JourneyWoman Book Club: Books to Transport you to Faraway Places

by | May 1, 2020 | 9 comments

book club travel

Last updated on March 22nd, 2022

Books to Transport you to Faraway Places (June – July 2020) 

As we look to the future, reading about places we are curious about can keep us inspired. We’re re-starting the JourneyWoman Book Club and would love your thoughts on which books to start with. You can comment below, or vote on our JourneyWoman Travel Group on Facebook. . We encourage you to support your local bookstores as much as possible!

Based on polling on our Facebook Women’s Travel Group, the novel “300 Days of Sun” was selected to start, followed by “By the Lake” then “Driving Over Lemons.”

Anne Lamont says: “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

A very special thanks to Wendy B., who researched various sites to identify books that would help us learn and grow.

In July, we’ll choose new books for August and September. Suggestions are welcome!


Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucía

by Chris Stewart
(Driving Over Lemons Trilogy #1)



No sooner had Chris Stewart set eyes on El Valero than he handed over a check. Now all he had to do was explain to Ana, his wife, that they were the proud owners of an isolated sheep farm in the Alpujarra Mountains in Southern Spain. That was the easy part.

Lush with olive, lemon, and almond groves, the farm lacks a few essentials—running water, electricity, an access road. And then there’s the problem of rapacious Pedro Romero, the previous owner who refuses to leave. A perpetual optimist, whose skill as a sheepshearer provides an ideal entrée into his new community, Stewart also possesses an unflappable spirit that, we soon learn, nothing can diminish. Wholly enchanted by the rugged terrain of the hillside and the people they meet along the way—among them, farmers, including the ever-resourceful Domingo, other expatriates and artists—Chris and Ana Stewart build an enviable life, complete with a child and dogs, in a country far from home. 

Discussion Questions: 

1. What’s your favourite passage and why? 

2. Why do you think he called it “Driving Over Lemons?” What’s the role of optimism in this book? 

3. Ho does looking at the little luxuries of life, like water, make you feel? 

4. Would you change careers as he did? From Genesis drummer to sheep shearer to travel writer? 

5. If you could ask the author one thing, what would it be? 


By the Lake That They May Face the Rising Sun (UK title)

By John McGahern, 2002

BOOK CLUB JULY 8, 7 PM ET.  We’ll be joined by an expert on Ireland.  

With this magnificently assured novel, John McGahern reminds us why he has been called the Irish Chekhov, as he guides readers into a village in rural Ireland and deftly, compassionately traces its natural rhythms and the inner lives of its people.

Here are the Ruttledges, who have forsaken the glitter of London to raise sheep and cattle, gentle Jamesie Murphy, whose appetite for gossip both charms and intimidates his neighbours, handsome John Quinn, perennially on the look-out for a new wife, and the town’s richest man, a gruff, self-made magnate known as “the Shah.”

Discussion Questions: 

For this session, we’ll be joined by Ireland native Ann Quinlan, who has led tours to Ireland for the past 30 years with her company Spiral Journeys.  Ann will update us on travel to Ireland, and speak to the culture, history and villages of Ireland mentioned in the book.

Discussion Questions (may vary depending on time):

1. What’s your favourite passage in the book and why? (Please be prepared to share yours!)

2. What did you learn that you didn’t know about Ireland and its rural communities from the book?

3. How has this book changed or broadened your perspective? What did you learn?

4. Why does McGahern open the novel with the image of stillness on the lake? Why are the swans, the lake, the heron, the farm animals, and the changing seasons constantly juxtaposed against the human action related in these pages? Which descriptive passages are most striking? What is Joe Ruttledge’s relationship to nature, his farm, and his animals? How is this relevant to you today?

5. When asked what’s wrong with his life in London, Joe Ruttledge replies, “Nothing but it’s not my country and I never feel it’s quite real or that my life there is real. That has its pleasant side as well. You never feel responsible or fully involved in anything that happens” [p. 23]. How is Joe’s reply to Jimmy Joe McKiernan understood in the context of the rest of the novel?

6. Some of the most important questions addressed by this novel were asked by reviewer Hermione Lee, who wrote in the London Observer: “This great and moving novel, which looks so quiet and provincial, opens out through its small frame to our most troubling and essential questions. How well do we remember? How do we make our choices in life? Why do we need repetition? What is to remain of us? Above all, what can happiness consist in?” How do these themes apply to our world today?

7. By the Lake is a novel of manners that, like the work of Jane Austen, scrutinizes the ways in which human beings interact in a small community. What is most noticeable about how Joe, Kate, Jamesie, and Mary behave toward one another? How important are the qualities of generosity, humor, and patience in today’s world? Why is so much careful attention paid to certain ceremonial aspects of life, such as when the Ruttledges host a dinner party for Jamesie’s extended family [pp. 288–92]

8. If you could ask the author any question, what would it be?

(Photo: Ann Quinlan) 

sheep grazing in ireland



300 Days of Sun

By Deborah Lawrenson

BOOK CLUB JUNE 10 (Passed) 

Combining the atmosphere of Jess Walters Beautiful Ruins with the intriguing historical backstory of Christina Baker Klines’ The Orphan Train, Deborah Lawrenson’s mesmerizing novel transports readers to a sunny Portuguese town with a shadowy past where two women, decades apart, are drawn into a dark game of truth and lies that still haunts the shifting sea marshes.

Travelling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career. Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings, Joanna soon realizes, Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline over two decades ago.

Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English ex-pat who cryptically insists she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford s story and Nathan Emberlins may indeed converge in Faro where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.


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  1. mary clark

    My vote: Ireland, armenia, spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, china – how do you join the book club?

    • JourneyWoman

      Hi Mary, we are doing a little voting on our Facebook Travel Group too – if you’re on our newsletter email list you’ll get an update when we start the zoom calls (end of May). Thank you!

  2. Janet Candido

    I’m not sure how to vote.? My top three choices – Ireland, Portugal, Bulgaria.

  3. gini kurtzman

    Other than 300 Days of Sun have the dates been selected for the other books?

  4. lani strom

    I would love to do some third world countries..Oman, Myanmar , Senegal (or other African countries),Bhutan

  5. Jan

    I found used copies of By The Lake by John McGahern on Enjoyed the last book club meeting.

  6. Augusta

    I would suggest Patrick Leigh-Fermor’s books about his walk across Europe in the 1930s. He is such a wonderful and evocative writer.

  7. Joyce S Poole

    Hi, How do I register for the July Book Club? registration optin is not connected. Thanks in advacne! Joyce


We always strive to use real photos from our own adventures, provided by the guest writer or from our personal travels. However, in some cases, due to photo quality, we must use stock photography. If you have any questions about the photography please let us know.

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