Novels that evoke British places very well ...please recommend

(73 Posts)
revolvenotevolve Tue 20-Aug-13 19:53:27

Id love to read some novels set around Britain and that really evoke the place so it inspires a visit ! Any recommendations ?

comfortablymum Tue 20-Aug-13 20:03:51

I really enjoyed 'Notes from a Small Island' by Bill Bryson quite a few years ago now. He's an American writing about his travels along the south coast and his affectionate, humorous and quite accurate observations of the geographical areas covered and of the British in general - observations that only a foreigner could make. There's a lovely bit when he arrives in West Bay and describes a restaurant he comes across in an episode of what could only be described as serendipity that prompted me to do the same a few years ago and that restaurant continues to be one of my (and now my children's) favourites. I don't know how much West Bay has changed since Broadchurch was filmed there but it won't have been spoilt.

Quangle Tue 20-Aug-13 21:12:48

Salt by Jeremy Page is fantastically evocative of East Anglia.

I don't actually think you can beat Dickens for a sense of place - Great Expectations for E Anglia and London. I think of Dickens so often as I walk around London - he is everywhere! I went up the Shard recently and seeing how tightly packed everything is and how the Victorians just thought "stuff Southwark Cathedral - we're putting a railway across there" - Dickens captured all that and London still has his spirit, I think.

Great idea for a thread.

Dracula - Whitby
Persuasion - Lyme Regis

AndyMurraysBalls Tue 20-Aug-13 21:17:35

Wuthering Heights.

hotair Tue 20-Aug-13 21:17:59

rivers of london- made me feel like I was living in soho again!

Morgause Tue 20-Aug-13 21:19:06

Any Poldark novel - Cornwall
How Green was my Valley - The Welsh Valleys

LordEmsworth Tue 20-Aug-13 21:44:52

North & South - Manchester and Hampshire.

tripfiction Wed 21-Aug-13 08:40:23

Rivers of London is a great suggestion for Soho. Enjoyed that.

You can try the following which is a random selection from the blog:
Isle of Man:
A collection of novels to evoke the British coastline:
And two UK Roadtrips:

Hope you find something.....

JassyRadlett Wed 21-Aug-13 08:46:40

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has a good feel of Guernsey to it - at least, the Guernsey I've visited, I've never lived there.

PetiteRaleuse Wed 21-Aug-13 08:52:20

Jamaica Inn for Cornwall. I've never been but feel like I have.

DuchessofMalfi Wed 21-Aug-13 09:07:22

Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel - two more Daphne Du Maurier novels set in Cornwall.

Hardy's novels for Dorset. Tess for North Dorset's Blackmore Vale. Mayor of Casterbridge for Dorchester etc.

DuchessofMalfi Wed 21-Aug-13 09:08:27

And The Book of Ebenezer le Page by G B Edwards for Guernsey.

revolvenotevolve Wed 21-Aug-13 10:08:32

Thanks for ideas so far and tripfiction for the links thanks any other ideas anyone - perhaps some modern stuff too?

bibliomania Wed 21-Aug-13 12:41:06

Some crime fiction can be good - Ann Cleeves for Shetland and Northumberland. I'm not a major fan of Ian Rankin and the Inspector Morse, but they might give a feel for Edinburgh and Oxford respectively.

The Mapp and Lucia books by E F Benson for Rye.

The 39 Steps for Scotland.

On Chesil beach.

The French Lieutenant's Woman, also for Lyme Regis.

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Wed 21-Aug-13 14:14:17

I'd agree with lots of the above (haven't read the rest!)

The Peter May trilogy for the Outer Hebrides if you'd like to venture that far afield.

Definately yes to the Morse books for Oxford. Also Larkin's Jill for another Oxford book.

bibliomania I love Fowles' FLT, my favourite of all his novels.

Ooh yes to 'Jill.' Also, Forster's 'Maurice' and Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited.'

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 21-Aug-13 14:22:17

Another mystery writer: P.D. James.

clearsommespace Wed 21-Aug-13 14:23:33

'Waterland' by Graham Swift really evokes the Fens but I'm not sure it would inspire a visit.

Ellisisland Fri 23-Aug-13 07:48:16

NW by Zadie Smith for modern day London

Selks Fri 23-Aug-13 07:50:22

Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

Selks Fri 23-Aug-13 07:52:48

George Mackay Brown's short stories for their impressions of Orkney.

crumpet Fri 23-Aug-13 14:41:20

9 Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers -the fens.

AphraBehn Fri 23-Aug-13 15:10:50

Bath is still very much like how Jane Austen describes it in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

SmokedMackerel Fri 23-Aug-13 15:20:45

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, for the Scottish highlands (it is set in the eighteenth century though!)

Chocolatestain Fri 23-Aug-13 15:45:16

It's another oldie, but A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys is great for evoking Glastonbury and its surrounding countryside before the new agey types moved in.

tabulahrasa Fri 23-Aug-13 16:03:05

"Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, for the Scottish highlands"

Um, I like them, but...she'd not been to Scotland when she wrote it and I think you can tell, even apart from things like places not actually being where she writes that they are.

DolomitesDonkey Fri 23-Aug-13 18:48:27

The Ann Cleeves stuff about Shetland is incredible given that she'd not actually been there when she wrote the first one! She describes the English department at the high school through the eyes of Inspector Perez. Now I've not been in those rooms in 25 years but it all came flooding back to me - fab!

MaisyMoo123 Sat 24-Aug-13 10:48:53

Brick Lane by Monica Ali for gritty modern London and any Thomas Hardy for rural Dorset - the language still sums up the landscape and scenery today.

