Immersive Reading is a new series on Cask & Quill that takes you further into one book at a time by suggesting sights, smells and sounds that are evocative of each story. I’ll give you ideas that will alter your surroundings and immerse you right into the pages of your book. Visit the first Immersive Reading post on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban here.
It’s time for another Immersive Reading experience! This time, we’re taking a look at Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie. The new movie is just about to be released and you might be interested in reading the book before or after you see the film! Even if you’ve read this one before, it’s the perfect time to cozy up for a reread. I recently read this as a buddy-read with a friend of mine and thought the book was perfect for an immersive read. I’ll show you my ideas below for surrounding yourself with the vibes of the Orient Express!
You’ll need a copy of Murder on the Orient Express, of course! Borrow one from your library or buy a copy of your own at a local bookshop or online here. I particularly like the cover I have linked below, though covers with a photo from the new movie on them (blech) are available as well.
Once you have a copy of the book secured, it’s time to start setting the scene. So, what’s our goal? What feeling are we trying to capture? For me there’s a suspenseful, yet cozy feeling in the air on the Orient Express. People are either shut up in their compartments or out having a meal in the dining car. Plus, there’s mystery and murder afoot!
We’ll begin, as we did last time, with your nose. The Orient Express is probably a bit musty and with people cooped up in there smoking, there’s bound to be a tobacco scent lingering. I find that the Sherlock’s Study candle (from Frostbeard Studio) is perfect for this occasion. Its mysterious tobacco scent captures the scene quite well. Another way you might go is a cool, winter scent such as Winterfell, also from Frostbeard. This will help you imagine a wintery snow-scape surrounding the train cars. Or why not try mingling both scents together?
When I imagine the Orient Express, I think of slightly cramped and cozy compartments. Corridors leading on to the more spacious dining car. You might even consider taking this show on the road and climbing aboard whatever train is nearest to you. Trust me, I spend my commute each day mentally transforming my train into the Hogwarts Express and they do not look much alike at all. With a little imagination, anything can be made more magical! If you don’t have a train nearby that you can take, try simply positioning yourself near a window that you can look out and imagine it’s the window of the dining car. This will be especially effective if there happens to be snow on the ground where you are. You might sit at a writing desk (though I don’t see this being comfortable for an extended period), find a chair or lay down in your bed and imagine you’re closed up in your compartment.
Food and Drink
To be honest, not much of the train fare on the Orient Express sounds all that appetizing. So what should you be snacking on? I’d opt for some little biscuits or cookies paired with some coffee or cognac (or both!). Tea would also be good, or if you’re feeling fancy, try this minty adult hot chocolate, inspired by Poirot himself! All of these things are very easy to consume while reading, which is important, and they’ll help to develop the world of the train around you.
To help complete the ambiance, we must have a little background noise. Pull up your laptop or some headphones and give some of these ambient mixes a shot. Now I know most of the book takes place while the train itself is stationary, but I would not seek to rob you of the soothing lull of a train going down the tracks. What else might you expect to hear on the Orient Express? How about the murmur of people talking and silverware clinking in the dining car? You might hear bells ringing or people calling out for assistance. Or perhaps you’re imagining being cooped up in your compartment having tea and journaling. For more of a sense of foreboding, maybe you hear some ominous whispering and groaning onboard the train. Maybe a bit of classical lounge music would suit nicely, if you didn’t want to try any of the above.
That should about do it! Hopefully you’ve found this to be a great starting point for your immersive read of Murder on the Orient Express. Hopefully these ideas have got your imagination firing and you’ve thought of even more things to add. I’d love to know what they are, if so! Leave a comment below letting me know how it goes and what elements of your own you added.