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Green Jay

Books linked with places

Not an inspired title, but never mind...

I am reading Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chevalier, and as I am familiar with Lyme Regis in Dorset, I am very much enjoying picturing the town, beaches, and landscapes she describes in detail. Even though I am not familiar with Lyme as it was in the early 19th century!

I was wondering if others might like to suggest novels, and other books, linked to particular real places. I always like to read a novel or two when I am visiting a city or area, in the UK or abroad. I find they work better than a guidebook. I wrote on the old board that before I visited Venice for the first time I read Aurelio Zen in  Dead Lagoon (by Michael Dibden) and Salley Vickers' Miss Garnett's Angel, and these gave me a great grounding for finding my way round!

For Lyme, books include The French Lieutenant's Woman, of course, and Jane Austen's Persuasion.  

Further along the coast, in Devon, The Sidmouth Letters by Jane Gardam, continues the watering place and Jane Austen theme, examining in fiction a hinted-at romantic episode in JA's life.

For the rest of Dorset, Hardy, of course.

I'd love other people to add to this fictional and (auto)biograhical set of tour guides.  Any ideas for the Pembrokeshire and West Wales coastal area, please?
Green Jay

Kate Atkinson is good at urban settings: Edinburgh for One Good Turn, York for Behind the Scenes at The museum, and Dundee for Emotionally Weird. Not exactly an advert for bonnie Dundee!  Laughing
Gino

I have always enjoyed Great expectations with its setting along the rather eerie north Kent coast and Medway estuary
Mikeharvey

This is going to sound terribly pretentious, but when I was travelling in India I read the Ramayana.  And the stories of R.K. Narayan when I visited Mysore, which I believe is the basis of Narayan's Malgudi.
Joe Mac

Allow me to join you in pretension, Mike. I read James Michener's Caravans while in Afghanistan, and it enhanced the experience greatly. Not a great book, probably, but at the time, and in the place, it had quite an effect on my youthful imagination.
Jen M

What a brilliant idea for a topic, Green Jay - I've already posted in the What are you reading? thread that I like Lyme Regis and might read Remarkable Creatures before I visit there again.

I too like reading books in which I recognise the locations, and have tried recently to read books set in areas I will shortly be visiting to give me a bit of background to a place.

I read Peter Robinson's Strange Affair (from his Inspector Banks series) which was partly set in a part of London where I used to work - I could clearly visualise the characters in their settings.  

For Oxford, there is Inspector Morse, and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.  
For the Lake District, there are Walpole's Herries Chronicles; although these are set long ago, it is still possible to recognise many of the locations in the books.

I'll post more if I think of them and would welcome others' suggestions.  I don't have my next holiday planned yet - how good would it be to plan a holiday based on book recommendations?   Smile

My contribution to pretentiousness (or maybe not) is listening to Billy Joel's Allentown on my iPod while flying over Allentown.  We then flew over the Blue Ridge Mountains (of Virginia) but, sadly, I don't have that song on my iPod.     Laughing
Mikeharvey

While I was on an escorted tour of the Deep South a few years ago our enterprising guide always managed to play music appropriate to wherever we were travelling through or to.  Among many places on a marvellous tour we visited Memphis, Atlanta, Chatanooga, New Orleans, Nashville, Savannah, the Mississippi, Civil War Battlefields,  so there was an enormous amount of music to choose from.  Guess who she played in Memphis. I think we passed through all the places mentioned in the lyric of 'Blues in the Night' the great song by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer - 'From Natchez to Mobile from Memphis to St Joe'....what a haunting song  that is.....My partner was embarrassed when I sang 'Chatanooga Choo-Choo' in front of the actual train.  (But not as embarrassed as I was when he actually insisted on dancing to and fro on the bridge in Avignon!)
But we both launched into 'Swanee' when we were on the banks of that river.
I remember riding in a lift (sorry elevator) in Nashville and a young man in a cowboy hat got in and couldn't resist telling us that he'd just signed a contract as a Country & Western singer.  I wonder what happened to him.

I suppose I should have been reading Faulkner and Tennessee Williams while travelling the Deep South, but I don't think I was.
Green Jay

Mike, the idea of songs linked with places is irrestible, if a bit off-topic. We always sings 'I'm in Hove with a wonderful guy...!'   Laughing
Green Jay

This thread sort of followed on from the Deep South/ New South one, Jen, so not very original, but I thought it would be a nice idea to gather some suggestions together for all kinds of places. And if anyone can make some more imaginative links, that would be great.

