Five books to transport you to a different era

Because sometimes you just want to pause, take a breath and step into a different time, if only for an hour or two.

There’s a sense of romance in escaping to the past. We may not want to leave modern times behind for too long, but it’s nice to take a breather from it once in a while.

History isn’t just about memorising dates or the names of long-dead kings. It’s about individual stories, influences and our own yearning for a quieter, simpler life. At Navygrey, we are forever inspired by generations before us. 

Here are our five top picks for whiling away a late summer’s afternoon.

1. When All is Said – Anne Griffin

You’ll want to be sat at the bar with elderly widower Maurice Hannigan, as he raises a toast to the five people he misses the most. From his brother who died of consumption so many years ago, to his beloved wife, each person is commemorated in Maurice’s plain-talking, quiet manner.

He holds nothing back – laying his joys, tragedies and regrets bare before us as he looks back over his 80+ years in Ireland. Understated and poised. Heart-warming, and heart-breaking all at once. 

2. Sarah Waters – Tipping the Velvet

Nan’s life is changed forever when she first sees male impersonator Kitty perform on stage. She follows her to London, where she becomes first Kitty’s friend and assistant and later her lover and co-performer.

Victorian England is almost a character in its own right in Tipping the Velvet, brought to life in vivid technicolour, including all the glory and grime of the music halls.

3. Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin

Dive back into the seventies and be transported to 28 Barbary Lane, San Francisco. You’ll meet landlady Anna Madrigal and the people she’s taken under her wing – including newest tenant Mary Ann Singleton, who’s just finding her way around this new world, and Michael Tolliver (AKA Mouse) – the best friend you wish you had.

You may well race through the first book, but don’t despair – there are several more in the series to keep you going over autumn.

4. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

This book needs no explanation, just an entreaty. Allow yourself to fall in love with the March sisters all over again. Celebrate as Jo sells her first story, smile at the blossoming romance between Meg and John Brooke, chuckle at Amy’s antics and weep as Beth grows ever weaker.

Set at the time it was written – the 1860s – Little Women has a timeless quality that has endeared it to generations of readers.

5. Dear Mrs Bird – AJ Pearce

It’s 1940 and the one thing Emmy wants more than anything (other than Hitler dying a grisly death) is to be a ‘Lady War Correspondent’. She settles for a job as assistant to Mrs Bird – a no-nonsense agony aunt who refuses to answer letters that she deems ‘unpleasant’. So, Emmy takes it upon herself to write back instead. Amusing, light-hearted and endearingly charming, Dear Mrs Bird is the perfect easy summer read.

A charming, warm and moving story. If you were a fan of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this one's for you.