From the Guardian Books website:
What does a good novel do for you? Make you laugh? Make you cry, gasp, clutch the pages, miss your stop on the bus? Well, yes. All of those things. But I like a novel that also illuminates a corner of the real world that I hardly knew existed, and brings it to life.
Good historical novels do that. Geoffrey Trease hard-wired ancient Greece into my imagination and Rosemary Sutcliff did the honours for Roman Britain. But some novels work the same magic for the world as it is today. They teleport us to live for a while in distant places we only hear about on the news. It’s a risky business, and history might frown on some of these interpretations, but the dramatic stories they tell are every bit as poignant, exciting and memorable as the most action-soaked fantasies. In a world where ignorance of Out There is a real threat to world peace, they do an important job, too.