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New books that are strong on location – September 2022

23rd August 2022

Here are are our top three recommended location reads for September:

Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie (Karachi and London)

A dazzling new novel of friendship, identity and the unknowability of other people – from the international bestselling author of Home Fire, winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction

Sometimes it was as though the forty years of friendship between them was just a lesson in the unknowability of other people.

Maryam and Zahra.

In 1988 Karachi, two fourteen-year-old girls are a decade into their friendship, sharing in-jokes, secrets and a love for George Michael. As Pakistan’s dictatorship falls and a woman comes to power, the world suddenly seems full of possibilities. Elated by the change in the air, they make a snap decision at a party. That night, everything goes wrong, and the two girls are powerless to change the outcome.

Zahra and Maryam.

In present-day London, two influential women remain bound together by loyalties, disloyalties, and the memory of that night, which echoes through the present in unexpected ways. Now both have power; and both have very different ideas of how to wield it. Their friendship has always felt unbreakable; can it be undone by one decision?

‘A new Kamila Shamsie novel is always worth celebrating, but Best of Friends is something else: an epic story that explores the ties of childhood friendship, the possibility of escape, the way the political world intrudes into the personal, all through the lens of two sharply drawn protagonists’ Observer, Books of the Year 2022.

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell (Florence)

The woman in the portrait is perfect. So why does she feel so terrified, so alone?

Florence, the 1560s. Lucrezia, third daughter of Cosimo de’ Medici, is free to wander the palazzo at will, wondering at its treasures and observing its clandestine workings. But when her older sister dies on the eve of marriage to Alfonso d’Este, ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage and her father to accept on her behalf.

Having barely left girlhood, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appears to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?

As Lucrezia sits in uncomfortable finery for the painting that is to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferrarese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, her future hangs entirely in the balance.

Dreamland by Nicholas Sparks (Florida)

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wish comes a poignant love story about risking everything for a dream – and whether it’s possible to leave the past behind.

Fate drew them together . . . but will their dreams tear them apart?

Colby Mills once felt destined for a musical career, but tragedy grounded his dreams. Now the dust has settled, he spontaneously takes a gig playing at a bar in Florida, seeking a rare break from his duties at home.

But when he meets Morgan Lee, his world is turned upside-down, and Colby can’t help but wonder if the responsibilities he has shouldered need dictate his life forever. Morgan is on her way to Nashville with plans to become a star and she wants Colby to come with her.

While they are falling headlong in love, Beverly is on a heart-pounding journey of another kind. Fleeing an abusive husband with her six-year-old son, she is trying to piece together a new life in a small town far off the beaten track. Danger is never far and her money is fast running out.

In the course of a single unforgettable week, three very different people will have their own ideas of love put to the test. As fate draws them together, they will each be forced to question whether the dream of a better life can ever overcome the weight of the past.

And here are some other recommended September location books:

Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris (United States and England)

‘From what is it they flee?’

He took a while to reply. By the time he spoke the men had gone inside. He said quietly, ‘They killed the King.’

1660. Colonel Edward Whalley and his son-in-law, Colonel William Goffe, cross the Atlantic. They are on the run and wanted for the murder of Charles I. Under the provisions of the Act of Oblivion, they have been found guilty in absentia of high treason.

In London, Richard Nayler, secretary of the regicide committee of the Privy Council, is tasked with tracking down the fugitives. He’ll stop at nothing until the two men are brought to justice. A reward hangs over their heads – for their capture, dead or alive.

Act of Oblivion is an epic journey across continents, and a chase like no other. It is the thrilling new novel by Robert Harris.

Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk and Ekin Oklap (translator) (Mingheria, Georgia)

1901. Night draws in.

With the stealth of a spy vessel, the royal ship Aziziye approaches the famous vistas of Mingheria. ‘An emerald built of pink stone’. The 29th state of the ailing Ottoman Empire.

The ship carries Princess Pakize, the daughter of a deposed sultan, her doctor husband, and the Royal Chemist, Bonkowski Pasha. Each of them holds a separate mission. Not all of them will survive the weeks ahead. Because Mingheria is on the cusp of catastrophe. There are rumours of plague – rumours some in power will try to suppress.

But plague is not the only killer.

Soon, the eyes of the world will turn to this ancient island, where the future of a fragile empire is at stake, in an epic and playful mystery of passion, fear, scandal and murder, from one of history’s master storytellers.

The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel West (Chicago and Memphis)

In 1960s Memphis, a young mother finds refuge in a boardinghouse where family encompasses more than just blood, and hidden truths can bury you or set you free.

Sara King has nothing, save for her secrets and the baby in her belly, as she boards the bus to Memphis, hoping to outrun her past in Chicago. She is welcomed with open arms by Mama Sugar, a kindly matriarch and owner of the popular boardinghouse The Scarlet Poplar.

Like many cities in early 1960s America, Memphis is still segregated, but change is in the air. News spreads of the Freedom Riders. Across the country, people like Martin Luther King Jr. are leading the fight for equal rights. Black literature and music provide the stories and soundtrack for these turbulent and hopeful times, and Sara finds herself drawn in by conversations of education, politics and a brighter tomorrow with Jonas, a local schoolteacher. Romance blooms between them, but secrets from Mama Sugar’s past threaten their newfound happiness and lead Sara to make decisions that will reshape the rest of their lives.

With a charismatic cast of characters, The Two Lives of Sara is an emotional and unforgettable story of hope, the limitations of resilience and unexpected love.

Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong (Shanghai)

It’s 1931 in Shanghai, and the stage is set for a new decade of intrigue.

Four years ago, Rosalind Lang was brought back from the brink of death, but the strange experiment that saved her also stopped her from sleeping and aging – and allows her to heal from any wound. In short, Rosalind cannot die. Now, desperate for redemption for her traitorous past, she uses her abilities as an assassin for her country.

Code name: Fortune.

But when the Japanese Imperial Army begins its invasion march, Rosalind’s mission pivots. A series of murders is causing unrest in Shanghai, and the Japanese are under suspicion. Rosalind’s new orders are to infiltrate foreign society and identify the culprits behind the terror plot before more of her people are killed.

To reduce suspicion, she must pose as the wife of another Nationalist spy, Orion Hong. Although Rosalind finds Orion’s cavalier attitude and playboy demeanour infuriating, she is willing to work with him for the greater good. But Orion has an agenda of his own, and Rosalind has secrets that she wants to keep buried. As they both attempt to unravel the conspiracy, the two spies soon find that there are deeper and more horrifying layers to this mystery than they ever imagined.

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson (London)

1926, and in a country still recovering from the Great War, London has become the focus for a delirious new nightlife. In the clubs of Soho, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time.

The notorious queen of this glittering world is Nellie Coker, ruthless but also ambitious to advance her six children, including the enigmatic eldest, Niven whose character has been forged in the crucible of the Somme. But success breeds enemies, and Nellie’s empire faces threats from without and within. For beneath the dazzle of Soho’s gaiety, there is a dark underbelly, a world in which it is all too easy to become lost.

With her unique Dickensian flair, Kate Atkinson brings together a glittering cast of characters in a truly mesmeric novel that captures the uncertainty and mutability of life; of a world in which nothing is quite as it seems.

Enjoy your September location based reading!

Tony for the TripFiction team

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