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Susan I'm joining the discussion late, but ... better late than never! I always enjoy reading books set in cities where I've lived. I'm currently reading Lisa Gardner's Live To Tell, which is set in Boston. I also loved reading Wading Home, a novel set in Post-Katrina New Orleans. Since I lived there for 8 years, and survived Katrina, I really could relate to it. Also, the protagonist is a trumpeter, like me, so that was even better. And finally, both of my novels, suspense thrillers, are set in New Orleans, one pre-Katrina, the second, post-Katrina.


Deb (kidztales) | 21 comments Hi, The setting of Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter series comes to mind as does Hogwarts itself. Both places have a direct effect on the story which usually adds a twist!


Lisa (lisalickel) | 8 comments Naomi Musch's The Green Veil takes place during the great old lumbering era of Wisconsin and directly affects everything in the story.


Mary (MaryNovik) I've actually not heard of this Brazilian writer either. University education in British Columbia and Texas have something in common.


Kendall (KendallFurlong) | 12 comments
Mary wrote I have a wonderful book called the Landscape of Thomas Hardy, which I enjoy dipping into from time to time. . . .

Sounds fascinating. Thomas Hardy if a favorite of mine come upon incredibly because of his influence on the great Brazilian writer Machado de Assis, who himself used late 19th century Rio de Janeiro as a backdrop for his novels. I'm still at a loss to know how I got through university in Texas without ever encountering him.




message 4: by Mary (last edited May 06, 2011 09:05AM) (new)

Mary (MaryNovik) I have a wonderful book called the Landscape of Thomas Hardy, which I enjoy dipping into from time to time. I believe similar books exist for many authors. I know when I was researching Conceit, I became very interested in John Donne's London and did quite a bit of research on it. The maps were amazing--each one slightly different! I'm now researching 14th-century Avignon for my second novel Muse. The city landscape, the streets, will be crucial.


Kendall (KendallFurlong) | 12 comments But . . . , there are so many! It often seems that only in recent years have we gotten away from place being a fundamental part of the art of the novel.

Here are two suggestive lists:
Authors whose oeuvre is centered around a specific place or region.
Thomas Hardy and the Wessex region of England: Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d'Urberfilles, Jude the Obscure
William Falkner and Yoknapatawpha County (really Oxford, Mississippi): The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying

Authors who use place as a theme, or, as the less charitable among us might say, as a marketing gimmick
Edna Ferber: Giant, Ice Palace, Cimarron
James Mitchener: Centennial, Hawaii, Cheaspeake, Texas.


Angela | 23 comments It's been a while, but The Grapes of Wrath comes to mind. More recently, White Oleander. Southern California and the Santa Ana winds come to life. Incredible. It's a skill I wish I possessed.


Nancy Niles | 5 comments I just finished reading an interview of Bryan Gruley, author of Starvation Lake and I found something he said to be of great interest. Speaking of his novel he said: “He sees the town of Starvations Lake as a character.”
That got me to thinking about the books of James Lee Burke and David Fulmer. Their settings are drawn like characterizations. They have a history, they are complex and contradictory just like some of the great “people” characters that have been written.
I have seen authors use landscape to tell the reader what is on the main characters mind. For instance, if the main character is morose and everything looks dirty and dark and then the character falls in love. He sees the same setting, but now notices a beautiful red rose peeking through a cracked sidewalk. That added awareness of a bit of beauty amongst ruin reflects back on changes that the character is going through.
I have seen landscape used to build a mood. Such as, bringing in fog, or thunderstorms to create extra suspense in a horror novel.
I have seen landscape used as the antagonist in such stories as Lost In The Wild. Even though the landscape was presented as the enemy and a fearsome force, I still never thought of landscape as a character.
Now rereading some of my favorite novels I can see how landscape, or setting could be drawn as a character. Not only in the history of the buildings, but in the activities that take place and the people who visit such places. I can also see characterization in the different parts of the city, the mindset that is present in different places, the opportunities, or lack thereof and how it affects the people living there.
I see every day how a place can change a person, thus, the marketing strategy for Las Vegas: What Happens Here Stays Here. I see people who are probably very quiet turn into the complete opposite when they visit Vegas. Just like I see people act differently when they are around an outgoing person as compared to being around a quiet, critical personality.
Landscape, or setting as a character. It gets my creative juices flowing and makes me want to recreate the landscape of Vegas. After all, Las Vegas is portrayed as Sin City, with glitz and neon. But there is quite a bit of history here and even a fair number of ghosts. What books have you read where the landscape became a character unto itself ?


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