Visit to Iceland and the Scandinavian North
As a historian of feminism, I am always on the lookout for sources that reveal women’s voices and interpretation of experiences often imagined as belonging primarily to men. Whether erudite travelogue, personal journey of discovery, or sensationalist narrative of adventure and exploration, books written by women traveling on their own were among the most popular writings published in the Victorian era. Often aimed at justifying the expansion of woman’s proper “sphere,” these books are perhaps even more enthralling to the contemporary reader —since they seem to defy everything we think we know about the constrained lives of women in this era. In addition to illuminating the significant roles that women played in the principal conflicts and international crises of the nineteenth century, these stories of women wading through swamps, joining military campaigns, marching across deserts, up mountains, and through contested lands often armed only with walking sticks, enormous determination, and sheer chutzpah, never fail to fascinate!
“The white queen is coming”. In April of 1891, May French-Sheldon—a 44-year-old, white American woman—left her husband back in London while she set out to “conquer” Africa at the head of an expedition of 140 African porters dressed in a ballgown of white silk topped with a tiara and waist-length blonde wig, carrying a whip coiled at her back, two hip pistols, a ceremonial sword, and an alpine staff from which flew a banner emblazoned with the Latin phrase: “noli me tangere” (“touch me not”).
After four months exploring the lakes at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, this flamboyant Victorian-era traveler returned to publish a narrative of her travels in East Africa from “sultan to sultan” illustrating the effectiveness of what she deemed a “womanly” form of (less violent) colonial conquest.
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We think you will like The Face of a Stranger, Silence of the Grave: An Inspector Erlendur Novel, and An Egyptian Journal if you like this list.
From John's list on The best British mystery books.
A prolific writer, Anne Perry has a different series for a number of eras, from the Crimean to the Great War, each with fascinating protagonists. My favorite is The Face of a Stranger. This is the William Monk series set in the Nineteenth Century following the Crimean War.
William Monk is a police detective who has to carry on with his work after sustaining a case of amnesia due to an accident. Without memory of who are his enemies, be they on the police force or in dens of iniquity, each case he undertakes is full of tension.
Anne Perry’s use of different human senses is similar to the composition of a Tchaikovsky work. Whether the reader can smell the fragrance of a pot of tea or they hear the lone coo of a morning dove, everything is there with purpose, enhancing the character development and the reader’s attachment to the story.
Each of her main characters are driven by hearts that are primarily noble, though flawed, of course. They experience growth over time. All are decidedly likeable. We learn how to improve our motives from reading her work, and this happens without any sense or presence of a soapbox.
From Michael's list on The best books to read if you want to understand Iceland.
I don’t think it is overly ambitious to claim that you can learn a lot about a country from its crime novels. I certainly did, devouring novels by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, Lilja Sigurdardóttir, Ragnar Jónasson, and the Englishman Quentin Bates. A good crime novel describes not only a place and its people but what makes them tick, what they fear, and what they desire. It’s very hard to pick just one crome novel from so many great ones, but Arnaldur Indridason’s Silence of the Grave won the British Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger in 2005 and also features the British occupation of the country during the war. Plus, it’s a damned good story.
From Rosemary's list on The best books on floating down the Nile.
At the age of seventy-two, William Golding, British author of Lord of the Flies, set off on a trip down the Nile with his wife and an Egyptian guide. Golding had long had a burning passion for Egypt, stating that ". . . for the last sixty years I must have read every popular book ever written about Egypt." But as his journalistic observations illustrate, there was still so much more to be learned by personal experience. I love this book for Golding's wry, gentle sensibility, his cozy erudition, his intellectual warmth, his wisdom about life and interpersonal relationships in general, and his wonderful sense of humor. I laughed aloud at many points in this book.