I'm convinced that when we read about characters retreating into settings that allow them to recuperate and relax, we undergo a similar process. Here are a few of my favourite literary retreats - they might just help you too.
1. The Pyrenees mountains in The South by Colm Tóibín
Calm, quiet days in the Pyrenees. The sharp chill of winter yielding to the subtle movements of spring. The foresters were at work in the hills above the village. She watched the elaborate ritual of felling a tree, the long preparations, the shouting, the resting periods.
2. The haymaking fields in Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Not understanding what it was, or where it came from, in the middle of his work he suddenly experienced a pleasant sensation of coldness on his hot, sweaty shoulders. He looked up at the sky while the scythes were being whetted. A low, heavy cloud had blown over, and large drops of rain were falling. Some peasants went to put their kaftans on, while others, like Levin, just shook their shoulders gleefully at being so pleasantly refreshed.
3. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
He missed Hogwarts so much it was like having a constant stomachache. He missed the castle, with its secret passageways and ghosts, his classes, … the mail arriving by owl, eating banquets in the Great Hall, sleeping in his four-poster bed in the tower dormitory, visiting the gamekeeper, Hagrid, in his cabin next to the Forbidden Forest in the grounds, and especially, Quidditch, the most popular sport in the wizarding world
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
4. The library in Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
“The library was like a second home. Or maybe more like a real home, more than the place I lived in. By going every day I got to know all the lady librarians who worked there. They knew my name and always said hi. I was painfully shy, though, and could barely reply.”
5. Antarctica in Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
“All you need to know about Antarctica is it’s three horizontal stripes. On the bottom, there’s the stripe for the water, which is anywhere from black to dark gray. And on top of that, there’s a stripe for the land, which is usually black or white. Then there’s a stripe for the sky, which is some kind of gray or blue.”
6. Miss Honey's house in Matilda by Roald Dahl
“There aren’t many funny bits in Mr Tolkien either,’ Matilda said.
‘Do you think that all children’s books ought to have funny bits in them?’ Miss Honey asked.
‘I do,’ Matilda said. ‘Children are not so serious as grown-ups and love to laugh.”
7. The Italian Riviera in The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
“That evening was the evening of the full moon. The garden was an enchanted place where all the flowers seemed white. The lilies, the daphnes, the orange-blossom, the white stocks, the white pinks, the white roses - you could see these as plainly as in the daytime; but the coloured flowers existed only as fragrance.”
8. Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
“Elrond's house was perfect, whether you liked food or sleep or story-telling or singing (or reading), or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness. ... Evil things did not come into the secret valley of Rivendell.”
What's your favourite retreat in fiction, and when was the last time you escaped to it? I think finding such a place is the ideal way to engage with a bit of bibliotherapy!
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