Visiting Imaginary Places

imageI remember the first time I read Jane Eyre and entered Rochester’s house, Thornfield Hall. Coming from a middle-class family in Nebraska, the middle of the United States, I was enthralled with walking into the drawing room where Rochester lounged in his overstuffed chair with Pilot at his feet.

The same sense of body out of time and place occurred when I read Rebecca and entered Manderley. Even with the foreboding presence of Mrs. Danvers, I was enthralled with the precisely decorated rooms and their sweeping views.

I was recently reminded of these out of body experiences when I read Josephine Myles’ Stuff, which is set in the marvelously tricked out Cabbages and Kinks second-hand store in Bristol.

Being something of a romantic wanderer, I immediately looked up Bristol, a city I don’t think I’d heard of before even though I’ve been to Britain a couple of times and traveled around the country.

In the country’s southwest, Bristol, it turns out, is rife with amazing street art, which absolutely suits Mas, one of Myles’ main characters. Mas is a cheeky gay man whose joie de vivre permeates the entire book and gives the story its carefree character.

However, when Mas stepped into Cabbages, the residence and shop of Perry, my daydreaming began.

Cabbages houses a unique collection of 1920′s to 1950′s fashions, furniture, and bric-a-brac. It even has a jackalope, one of the hybrid stuffed animals made from a jackrabbit and enormous antelope antlers. The fierce and wild jackalopes are staples of Western saloons and Southwestern second hand stores in the U. S. Who knew they had traveled to Britain too?

Mannequins and clothes racks abound in Cabbages and Kinks, punctuated by mirrors, bureaus, and shelving holding silverware, jewelry, decorated jars, and clocks. Wandering amid the aisle-less collection afforded me countless wonderful discoveries.

I was in seventh heaven. I could easily live in Cabbages especially when I read that Perry’s workshop and artist studio were located in the floors above the shop. I would buy one of Perry’s intriguing and complex sculptures in a heartbeat.

Unlike the completely fictional places I’ve visited in my years of reading, I could travel to Bristol and walk the streets looking for a Cabbages equivalent. But what’s the point?

Like Rochester’s Thornfield Hall and Rebecca’s Manderley, Cabbages and Kinks will live forever in Myles’ book and in my heart and mind.

 

Pat Henshaw

The books mentioned in this post are available for sale from Amazon and other sellers.

8 Responses to “Visiting Imaginary Places”

  1. LeeB. says:

    Nice blog Pat. Yep, I’ve wanted to visit lots of shops and towns found only in books.

  2. Kayne says:

    Your blog reminded me of the hugely popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. I love reading historicals and on a trip to London I got to visit Hampton Court Castle. It was amazing to see the rooms, furnishings, and gardens that I had read about. On another trip I was visiting The Lipizzaner stallions in Slovenia and got to see their carriage collection. I was imagining all the carriage scenes from my reading. On a road trip with my kids, we detoured to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder museums and it brought our summer reading to a new level. When I read Kristen Ashleys books from Colorado, I like to try and guess where the action in her stories take place. It sure would be fun to visit Fortnum’s Coffee Shop (from her Rock Chick Series) but unfortunately I think its imaginary, darn. Thanks for your blog.

  3. leslie says:

    I’d like to visit Nalini Singh’s Manhattan in the Guild series and Ilona Andrews’ Atlanta. And of course I’d have to have an Archangel or the Beast Lord as my bodyguard. I also love historicals with explicit “great house” details. I think one of the reasons Downton Abbey is so popular is because most of the action takes place in or around the Abbey, which is amazingly beautiful. We get to see everything up close (both upstairs and downstairs) in a leisurely manner.

  4. Eliza says:

    Scotland is not an imaginary place, but I love picturing myself there, particularly with an author who has a good feel for and grasp of the country, like Karen Ranney. The Witch of Clan Sinclair took place primarily in Edinburgh (as a nice change from the hielands) and I felt like I was there, both in Old Town on the Royal Mile, and looking up at the Castle from New Town. I wanna go back.

    • leslie says:

      The Royal Mile is amazing ……just thinking about Edinburgh…..I love that city. Everyone should go at least once during Festival….it’s magical. My boys and are going in August and I am thrilled to go back.

  5. Carol Lowe says:

    Before the days of Kindle when you couldn’t just go to a list to see if you had read a book before, I would often start reading and know I had read a book because I had “been there” before. Some houses and locales are more memorable than the story.

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