New books take readers to faraway places

Some of us can only dream of vacations in faraway places this summer. But there is an alternative. Go to the bookstore, where you can find several new books that will take you all over -- from Ireland to the Caribbean. Here are three that will take you away:

  • "The Polished Hoe" by Austin Clarke (Amistad Press/HarperCollins, $24.95): Clarke's novel is set in the West Indies during the early to mid-1900s. The plot involves a suspected murder of a powerful plantation manager by a maid who became his mistress. Clarke is a fine writer whose story will captivate readers, but his descriptions of the islands -- the glistening sun, the powdery sand, the tastes of native foods and the lulling waves -- will make you feel as though you're lying on a wonderful beach.
  • "The Irish Way: A Walk Through Ireland's Past and Present" by Robert Emmett Ginna (Random House, $24.95): Ginna walked some 350 miles of the Emerald Isle, and he tells us all about it here. The best passages involve crumbling castles and (perhaps not coincidentally) smoky pubs. You'll keep your hearth's peat fire burning all night while you finish reading this one.
  • "Easter Island" by Jennifer Vanderbes (Dial Press, $22.95): Here's another novel where strong writing creates an intense sense of place. In the mid-1970s an American botanist comes to this strangest of islands; the events of her sojourn there seem to mimic the visit six decades earlier of an anthropologist and his wife. You may or may not buy into the story, but you'll love descriptive passages about hulking, primitive statuary and the ongoing mystery of who carved and placed them.

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