Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What Draws Me To A Book

By Tracy Kiely
When I reach for a new book, I tend to focus more on the character/plot summary rather than the locale in which the action takes place. For the most part.  If I wander into a bookstore (which, by the way, is harder and harder to do these days, but that’s another post) and I come across a mystery set in England in the Twenties or Thirties, chances are I’m buying it (unless I already own it, but again that particular rule isn’t set in stone either). But in those cases, I’m not buying the book for it’s depictions of the English countryside, but for it’s atmosphere of a time gone by. I’m a sucker for glossy portrayals of an era when there were butlers and lady’s maids and elaborate picnic lunches on the lawn. Nine times out of ten they are completely unrealistic depictions, but then so aren’t amateur sleuths solving multiple homicides in between popping in and out of French windows and playing lawn tennis.
Rather than making me reach for a book, the setting can actually have the opposite effect. Show me a book about a serial killer terrorizing teachers in Afghanistan, and I will politely demur.
Can one politely demur? Does one every rudely demur? Is this one of those redundant phrases like “safe haven” and “regular routine”? Crap, now I’m going to be Googling that for the next hour.
Anyway, please don’t judge me, but I simply don’t have the mental strength to go to Afghanistan (or anywhere where there is chaos and cruelty and injustice). I have three children, who are lovely creatures, but they provide all the chaos and sibling cruelty and injustice that I can handle.  In addition, they are all sadly afflicted with Idontseeititis.  This means that in their wake is a never-ending trail of clutter and chaos. They regard the task of putting away their dishes as a grown up version of Pin The Tail On The Donkey. They get the dishes close to the dishwasher, but no one every really nails it.
I read books because I like the story or the characters (or because I’m stuck somewhere in a public setting and am desperate not to make eye contact with the crazy lady who thinks her ex-boyfriend has bugged her tuna sandwich). From what I’ve seen, very few authors can pull off a setting central book without coming across like a travel guide.
So. In summary:  While I don’t usually choose books based on setting, I will make this one exception– I will read one if it takes place in:
The Tundra – The Frozen Tundra
Here’s the summary:
A woman with a tattoo of a tuna fish on the nape of her neck is on an airplane carrying foreign imports when it is hi-jacked by a bald-headed armed gunman. A violent struggle occurs which causes the plane to crash land in the frozen tundra where our heroine must find safe haven and basic necessities.
I will now cease and desist.     


Meredith Cole said...

Ha! Now I know the name of my child's affliction at last... Thanks Dr. Kiely! And may your summer be filled with tea parties on the lawn that you need not politely demur.

Catriona McPherson said...

This made me chuckle! Totally agree about the setting-central story.