Is setting or place important in a novel? Do you choose books to read only for the entertainment they provide, or do you seek out books with a particular setting? Are there any novels with settings that you would not read? I usually enjoy most books I choose. Part of the reason is that I know what I don’t like; I am not fond of fantasy and science fiction books. I know my reading styles. Place in a book could be a foreign country or the United States. I’ve read novels that took place in locations such as within a house, a hospital, a prison and a story that took place in a small Polish town during WWII. I once read a book that took place within a character’s mind. He told about his memories all the while speaking to no one except the reader. It was not confusing to me. Think of when you daydream or remember events; you don’t speak out loud unless you choose to talk to someone about what you’re remembering. Needless to say, it took me a few chapters to get comfortable with the way the book was organized, but after that, I was hooked. I didn’t want the story to end. But I forgot the name of the book! That’s a problem with being a bookworm as my Dad used to call me. I’m trying to locate that book, but it’s hard to find it when you only know that much. Someone told me that there is a website that will help you find a book just by typing in all you know such as “novel that takes place in Eastern Africa” or “book set in Alaska” or “novel that takes place in a hotel in Scotland.” If anyone knows what that website is, please let me know. I’m not a fan of sports, so I’m certain I wouldn’t read anything that takes place in a football training camp and the small town that adores the team. I understand that people have diverse reading tastes.
Social conditions, historical time, geographical locations, weather, immediate surroundings, and timing are all different aspects of setting. It has its three major components; social environment, place and time. Moreover, setting could be an actual region, or a city made larger than life, as James Joyce characterizes Dublin in Ulysses, or it could be a work of imagination of the author as Vladimir Nabokov creates imaginative place, space-time continuum in Ada. www.literarydevices.net
One of my favorite books is Kristin Lavrandsdatter, a family saga set in 12th century Norway. The author, Sigrid Undset, won the Nobel Prize in 1928 for the 1,300 page novel. She described the landscape with forests, fjords, mountains and farm lands. When Undset showed eight year old Kristin wandering in the forest and eventually getting lost, plus the description of the Water Fairy who taunted the girl to jump into a pond, it was so haunting and real. Her depictions of the homes, huts, and churches made me see them in my mind. I can still picture the Marriage Room where Kristin’s mother and sisters scrubbed and decorated with heirloom tapestries and a hand-knitted quilt for the bed. Her images of the lush fields of wildflowers and lakes, plus the snow and ice that trapped people inside for months in the winter remain with me. I can recall those images in my mind of the beauty and bleakness.
A reader must go places and work to find good books. Don’t just rely on what’s popular that month, or the first thing you see in a store or library shelf. I agree that some newer books are great. I don’t mean to disregard everything that is new in the reading world. I read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2015. The book takes place in WWII France. I won’t reveal anything else in case you haven’t read it. I highly recommend it! I had to get on a waitlist at the library when it was first released, and it took 5 weeks for my turn. Why not investigate novels with new places you’ve never read about? That’s what I mean by the title of this blog. The world has so many places to discover.