Real Life Literary Locations
In addition to being a bookworm, I am also a lover of travel. Whether this is a train journey from York to Manchester; a road trip from Valencia to northern England, or a long haul trip taking in Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Bali; it’s fair to say that I am addicted. And the pandemic has deprived me of my drug of choice.
While we can still travel via literature, I thought I’d compile a list of real life places you can visit which appear in some of the books on sale at William Shakesbeer. So get ready to pack your case (when the world opens up) and see the places where the action happens in some of your favourite stories.
Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown
If you love a bit of history, mystery, secret societies and intrigue, then this novel is for you. Set mainly in Rome and The Vatican, you can visit the wonders of The Eternal City such as: Saint Peter’s Basilica; The Sistine Chapel and The Fountain of Four Rivers.
Mary Barton, by Elizabeth Gaskell
This novel is classic Victorian literature and heavy on realism. Set in Manchester in the 1840s, it depicts the extreme suffering of the working classes during the Industrial Revolution, as well as class inequalities and the political movements of the time. Gaskell lived in the centre of Manchester, where you can visit her house today. Just take a stroll around the city centre and you will see the old factories and mills where her characters would have toiled. Many are now cool, gentrified buildings.
The revolutionary spirit of Manchester is still palpable today (Andy Burnham for King of the North!) and the city is a beehive of history and culture. We’re talking The Peterloo Massacre; the Suffragette movement; New Order; Oasis; Manchester United; Manchester City… The list goes on. Other famous writers from Manchester include: Frances Hodgson-Burnett, The Secret Garden, and Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange.
Circling the Sun, by Paula McLaine
This excellent piece of historical fiction takes place in 1920s colonial Kenya. It follows the life of non-conformist Beryl Markham, one of the first bush pilots. There’s glamour and scandal in this true tale of expat life in colonial times. If you have friends in high places, you can visit the exclusive Muthaiga Club, where much of the action takes place, for a taste of times past.
Ok, so strictly speaking, Charles Perrault first penned the version of Cinderella we all know, in Seventeenth Century France (sorry Disney, we’ve outed you!) But the fairytale castle, inextricably linked to Cinderella and Disney is said to have been inspired the Nineteenth Century castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, Germany. Rumour has it that Walt used it as the basis for the castle in his film, Sleeping Beauty, so it could have inspired the enchanting castle in Cinderella, too. Definitely worth a visit for lovers of anything fairytale. (The castle also appeared on Blur’s Number One 1995 single, Country House).
Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
Die-hard fans of The Twilight Saga will know that the books’ main setting is the tiny, real-life town of Forks, Washington. Meyer famously picked this location after Googling the rainiest place in The USA. The town even holds a Forever Twilight in Forks festival in September each year. Other nearby places seeing action in the saga are Port Angeles and Seattle.
The area is also home to the Quileute tribe, who feature strongly in the young adult novels. However, Meyer’s representations of race, class and gender have been problematic and many argue that she is guilty of cultural theft. To counteract the misrepresentation of native peoples, the Quileute worked with The Burke Museum to create a website which offers information for a more accurate understanding of Native American cultures.
Which novels have inspired you to visit their locations?