Thursday, 19 June 2014

Setting the Scene
Does anyone else think that knowing the setting for a story or novel can help with your enjoyment and understanding when reading? I came to this conclusion when I was on holiday recently. 

I had not visited the beautiful island of Crete before and wanted to get to know something about its history. As a teacher, I have lost count of the times I have told or read the story of 'Theseus and the Minotaur' to classes of children so you can imagine how excited I was to be visiting the site of the Palace of Knossos, the home of King Minos, which has always been associated with the myth.  Minos, after getting advice from the oracle at Delphi, had Daedalus, the famed architect and inventor, build a huge labyrinth near his palace at Knossos. The purpose of the labyrinth was to hold the Minotaur, a monster which was half-bull and half-man. 

On our journey there, our guide retold a version of the story of Theseus in such detail and with so much conviction that we were captivated. 

Sir Arthur John Evans (1851-1941) was the archaeologist responsible for unearthing the Palace of Knossos. He believed that the legendary kingdom of King Minos was real and used clues he found in the myths and legends to prove it even though he came up against strong opposition to his views. 

As we walked around the site, I liked to think that the reconstructed frescos often depicting bulls and the twisting passages of a possible labyrinth were part of a story that had always been so popular with my pupils.  

In complete contrast to that story which has been around for thousands of years and on the recommendation of a guest at the hotel where we were staying, I read a novel written in 2005, also set in Crete. 'The Island' by Victoria Hislop is about a leper colony on Spinalonga, a small island off the north coast. It is set both in the present day when a first-generation English girl travels to Crete to find out more about her Greek heritage and in the 1930s. What unravels is the tragic tale of four generations of women in the Petrakis family whose lives are affected by leprosy. I think the fact that I was there on the actual island of Crete and could recognise the descriptions of the countryside and places mentioned, the food and drink referred to and some of the characteristics of people I'd observed in the local shops and tavernas made it more credible and enjoyable to read. I didn't even know about the leper colony  which closed in 1957 until I read about the boat trips to the now uninhabited island which are on offer. I spoke to the owner of a book shop where the book was displayed, taking pride of place in the shop window.  He told me that it was based on true stories and that the author had researched the novel well. I loved the way the layers of family secrets were revealed and recommend the book, especially if you can travel Crete to read it! 

Have you read a book where knowing the setting has enhanced your enjoyment? Please comment and recommend some good reads. Thank you for reading my blog.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on Facebook Jan Baynham Writer.

PS When I was away another of my moving on stories Meet Me By The Jacaranda Tree was published on Alfie Dog Fiction. If you'd like to read it, please click on the title and you can download it for £0.39.  


8 comments:

  1. It's nice to feel I recognise a setting when I read aboiut it - but it's also good to visit somewhere new.

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    1. Yes, Patsy, I can see that too. Novels and stories can transport you to so many places, can't they?

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  2. Great post Jan, lovely photos. Hope they inspire a story as well.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. I must settle back to some writing, mustn't I? I've been very unproductive lately.

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  3. it was mind blowing when i read this post, the experience you had was awesome any didn't get this.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  4. Sounds like you had a great time, and educational too! You must have a load of story ideas now Jan :)
    I borrowed The Isalnd a while back but didn't get around to reading it and felt I'd had it too long, so gave it back. I will hunt one down now, you make it sound like a must-read!

    And congrats on another Alfie Dog publication!

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    1. Thanks, Samantha. Yes, do read 'The Island' and let me know what you think. I did start one story on holiday but as usual I got 'bogged down' with too much back story and that's why I've decoded to make that topic my next post!!

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