Traveling through novels

View over Jodhpur from the fort
View over Jodhpur from the fort

First off, I’m really sorry for the two-week silence on the blog. One of my colleagues went to Pakistan for a month to help get relief supplies to people displaced by the floods, and I took on a lot of her normal work, so I haven’t had much time to do anything else. (Fortunately she’s returned safely and brought me a beautiful pashmina as a thank-you. This should be made organizational policy.)

Since I’ve been working so much, my imagination has been doing a lot of traveling. Fortunately, my body will be able to follow my imagination soon. My husband and I are planning a trip to Japan, and when we booked our tickets one of my first thoughts was that I need to read some novels set there.

I’m a big fan of learning about a country’s history by reading novels. Last year, before going to Delhi and Rajasthan, I read a couple of romance novels set in 19th century India. Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows intrigued me so much that I spent hours researching what was true and what was artistic license. When I was in India walking around museum exhibitions describing the 1857 uprising against the British (which forms the backdrop of the novel), I was better able to picture the types of weapons used, the clothing the combatants wore, and the terror the people involved would have felt.

Of course, novels are novels, not non-fiction. So while they do a fantastic job of bringing historical events to life, you also need to be aware that their authors often use history as a jumping off point for their story.

Udaipur City Palace
Udaipur City Palace

For example, in The Duke of Shadows a pivotal scene is set at Sapnagar Fort, a fictional place based on three different locations: Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Amber Fort in Jaipur, and the City Palace in Udaipur. I was fortunate enough to visit all three, and arriving with a small sense of the history surrounding this part of India made me all the more eager to learn more while I was there.

Do novels form part of your trip preparations? Or have you ever been so inspired by a novel’s setting that you decided to go there? Can you recommend any fantastic novels set in Japan?

Photos by me


  1. I had a trip planned to Greece several years ago and read several books set on Mykonos and in Athens–the trip ended up getting canceled at the last minute because of U.S. travel threats in Athens. When I went to Venice, I read several mysteries set there–and had to watch the old Katherine Hepburn movie “Summertime” a half-dozen times! It’s a great way to get jazzed for a trip. Have fun in Japan!

    1. Such a shame your trip was canceled! Hope you get another chance to go. I’ve never been, but I’ve seen postcards that made me want to cry they were so beautiful.

      I haven’t seen “Summertime” but I’ll keep it in mind if I go to Venice!

  2. Hi Kat – this is a very late comment on a 2010 post. Nevertheless I thought your comments were great about how novels and travel can really be symbiotic. I was wondering if you would like to come and do a guest blog with us? At we specialise in bringing fiction together based on location. Get in touch if you would like to!

    1. Tina, what a cool site! Thanks so much for letting me know about it. I’ll definitely get in touch. Thanks for finding me. 🙂

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