“It happened all at once: We exited the highway and there were the row houses of my imagination leaning precariously toward canals, ubiquitous bicycles, and coffeeshops advertising LARGE SMOKING ROOM. We drove over a canal and from atop the bridge I could see dozens of houseboats moored along the water. It looked nothing like America. It looked like an old painting, but real–everything achingly idyllic in the morning light”
—The Fault in Our Stars, page 156
The Fault in Our Stars is a bestselling novel by the author John Green, which was published on January 10, 2012, and celebrated its one year anniversary yesterday. It is a heartbreaking and humorous novel about a 16-year-old girl named Hazel who has terminal cancer and the 17-year-old cancer survivor named Augustus with whom she falls in love. It is a book about life and death and love, but it manages not to take itself to seriously.
It is neither a travel memoir nor a travel novel, and yet it is this week’s travel inspiration. For two reasons:
1. The quote I began this post with is Hazel’s first impressions of Amsterdam, where the novel’s star-crossed lovers spend three chapters.
2. Just because the novel only takes place in Amsterdam for three chapters doesn’t mean it won’t inspire you to go to Amsterdam or, perhaps more likely, to get up and do some living. Books about death always seem to inspire life.
Hazel’s impressions of Amsterdam romanticize the city and it becomes an idyllic backdrop around which the novel’s plot unfolds. The hotel they stay at is around the corner from Vondelpark, and is actually how I first learned of the park (to which I then devoted an entire blogpost). And Hazel and Augustus also visit the Anne Frank House, and the museum is described perfectly, again in service to the plot.
“[I was] thinking that you cannot kiss anyone in the Anne Frank House, and then thinking that Anne Frank, after all, kissed someone in the Anne Frank House, and that she would probably like nothing more than for her home to have become a place where the young and irreparably broken sink into love.” –page 202
Romantic and lovely and tragic and amusing, you should probably add it to your reading list for 2013, whether or not it makes you want to visit Amsterdam.