While travel beyond New Zealand isn't possible, you need a book with a strong sense of place to transport you somewhere new. Nicky Pellegrino recommends six favourites.
The Lost Man, by Jane Harper
A slow-burn mystery that takes you to the harsh, dry, dusty landscapes of outback Australia. Really, really takes you there. Suffocatingly small towns, vast empty spaces, isolation, all is brought vividly to life. When the body of local cattle rancher Cameron Bright is found huddled by an old stockman's grave, no one knows what to make of the case. For in such a remote place, there are very few suspects.
Miss Garnet's Angel, by Salley Vickers
This novel is two decades old, but is set in Venice, which is practically timeless. It transports us to the city of canals in winter, a misty and mysterious season and is a late-life coming-of-age story. Julia Garnet is a retired teacher who decides to spend six months in Venice following the death of her long-time companion. Not only does she discover beauty and art there but, for the first time, she falls in love.
In Five Years, by Rebecca Serle
New York is the setting for this smart romance with a twist. Dannie Kohan is one of those super-controlling types. A successful Manhattan lawyer with a perfect boyfriend, there's not much room in her life for surprises. Then one evening after a few glasses of wine, she comes round from a nap and finds herself in a different apartment with a stranger called Aaron, who appears to be her fiance.
Where'd you go Bernadette, by Maria Semple
Spoiler – where you'll go while reading this laugh-out-loud screwball comedy is Antarctica. Seattle architect Bernadette Fox has had a major meltdown and disappeared. Her sparky 15-year-old daughter Bee sets out to discover all she can about her mum, compiling a missing person dossier of emails and documents and eventually following her all the way to the South Pole.
Chocolat, by Joanne Harris
The first in a series of four novels – the latest was last year's The Strawberry Thief - situated in the fictional French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, where chocolatier Vianne Rocher lives with her daughters. These stories are filled with spells and bewitchments, strange winds that bring trouble when they start to blow and people with spooky powers. It all begins when Vianne opens her chocolate shop opposite the village church and faces opposition from the local priest, who fears she will tempt his flock into sinful overindulgence.
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
Walk almost 2000km along the Pacific Crest trail in the shoes of this American author. At 22, devastated by grief and destroying herself with drugs, Strayed tried to hike her way to sanity. Her solo journey took her from the Mojave Desert through the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and all the way to Washington and she tackled it with no prior experience nor special training. Both the landscapes and the epic journey are captured in her writing – you will feel the blisters.
New Zealand author Nicky Pellegrino's novels will take you to Italy. Her latest is Tiny Pieces of Us (Hachette, $35)