One of our “small ceremonies” while travelling is to seek out interesting fiction based in the cities we are visiting. This seems to be a lot easier now than it was in the past. We recall an English bookshop in Rome in the 1980s being rather bemused by our request for a recommendation for a novel with a Roman setting.
Topical books like Anna Funder’s Stasiland (Berlin) are pretty essential and hard to miss, and expat books like Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon (Paris) can be quite helpful in understanding the local psyche, but there are always plenty more if you dig a little.
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer enlightened our visit to Prague. Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series, particularly Field Gray, gave us a different perspective on wartime Berlin.
For Istanbul, we got some great suggestions from Kathleen P and Katrina C. The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin took us back in history to the Ottoman’s Constantinople, but it was Joseph Kanon and Istanbul Passage that really entertained us this trip. It’s set in Istanbul just after World War Two.
Kanon has written some other great early-Cold War books like Los Alamos and The Good German. Here he is on the Galata Bridge in Istanbul.
It’s a great way to amplify your experience of a city and of course, to help to while away the long hours on the plane.