For Oxford, there is a detective novel called The Oxford Murders but it was rather unsatisfactory, IMHO. There is also Lyra's Oxford, for Philip Pullman fans. And Brideshead Revisited.
Mikeharvey

And Max Beerbohm's 'Zuleika Dobson'. Subtitled 'An Oxford Love Story'. And what about Oxford's Lewis Carroll connection?
Gino

I have twiced visited Alice Springs but ommited to take Nevile Shutes book.
Green Jay

Looking through my recent reading, there is

Patrick Gale who lives at the far end of Cornwall and writes about it quite evocatively in Rough Music and quite specifically Newlyn in Notes on An Exhibition.  Of course, there is To The Lighthouse which is set, without mentioning it, in St Ives. When I first read it I imagined it to be a Scottish seaside and lighthouse. I had not yet read about Virginia Woolf's life.

Dublin - Molly's Fox's Birthday by Deirdre Madden, and In The Woods, a thriller by Tana French. Apart, of course, from James Joyce. And The Gathering, by Anne Enwright.

Brighton - Palace Pier by Keith Waterhouse, if you want a seedy pub and hotel bar crawl. Brighton Rock. There are some detective novels by Peter James set in contemporary Brighton, but I've never read any so cannot comment on them. Lynne Truss lives in Brighton and has written a series of spoof detective stories for the radio; I don't know if these are published in book form.

Still with Lynne Truss, she wrote a novel called Tennyson's Gift which is set on the Isle of Wight around Freshwater.
Evie

EH Young's wonderful novels William and Miss Mole are set in Bristol - she calls it Radstowe, and changes street names, but it is very recognisably Bristol.  They are sadly out of print...come on, Virago, having republished them, don't let them sink into oblivion again!
MikeAlx

Interwar Brighton is also splendidly evoked in Patrick Hamilton's work - mainly The West Pier, but also a cameo role in Hangover Square.

Westminster - Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. In particular what is surely the definitive London park scene.
Castorboy

Re: Books linked with places

Green Jay wrote:
I wrote on the old board that before I visited Venice for the first time I read Aurelio Zen in  Dead Lagoon (by Michael Dibden) and Salley Vickers' Miss Garnett's Angel, and these gave me a great grounding for finding my way round!

Any ideas for the Pembrokeshire and West Wales coastal area, please?

Before I get to the point of post, my OH loved Miss Garnett's Angel and is now on another of her novels. As for me one of Simon Raven's was set in Venice and I have a feeling the same church was featured.

Now to your request. I can’t remember reading anything specifically located in the area you mention but I do recall one novel in which the narrator recounts what happens to two couples who are exploring Worms Head on the Gower Peninsula and something happens which leads to trauma for the narrator. There were plenty of scenic descriptions and some sort of rivalry between the couples. An unusual novel I found needed some concentration but worth it in the end. The title is The Walking Tour by Kathryn Davis.

Further back along the coast is Swansea and Dylan Thomas’ stamping ground. I have only read a handful of his novels; A visit to Grandpa is short stories located in the countryside around 1920s Swansea.

Then there are the Welsh novels of Richard Llewellyn including How green was my valley. Possibly very dated.

If you like mountaineering The Fall by Simon Mawer has the setting of Snowdonia. It’s about childhood climbing friends Rob and Jamie who have become estranged in adulthood. Rob is grief-stricken when he hears of Jamie's death on a relatively easy rockface. There is a girl involved who they both love. This is one of those novels where secrets in the past influence the present. Suspenseful and scary - not always on the mountains!
TheRejectAmidHair

Isn't Llareggub in Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood based on Laugharne, where he used to live?

I couldn't resist having a pint in Dylan Thomas' local pub when I was there a few years ago.
Freyda

Last  Saturday's Guardian books section had a list of 10 best visits to Venice in books, but failed to mention 'Miss Garnett's Angel', which I thoroughly enjoyed. Instead it had Geoff Dyer's 'Jeff in Venice' which sounded like something from Hunter S Thompson - self-centred sex and drugs and fear and loathing while supposedly on an assignment, which seems to be a genre of male writing all of its own. Give me the thoughtful Miss Garnett any day!

It did remind us of 'Don't Look Now' by Daphne du Maurier (a novella or short story), and obviously 'Death In Venice'. It mentioned Aurelio Zen,  too, plus 'The Aspern Papers', and Ian McEwan's chilling novel 'The Comfort of Strangers'.
Freyda

Kinglsey Amis wrote several novels set in South wales - he taught in Swansea. 'The Old Devils' is a very miserable book, though, not recommended. There is an early novel too, about a young couple, he a teacher or librarian, probably set in Swansea. It was televised once with - I think - the lovely Sheila Gish playing the older the temptress. She was probably about 35 to to the youngsters' early 20s!
Jen M

Green Jay wrote:
This thread sort of followed on from the Deep South/ New South one, Jen, so not very original, but I thought it would be a nice idea to gather some suggestions together for all kinds of places. And if anyone can make some more imaginative links, that would be great.

