Victor Hugo famously said that the Channel Islands were "bits of France that fell into the sea and were gathered up by England". He lived in Guernsey for 15 years while exiled from France. It is believed that he wrote Les Miserables (I recommend the Denny translation) there.
How does she do it? The sensual imagery and physicality of this poem don't get any less intense with several re-readings. Although, "reading" doesn't quite seem to be the right verb for it. This is not a poem you just read. You actually live it — the sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch it evokes are a physical experience.
Some stories take you completely in while you're reading them. A part of you lives in their worlds even as you go about your own. Ahdaf Soueif's The Map of Love is just such a story. Let me start with the things I loved about the book even before I read it the first time: the story spans across multiple generations, covers a vast historical timeline, is told in part-epistolary, part-memoir style, narrated by various women as they observe/record events and help the men in their lives through both the personal, professional and government politics of their times. Throw in just a few touches of magic and myth and, of course, I'm hooked.