Every now and again (and sometimes when I’m being tattooed) a person has to have a good place to escape to. Some create castles in the skies, others meadows with daisies and clover. I enjoy visiting some special places I’ve created in my mind from reading about them in fictional books … Regular readers will notice some firm favourites of mine.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
In the Night Circus, very special Midnight Dinner’s take place in the home of Chandresh, where course after course of exotic and fragrant food is served. ‘The décor in the dining room (or rooms, depending on the size of the event) is as extraordinary as it is in the rest of the house in sumptuous reds and golds with art and artifacts from across the globe displayed on every available surface. Everything is lit with glowing chandeliers and copious candles, so that the light is not bright but deep and warm and bubbling’.
The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaeffert
At the residence of William Wakefield, Cecily and Ferret stumble upon his library – ‘And I admired the clutter of his crooked library – though the walls were curved like all the other walls of the strange house, the bookcases weren’t. The bookcases, all different widths and heights, the tops of them stacked with even more books, overlapped in places, as if they’d been shaken away from the wall by an earthquake. And I could tell the books were read, not just collected, by the way they were shoved onto the shelves when not another book could possibly fit. Bookmarks and strings poked out the tops of them. Their pages were torn and stuffed back in, their covers were warped from having been left out in the rain. And the room had that rich, dusty, sweet smell of old pages constantly fluttered open, that could of vanilla and tobacco that watered your eyes.’
The Ballroom by Anna Hope
In this marvellous tale of madness and segregation, union is found in The Ballroom – an ornate and unlikely decadent dome in the middle of the grounds of the hospital. ‘…Ella’s breath caught as she passed through the double doors. The room was the size of two of the spinning floors at the mill at least – there were windows, but they were high and set with coloured glass like you might find in a church. There would be no way of reaching them. Arching above their heads, the ceiling was painted with brown and gold’. A wooden stage and huge fireplace with a roaring fire complete the out of place scene.
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
In this end of life tale, Andrew Peardew withdraws to his study where he has shelved a multitude of lost items, all labelled meticulously with the date and where it was found in the hope of one day locating the object’s owner. Amongst the opening perambulate we are told he lives in a ‘redbrick Victorian villa with honeysuckle and clematis framing the steeply pitched porch’. As we pass through the entrance hall, Andrew can unlock a heavy oak door which opens a room full of ‘shelves and drawers, shelves and drawers, shelves and drawers’. Three of [we assume] four walls are obscured with shelves laden with objects, labelled and ‘given a home’. The French windows are dressed with lace panels, and the light from which illuminates his large mahogany table, presumably Andrew’s desk. Using a gold-tipped fountain pen filled with black ink, Andrew uses a brown paper luggage label to write the date and time and the [very specific] place the object is found.
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
In the garden, where we meet Lord Warburton, Mr Touchett and his son, Ralph Touchett, the picnic rug and lawn are strewn with books. This quintessential setting for Afternoon Tea depicted by Henry James conjures up blue skies with whispers of clouds, of the ‘perfect middle of a splendid summer afternoon’. The ‘place was furnished, like a room, with cushioned seats, with rich-coloured rugs, with the books and papers that lay upon the grass’.