For Oxford, there is a detective novel called The Oxford Murders but it was rather unsatisfactory, IMHO. There is also Lyra's Oxford, for Philip Pullman fans. And Brideshead Revisited.


Ooh, so this is a kind of spin-off from my thread!

For Venice, there is Donna Leon's Death at La Fenice; I believe she has written a series of books with the same central character, all set in Venice.

Isn't Birdsong set in real places in north-eastern France?

I love it when I recognise in a book a place I have visited - it makes it more real.

I've just remembered a book I read last year for my book group, The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson.  It is set in Jamaica, and the descriptions are very evocative.
Freyda

Daphne du Maurier also wrote about Cornwall - famously Manderley in "Rebecca", and "Jamaica Inn", a rather bleak place where the inn still exists.
iwishiwas

I do like to read fiction set in places I've visited, but find this is usually in the US. Sarah Paretsky VI Warshawski novels set in Chicago, George Pelecanos for Washington DC, Carl Hiasson for Florida, Michael Chabon for Pittsburg, David Guterson for Washington state. This always brings back happy holiday memories even though most of these focus on the seedy side of town. As I mentioned on another thread, my current book, Tender is the Night, is bringing back wonderful images of the south of France
Evie

As just mentioned on another thread - there is Lawrence Durrell's The Alexandria Quartet.  Alexandria is evoked so brilliantly - you can feel the heat, see the haze, smell the smells - Durrell was of course a great travel writer too, so this comes as no surprise.  It's a bit of a cliche, but Alexandria really is a character in the books, brilliantly done.

His Avignon Quintet is equally evocative of Provence - marvellous stuff.
Ann

This is not, strictly, anything to do with books linked to places but I got an ad from Abe books today. They never miss a marketing opportunity as it was all about volcnoes in literature! I was rather amused. This is the link if you have no objections to looking at advertisements

http://bl108w.blu108.mail.live.com/default.aspx?wa=wsignin1.0
Jen M

I received an email from Cottages4you last week headed 'Join us for a Magical Literary Tour'.  It then gives suggestions for places to stay (in a cottage rented from Cottages4you, of course) which have literary links.

Here is the link:
http://www.cottages4you.co.uk/sit...you/pages/literarytour/index.aspx

I'm not planning to visit any of the places featured in the foreseeable future, so haven't looked at all the links.
Jen M

I've now booked a summer holiday in Cornwall, so would love to have some recommendations for books set there.  I have (a long time ago) read some Daphne du Maurier, but can't remember off the top of my head which.  I think I read and enjoyed House on the Strand which I think is set in Cornwall.  This might be worth a re-read but does anyone have any other suggestions?

We'll be staying near St Austell which is on the south coast, and well into Cornwall, as opposed to being just over the Devon border.
TheRejectAmidHair

The Sherlock Holmes story “The Devil’s foot” (from the collection His Last Bow) is set in Cornwall!

And, although I haven’t read it, Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier is supposed to be very good.
Mikeharvey

But the film is absolutely ghastly.
Evie

Daphne du Maurier is the obvious choice - Jamaica Inn is great fun, but avoid at all costs Rule Britannia, which is about Cornwall looking for independence from the rest of the UK, and is about on a par with a Woman's Weekly story - utter rubbish.  Frenchman's Creek is also fun, but not my sort of thing.  And of course there is Rebecca, but there is less of an emphasis on place, even though it's firmly set on the Cornish coast.

There are, of course, the books the TV series Wycliffe are based on, if you fancy crime fiction, and of course the Poldark novels if you feel like something historical.

Two I haven't read are Helen Dunmore's Zennor of Darkness (set in St Ives, though, so the opposite coast from where you will be) and Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden.  I am not a huge fan of Helen Dunmore, but I know people who love her books.
Evie

Oh, I have just remembered The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher too - not a fashionable author, and certainly an easy read, but I really enjoyed it!  Years since I read  it, though.
Sandraseahorse

Du Maurier's "Frenchman's Creek"  is set on the Helford River.  I once sailed up Frenchman's Creek in a dinghy.

