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Best Novels to Read When You Want to Escape Real Life

Let's face it: real life can be tough sometimes. There are moments when all you want to do is escape into a fictional world for a while. Well, fear not: this selection of immersive novels will whisk you away to thrilling places and distant times to join heroic characters on amazing adventures, whenever you're in need of some escapism! See below for the best novels to read when you want to escape real life.

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1. The Buried Giant

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Kazuo Ishiguro

The Romans have long since departed and Britain is gradually fading into ruin. Axl and Beatrice set off across a troubled land of mist and rain to find the son they haven't seen for years. They expect to face many dangers - some strange and otherworldly - but they could never have foreseen that their journey would reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for each other. Fierce, gripping, and intensely moving, this stunning novel is about lost memories, revenge, war, and love.


2. Dragon Keeper

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Robin Hobb

The first book in a two-part series, Dragon Keeper transports readers to Robin Hobb's rich and wondrous world - where dragons have returned... Guided by the dragon Tintaglia, the serpents come from the sea and fight their way up the Rain Wild River to their ancestral hatching grounds. However, the fledglings that emerge from the cocoons are a mockery of the dragons of old. Flightless and fractious, they soon become a danger to all and must be moved. The Rain Wilder Thymara answers the call to become one of the dragon keepers and accompany the creatures upriver. Their target is the legendary Elderling city of Kelsingra, but no-one knows if it actually exists - and no-one expects the dragon keepers to survive...


3. On Starlit Seas

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Sara Sheridan

Charged with a mission by the Empress of Brazil, celebrated writer Maria Graham sets off for England as the Brazilian civil war rages. Newly widowed, she accepts an offer of passage from roguish smuggler Captain James Henderson, who is travelling back to his childhood home in Covent Garden. On-board his ship, Maria discovers not only a dangerous secret concealed in a chocolate bar, but an electrifying attraction to the mysterious captain. But someone of her social standing cannot possibly fall in love with a smuggler. Henderson is determined to forge a new identity as a London gentleman, but finds himself embroiled in a perilous tangle with a deadly smuggling ring. Can he ever prove himself worthy of Maria? This sumptuous tale is riddled with adventure, romance - and chocolate.


4. His Dark Materials

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Philip Pullman

Featuring three books - Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass - this captivating fantasy trilogy follows Lyra and her 'daemon', the animal embodiment of her inner self. Travel with Lyra to phenomenal fantastical settings, through snowy hills, to an otherworldly city, and even to the Land of the Dead, on all sorts of daring and dangerous quests.


5. Under a Pole Star

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Stef Penney

It is 1889, and Flora - a whaler's daughter from Dundee, dubbed by the press 'The Snow Queen' - sets out to become a scientist and explorer. Determined to be taken seriously, ambition and chance lead her back to northern Greenland at the head of a British expedition, despite the belief of many that a young woman has no place in this ruthless world of men. Yearning for wider horizons, geologist Jakob de Beyn joins a rival expedition, led by the ambitious Lester Armitage. When Jakob and Flora's paths cross, it is a fateful meeting. Flora, Jakob and Lester all become obsessed with the north, a place where violent extremes exist side-by-side: perpetual night and endless day; frozen seas and coastal meadows; heroism and treachery...


6. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

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Lewis Carroll

Immerse yourself in a dreamlike world with this enthralling classic tale. Follow the white rabbit down the rabbit hole and tumble into a world where all your normal worries disappear, and you must instead contend with the grinning Cheshire Cat, the nonsensical Mad Hatter and the cruel Queen of Hearts. Full of wonderful wordplay and perplexing puzzles, readers young and old are sure to love this riveting read.


7. The Essex Serpent

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Sarah Perry

London, 1893. Cora Seaborne's controlling husband has died. Now, she must step into her new life as a widow - with as much relief as sadness. Alongside her son, Francis - a curious, obsessive boy - she leaves for Essex, hoping that fresh air and open space will provide a welcome refuge. However, on arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to claim lives whilst roaming the marshes, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora - a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition - cannot help but go and investigate... Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2016, this book is guaranteed to grip you.


8. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

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Alexander McCall Smith

The first of a series of wonderful reads, the adventures of Mma Ramotswe are sure to delight and enthral readers. If you've got a problem and no-one else can help you, pay a visit to Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's only - and finest - female private detective. With warmth, wit and sharp intuition on her side, she's sure to solve the most mysterious cases, including wayward daughters, missing husbands, philandering partners and curious conmen. Discover the vibrant Botswanan culture whilst enjoying the heart-warming and gripping story of Precious Ramotswe.


9. Dark Eden

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Chris Beckett

Dive into a dark, mysterious planet, full of sinister fauna and flora, where humans were never meant to go. Uncover the fascinating society that grew from just two stranded humans, a community riddled with mental and physical disability due to inbreeding, no-strings-attached sexual encounters, lots of fatherless children, plenty of baseless traditions shaped around stories and theories warped and corrupted over the years, and the unshakeable belief that other humans will arrive to take everyone back to Earth one day. 'Break the Circle' with John Redlantern as he rebels against this cultish community and shapes the fate of this new Eden.


10. Frankenstein

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Mary Shelley

Victor Frankenstein, obsessed with the idea of creating life itself, ransacks graveyards for the material necessary to fashion a new being. He shocks the creature into life with electricity, but his botched being, rejected by Frankenstein and denied human companionship, sets out to destroy its creator and all that he holds dear. This spine-chilling Gothic novel is full of moral quandaries, and remains one of the world's most famous horror stories.