We are all living in a time where there are no answers, only questions. I have chosen three books that provide answers to escape into as we remain in uncertainty. Jeanette Winterson's Frankissstein is a rising star that reminds you of all those big worries that were the centre of our universe not many months ago. Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveller is a frame story that chooses a new future for you as you read along. National Geographic's Destinations of a Lifetime is a glimpse into your post-pandemic future where you'll be in sunnier places, forgetting that this ever happened. So get your Amazon Prime accounts at the ready.
Frankenstein has been a staple in literary canon since its publication in 1818; a haunting piece of literature that asks who is the real monster. There was a monster then and Winterson proves that the monster never left. The novel starts in Shelley's world and jumps to the modern day Brexit Britain with glimpses to Arizona. Ry is a transgender doctor, a "hybrid" formerly known as Mary, bringing life to both Shelley's story and her person. Stein is essentially a modern version of Victor Stein, specialising in AI as a professor. Imagine Stein as your cute science geek, Ry as your progressive and independent man, and Ron Lord as your traditional boomer. A whirlwind romance between Ry and Stein, full of philosophy, sex, passion, science, misogyny, transhumanism and sex robots, leads the novel as they face the controversy and pain that is a sad familiarity in society. Controversy and pain comes in the form of Ron Lord. A man who prefers dolls to people (is there more that I need to say about him?) and Stein's business partner but as Ry teaches Stein more about life than books ever could, Stein drifts further from Ron and the cryogenic facility across the water. We never thought we'd miss hearing about Brexit but this book creates nostalgia for a time that at least had a couple of answers, even if we didn't like them. Now I have never been a spoiler but I will leave you with a question: will love be able to conquer all?
Imagine. You're wearing your favourite sunglasses, the sun beating down onto your tanned skin as you walk along the cobblestones, hike up a cliff, toe deep in the sand, brushing against the water, and the luscious grass tickling your ankles. All these experiences and more lie within the pages of Destinations of a Lifetime. In a time full of closed borders, cancelled holidays and being stuck at home with your parents, escaping into a too far distant reality of travelling is the only real way to survive. Offering hundreds of places that you couldn't dream of, this book shows you the little places hidden within the big beautiful places that you didn't know existed. The quiet beaches of Phuket, the cathedrals in Slovakia, the rebuilt city of Dresden: an insight into the world of wonders that we all live in. Full of images and first-hand accounts, this book brings you as close to travelling as possible right now. My travel itch is dying to be scratched and this book certainly helps the pain. When I can travel again, the destinations in these books are going to be at the top of my list.
Calvino poses his novel as entirely traditional and unambiguous, lulling you into a false sense of security. And BAM. You read the novel and it's all about you. Am I drunk? Am I reading the wrong book? Is this a dream? I don't know about you but for me, only one of those was true. Not the point though. In Italo Calvino's classic novel, you are the star. You always dream of being important enough to have your own book and Calvino makes this a reality. Imagine you have just bought a new book. In fact, goodness, its If on a Winter's Night a Traveller and you start and its exciting and then BAM. Once again, Calvino has got you as the first section continues to repeat itself. Have you lost the rest of the book? Are you actually drunk? Is someone playing a joke on you? Now, only two of these are true. Again, I digress. You believe it's a misprint and you go to the store to fix this. There, you meet a beautiful woman who has the same problem and so you take a replacement which turns out to be another novel. This pattern continues on and on, with the book split into sections of the replacement books and the journey of you and Ludmilla searching for the true Calvino novel. A story of fate and romance where you remain the eternal hero, quite the opposite of life sometimes. A book where Calvino has already decided your fate for you: enjoy the ride.
Cover image: Instagram @isamuguruza
All embedded images: Waterstones.com