Then there is Thomas Hardy's "A Pair of Blue Eyes", which is based on the Boscastle area.
Ann

I must admit I was  underwhelmed by Kate Morton's The Forgotton Garden. It is a good page turner but very derivertive and full of unbelievable coincidences. However I might read another by her if I wanted a nice light read.
I second the recommendations of Daphne du Maurier. I  also read a great book about a painter who lived in Cornwell. I will find out what it was, later, and get back to you here.
Jen M

Thanks for all the suggestions - plenty to consider here.

I might have to try the Holmes, following the discussion on the June thread.

On Daphne du Maurier - I read some of hers many years ago - certainly Rule, Britannia!, which I think I found rather odd.  I know I haven't read Frenchman's Creek, and I may have read Jamaica Inn, but might be thinking of the film.

I read most of Hardy's books when I was in my 20s, but don't remember A Pair of Blue Eyes - although I have a copy so must have read it.

I'd forgotten The Shell Seekers, which I have read - there was also a sequel, September (which is not set in Cornwall); I remember reading them in the wrong order and was glad I did; I think I would have found September quite weak after Shell Seekers.

Thanks for suggesting the Wycliffe books, Evie - I've never tried any of these and I do like a bit of crime fiction amongst everything else.  I've read one Helen Dunmore (Burning Bright ) and found it a bit disturbing; I don't know if that was typical of her writing.  I have read The Forgotten Garden and enjoyed it, but agree with Ann about the coincidences.

Thanks all - lots to think about!
Ann

The book I was trying to remember, Jen, was Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale. It has a strong cornish feel to it as well as being, to me, a moving and unusual story.
Caro

There must be plenty of books set among the artist community of Cornwell, but I can't think of any of them.  I can just remember Sebastian's Faulk's The Fatal Englishman one of whose young Englishmen was artist Christopher Wood who was at times part of the St Ives community.  Or thereabouts.  

Now I'm thinking tin and I remember a saga about that.  Whose?  Cazalet? Elizabeth Jane Howard?  or something else?  

Cheers, Caro.
Castorboy

Another detective writer who has Penzance as a base for her heroine’s investigations is Janie Bolitho. The books are a light read with the villain easy to spot. Far superior are the W J Burley books with his Inspector Wycliffe cases (Wycliffe and the guild of nine is set in an Cornish artists’ colony.)
If you wanted a non-fiction book and liked gardens, Jen, maybe the book of the TV series The Lost Gardens of Heligan would be of interest. As you know it isn’t far from St. Austell – we spent a full day there on our last trip to the UK and still never saw everything.
Freyda

Patrick Gale is an author who lives in Cornwall now and I think a number of his novels are set there, as mentioned above - Notes From An Exhibition.

There is also 'To The Lighthouse' (St Ives) by Virginia Woolf, of course.
Jen M

Thanks for all the suggestions - I'll research some of these in a bit more detail in the next couple of weeks and decide on one or two.  

Castorboy - looking at a map, I see we are staying within cycling distance of the Lost Gardens of Heligan, so we might well visit.  That is, if I can persuade the rest of my family that it's worth it.
Castorboy

Re: Books linked with places

Green Jay wrote:

For Lyme Regis, books include The French Lieutenant's Woman, of course, and Jane Austen's Persuasion. Further along the coast, in Devon, The Sidmouth Letters by Jane Gardam, continues the watering place and Jane Austen theme, examining in fiction a hinted-at romantic episode in JA's life.

Even further westwards, Exmouth could become a place for Graham Hurley fans to visit. His new detective series begins with Western approaches and the arrival in the town of Sergeant Jimmy Suttle from Portsmouth and the DI Joe Faraday series. Of course it can’t be a coincidence that Hurley lives in Exmouth….
Jen M

Re: Books linked with places

Castorboy wrote:
Green Jay wrote:

For Lyme Regis, books include The French Lieutenant's Woman, of course, and Jane Austen's Persuasion. Further along the coast, in Devon, The Sidmouth Letters by Jane Gardam, continues the watering place and Jane Austen theme, examining in fiction a hinted-at romantic episode in JA's life.

Even further westwards, Exmouth could become a place for Graham Hurley fans to visit. His new detective series begins with Western approaches and the arrival in the town of Sergeant Jimmy Suttle from Portsmouth and the DI Joe Faraday series. Of course it can’t be a coincidence that Hurley lives in Exmouth….


I have the second Joe Faraday novel on my Kindle, but I understand that the series stays in Portsmouth for several books.  I am sure I will eventually get to the Exmouth ones.  I have been to Exmouth beach a couple of times, and have cycled around the Exe estuary, but don't remember visiting the town.
Castorboy

You're right, Jen, the Faraday novels, 12 in all, do stay mainly in Portsmouth and arrive at a satisfactory ending. I have a feeling the Suttle series will be just as compelling for us crime fans.

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