As an avid reader of fiction, I enjoy a globetrotting adventure with detailed place descriptions and lots of action. When I’m fortunate enough to be transported while reading such a novel, I travel in the shoes of the main character imagining myself acting in that role. Of course it always makes things more interesting when the character I imagine myself as possesses several of the attributes of Jason Bourne of the Ludlum novels. Yes it is very cool to be multi-lingual, fluent in languages ranging from Mandarin to Farsi while at the same time being able to fend off the bad guys with a Bruce Lee style martial arts move.
For me one of the more enjoyable aspects of a novel with a strong sense of place is the discovery of new locals – maybe even somewhere to explore on my next vacation. When I read the historical novel Morgan’s Run by Colleen McCullough, a venerable tomb of well over 800 pages, I journeyed with main character Richard Morgan from 18th century England, over the high seas to the penal colony of Australia and Norfolk Island. I found myself putting the book down only briefly while consulting an atlas. The drama of the adventure and the sense of place provoked my curiosity and need to put a context of distance and proximity into the story which only a map can do.
Similarly, when I read Archangel by Richard Harris, I had no idea that such a place as Archangel on the coast of the White Sea in northern Russia even existed. Not only did I get a feel for the distance main character Fluke Kelso had to travel from Moscow to unravel the mystery of the story, but I got a sense for how austere the lifestyle is for people who live in such places. Again I found myself gazing at the pages of an atlas and looking up climactic data to get a better sense of the adventure the author created for readers to experience.
I’m sure there are other avid readers of fiction who enjoy learning new things about other places when diving into a good story. My first recollection of anything I’d heard of regarding the island nation of Cyprus dates back to the Fall of 1974 when I was in middle school learning about Egypt and the Levant. The history lesson was only a fleeting glimpse, but it planted a seed in my mind about an intriguing place. Later in my adult years, due to random circumstances, I found myself living and working in Cyprus (yes “in” because it is a country – sort of or “on” because it is an island).
One of the first things that came to my attention during my first foray of living overseas was the map of Cyprus and it’s various jurisdictional boundaries. Briefly explaining Cyprus to anyone who is unfamiliar cannot possibly do justice to the complexity of the place. The People In Between: A Cyprus Odyssey with the idea of providing an explanation of a history and yes, there is a map at the front of the book.