Part of the joy of reading is traveling to other places and times, while never leaving home. I love reading books set in other places, because it takes me somewhere I want to go, or introduces me to a place to add to my long travel wish list. But going back in time…books are our only option. If you’re looking to time travel, here are five books to check out.
I was intrigued by concept of this book, where the main character, Ursula, has the opportunity to redo life, over and over again. Infinite chances. Just when it becomes exhausting having the story start over again, it settles in for awhile. Before you know it, you’re ready for the story to turn over and start again. And it does. With each new chance she gets, Ursula meets interesting characters, and finds herself at crucial points in history. Additionally, her family provides a wealth of fascinating characters alone, and provide for an always interesting life. The books starts around the time of Downton Abbey’s first season, and follows the family through World War II, as Ursula and her siblings grow into adults. Atkinson does an amazing job of recreating the time and world of the story, thanks to a great deal of research. The downside is you actually feel like your in a air raid shelter during the Blitz.
If you enjoy this, Atkinson’s latest book, A God In Ruins, follows Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy through his life, from school, to World War II pilot, to father and grandfather.
2. At The Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
This story turned into something I never expected. I was quickly pulled in, and briefly in the middle wondered about actually finishing it. I am so glad I did. The brief lull was completely worth it. While the main characters seemed ignorant to the fact that a war is happening, you almost forget about it yourself as the story picks up. Much of the book is set in a small Scotland town, where people have claimed sightings of the Loch Ness monster. The town has felt the full impact of the war, with rationing, blackouts, and the loss of friends and loved ones. The presence of Americans who appear oblivious to this is beyond upsetting for the locals. But Maddie, tagging along on the adventure of her husband and best friend, finds herself deserted, befriending the locals, and her eyes opened to the wider world, and the true nature of the people around her. With some unexpected twists and turns, I found myself absolutely loving this book, and missed many of the characters when I was done, as if they had been close friends who moved away.
3. Lady Catherine, The Earl, and The Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon
This book is story of the heir of Highclere Castle, also known as Downton Abbey, written from materials in their archives by the current Countess. This story aligns closer with Lord and Lady Grantham, as the Lord and Lady Carnarvon see the marriage of their son and heir to a wealthy American as the best possible solution to save the estate. This story follows that marriage and their lives through World War I and World War II. You should recognize a lot of names from history, as well as locations. If you can’t wait for Downton Abbey to return, here is your escape. If you love this, you may want to check out what else the Countess has written – covering the two previous Lords to the one featured in this book.
4. The Visitors by Sally Beauman
Set in the 1920s in Egypt, this story blends fact and fiction around the hunt for King Tutankhamun’s tomb. If you read the book above first you’ll already know about one of the character’s featured – as it was Lord Carnarvon who found the King’s tomb. This follows the two young girls, who find themselves along on the hunt. The story of Carnarvon and Carter and their find is famous, but often forgotten today. Presented here, and told through the eyes of the girls, the book mixes historical fact of the hunt, with the fictional story of Lucy and Frances. As Lucy is just 11 years old, expect some eye opening life lessons thrown in.
5. All The Light You Cannnot See by Anthony Doerr
Just when you thought I was done with World War II for awhile, well we were all wrong. Another book that flips between two stories until it the two characters meet, a la Gone Girl, or The Girl on the Train, it is when the story steps back in time for each main character that it hooks you. The start seemed slow, but when all of Paris is suddenly fleeing to the countryside to escape the arrival of the Nazis I was swept up with them. And couldn’t help but feel fear growing in me, as I realized the crowd we’re following are heading northwest, which means they will not actually outrun the German invasion. On the flip side a young German boy, living in an orphanage, is witnessing the take over and transition of his country under Nazis rule. With a young sister to look out for, and a brilliant mind, he has dreams he believes may never come true, but skills that could get him beyond the life of a miner or simple infantry soldier.