I'm not quite sure why, but this fall I've been reading more than I normally do. Maybe it's because my schedule is busier than it's been for a long time, so I'm savoring those quiet moments with a good book. Maybe it's because I've found some books I really like. I don't know.
But I was reminded again what's so great about reading this afternoon. I took 15 minutes away from my afternoon and started a new book, "Burning Bright" by Tracy Chevalier. In the five or six pages I read, I was jettisoned to 1792 London. Like a time machine. When authors create a strong sense of place, it is easy to get lost in the story, description, and time. The trick for the writer, of course, is to show the universality of the human condition even in times that were very different from our own by creating believable, authentic characters in real jeopardy. When those elements come together, a good book is the result, and something like time travel is what the reader gets.
Tracy Chevalier is particularly good at painting the picture of a place. I adored Girl with a Pearl Earring. Learning the story behind the painting, or the story behind the work of art is always a treat for me--even if it is fictional.