Starting off with this rec, because, besides the fact that A Room with a View has the most apt (and aspirational) title for these crazy times, it's also a nice vacation from said craziness. Forster's short, sweet classic tale of manners is not just about the importance of a good view, although it does make a darn good argument for acquiring one. It's also set in the springtime. In Italy. Swoon. And it's a love story. And one that also questions the meaning of existence.
It's pure, romantic love amid the violets in beautiful Florence with some talk of books and music and the kind of old-fashioned problems that seem ever so quaint now. It's not just a new way of looking at your view-- the only view that matters is the one over your head-- how that must give us all a pang now-- it's also a time capsule trip to Italy, which might be the only kind we can take for a while, but even so...
“...the pernicious charm of Italy worked on her, and, instead of acquiring information, she began to be happy.”
― Edward Morgan Forster, A Room with a View
I hope that book might make someone else who needs it right now equally as happy as it makes me whenever I reread it.
Here are four other great reads, some comforting and some germane, to help you wile away this (hopefully short) era of social distancing:
1. I don't know how we ended up with a large print version of A Gentleman In Moscow, but it's an incredible enough read that we forgot all about the oversized font and became quickly immersed in the story. (Not the royal We. This is a book that Ryan, my husband, and I equally loved. If you're also quarantined with a partner, this would make for a great co-read! Or a great pick for a virtual book club.) It starts off a little slow, but keep with it and you'll be rewarded with an incredible story and characters you fall madly in love with. Not to mention can strongly relate to: in 1922, following the Russian Revolution, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest, or more or less QUARANTINED to a room, in a grand hotel. For life. And yet, that's just the beginning of the adventure. A glittering cast of characters awaits you. As does intrigue. Wit. Wisdom. Love. Life and death. It's brilliant. And again, oh so relatable for these strange times we ourselves are living through.
2. Keeping with that theme of dealing with forced confinement, Bel Canto is another unputdownable tale of people kept in a room against their will. Or, well not a room, but a house in this case. A large house, but still. (FYI it's also another story that Ryan loved as much as I did.) Roxane Coss, a revered soprano, has traveled to a South American country to give a private opera performance, when she and the audience are taken hostage mid-aria. Again, that's just the beginning of an epic adventure. And again, one that's set largely indoors.
3. Since I seem to be working around themes here, I thought I'd throw in a more hopeful, happier book of redemption following a gloomy spring and another story set in Italy's glorious gardens. I personally have only had the chance to spend one all-too-short but magical week in Italy. However, I had enough time before the trip to learn Italian well-enough to have conversations and enjoyed one of the best weeks of my life in and around Florence. The news out of Italy has been breaking my heart, and I really hope to go back there soon one day. I'll be posting a new foreign language section to my blog, so if you're also dreaming of traveling somewhere after this quarantine is over, consider taking this time to learn the language, too! I'm homeschooling my two children, who are in a bilingual school, so it's been interesting to test my language learning theories on them. Anyway, the movie Enchanted April is also utterly fantastic and life-affirming, but this tale, a sun-washed fairy tale is one of those glorious, delicious experiences of love and life and manners that only the British can deliver. It's like tea time for the soul. We could all use a little of that!
4. That's enough sunlight for now, I think. The Broken Earth Trilogy is about as far from sunlight as a fantasy series can get. In fact, in this fantasy series set in the distant future, a mage of some kind (I don't want to spoil anything, so I'm going to leave this description deliberately vague) has blown up the Earth in such a way that clouds swirl so thick and high that nothing can or will grow for maybe a generation or more... How will mankind survive? It might sound like a basic disaster story premise, but N.K. Jemisin's Hugo and Nebula-award winning series is ANYTHING but basic. I'm not massively into fantasy, but even I loved this mind-blowingly original series. I think you will, too! It's also a vacation from our current affairs, but in this case, it might make our own problems seem smaller in comparison.
“Am well. Thinking of you always. Love”
― Albert Camus, The Plague
Last but not least, I'm listening to La Peste, or The Plague, by Albert Camus on Audible. This is definitely also not in the comforting, sunlight category: it's about the effects of a pandemic, in this case the Bubonic plague, ravaging the people of a North African town. It's a brilliant book, yes, but also pretty damn relevant. FYI if you ever pick the slower shipping option at checkout, Amazon rewards you with credits you can use to purchase whatever audiobooks you'd like. I'm not being morbid, either. Well, not completely. A really great way to either pick up or keep up with a foreign language is to read it and listen to it. More on that soon! I'll be restarting the foreign language section of my blog as I mentioned above, so keep your eye out for that, if you're also dreaming of traveling somewhere after the pandemic.
Where are you dreaming of going when this quarantine is lifted? What are you reading currently? Are you doing any virtual book clubs? Or zoom meetups to talk about books? Let's chat!