Gregory Maguire
There are some worlds that can only be accessed through books. Those for which a passport and an airline ticket will be of no use. Oz is one such land. A retelling of L. Frank Baum’s classic Wizard of Oz books, Maguire delves into the land of rolling emerald hills and yellow brick roads with aching beauty and modern sentiments. He tackles discrimination, middle-class struggle, and the dangers of ostracizing those who are different. If you’ve seen the hit musical, treat yourself to the book that inspired it. Deep. Dark. Gorgeous.
About the Author:
Camille Di Maio left an award-winning real estate career in San Antonio to become a full-time writer. Her books include: The Memory of Us (Amazon bestseller, finalist for the Holt Medallion Award for Literary Excellence), Before the Rain Falls (Holt Medallion finalist, GDRWA finalist), The Way of Beauty (Amazon bestseller in the UK and Australia), and The Beautiful Strangers (Pulpwood Queens Book Club Pick, Once Upon a Book Club Pick). She lives in Virginia with her husband and four children. Visit camilledimaio.com for more information
The First Emma by Camille Di Maio, out now!
Camille Di Maio’s fifth novel The First Emma is inspired by the true story of Emma Koehler, whose tycoon husband Otto was killed in a crime-of-the-century murder by one of his two mistresses–both also named Emma–and her unlikely rise as CEO of a brewing empire during Prohibition. When a chance to tell her story to a young teetotaler arises, a tale unfolds of love, war, beer, and the power of women.