TheFunStopsHere Sat 24-Aug-13 11:05:08

If you fancy a walking trip - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

LIZS Sat 24-Aug-13 11:07:10

Any Daphne Du Maurier

TunipTheUnconquerable Sat 24-Aug-13 11:10:21

South Riding by Winifred Holtby for the East Riding of Yorkshire.

DameDeepRedBetty Sat 24-Aug-13 11:13:00

Watership Down by Richard Adams. I live nearby, and the descriptive writing is spot on.

Takver Sat 24-Aug-13 12:21:54

"'Waterland' by Graham Swift really evokes the Fens but I'm not sure it would inspire a visit."

I was going to say "What Hetty Did" by JL Carr for the fenlands, but again I'm not sure it would inspire you to visit - even the heroine gets out as fast as possible grin

TunipTheUnconquerable Sat 24-Aug-13 12:24:20

OK then, Lucy Boston's The River At Green Knowe for a nicer version of the Fens. (It's a kids' book though. Maybe all the adult ones are grim.)

Heebiejeebie Sun 25-Aug-13 09:32:50

Cider with Rosie

bimblebee Tue 27-Aug-13 13:47:56

Laura Blundy by Julie Myerson (London around the 19th century)
Black is the Colour by Helen Howe (Nottinghamshire during the miners strike and since)
Under a Thin Moon by Livi Michael (bleak but thought-provoking, set on a Manchester council estate)

FruitSaladIsNotPudding Tue 27-Aug-13 13:50:00

Cider with Rosie for rural England pre WW2.

Lark Rise to candleford for earlier rural life.

MerlinFromCamelot Tue 27-Aug-13 22:27:20

Tideline - P. Hancock -> Thames/ Greenwich

PetiteRaleuse - driven past Jamaica inn in Cornwall last week. Kicking myself I didn't stop now.

tripfiction Wed 28-Aug-13 11:13:39

Look out for a really top read coming out in paperback in September: The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell set in The Peak District - hugely evocative of location

Oldandcobwebby Wed 28-Aug-13 11:24:12

Aberystwyth Mon Amour is great if you like a bit of detective noir.

mimbleandlittlemy Wed 28-Aug-13 13:55:56

French Lieutenant's Woman for Lyme Regis.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 28-Aug-13 14:01:33

If you extend to children's fiction, the Swallows and Amazons books are good for Lake District, Norfolk broads and Scottish island. Inspire your kids to get to Wild Cat island, climb a mountain etc!

HopeClearwater Wed 28-Aug-13 14:51:01

Patrick Gale novels for Cornwall: Notes from an Exhibition, A Perfectly Good Man. For Winchester: his The Whole Day Through. And they are excellent novels.

ilovecolinfirth Fri 30-Aug-13 22:23:14

On Chesil Beach

marilynmonroe Sat 31-Aug-13 18:56:47

Something might happen by Julie myerson is set in Suffolk. I've never been and loved the descriptions of it.

Also a Stuart maconie book where he goes round England. Really enjoyed that too.

TempusFuckit Sat 31-Aug-13 19:52:35

Brighton Rock.

London Fields.

Brick Lane.

Wish I could think of one for my south Essex hometown, but it's oddly short on literary inspiration grin

BikeRunSki Sat 31-Aug-13 19:56:08

On The Black Hill - Bruce Chatwin, for the Herefordshire/Welsh border. Brilliant book too.

BikeRunSki Sat 31-Aug-13 20:05:48

Dreams of Leaving - Rupert ??? describes the South Downs villages inland of Brighton very well. I didn' t read it knowing this, but recognised Hassocks, Keymer a.d Hurstpierpoint - where my grandparents lived , and where I spent a great deal.of my childhood.

Bunbaker Sat 31-Aug-13 20:20:53

Anything by Dickens
Peter May's the Lewis Trilogy
Any Bronte book except for Villette
Colin Dexter - Inspector Morse (set in and around Oxford)
Ian Rankin - Edinburgh

openerofjars Sat 31-Aug-13 20:27:59

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner for the landscape around Macclesfield in Cheshire: I grew up there and he just gets the Pennine landscape and the unearthliness of Alderley Edge and Shutlinsloe.

Actually, I must go and re-read it right this minute.

The Dark is Rising sequence for Cornwall, wherever it is that Will Stanton lives and the Welsh mountains.

I loves my retro children's literature, me, so yyy to Swallows and Amazons for the lakes, too.

TempusFuckit Sat 31-Aug-13 20:31:04

Ooh, yy to Dark is Rising. Must read again smile

HumphreyCobbler Sat 31-Aug-13 20:32:53

The Stone Book Quartet by Alan Garner

Was going to say Cider With Rosie but someone beat me to it.

OverAndAbove Wed 04-Sep-13 23:01:30

Three Men in a Boat is great for locations along the river Thames. Also Wind in the Willows on part of the same stretch

I thought AS Byatt's Possession really captures bits of North Yorkshire, and Kate Atkinson Behind the Scenes at the Museum for York. And her Jackson Brodie books are good for Edinburgh (think the first one was Cambridge but I don't know it so couldn't judge)

Brideshead Revisited for Oxford.

Fraxinus Wed 04-Sep-13 23:11:26

David almond.

TheUglyFuckling Thu 05-Sep-13 17:34:24

we have very similar tastes openofjars.

Weirdstone of Brisingamen was one of my fave childhood books. We took our DCs to Alderley Edge last year and it is incredibly atmospheric, especially as while we were there a storm blew in and we had to run through the rain and thw wind. It's eerie to say the least.

Also loved The Dark Is Rising sequence too, Cooper captures a sense of place so evocatively.

ChunkyPickle Thu 05-Sep-13 17:42:12

I you like modern fantasy/sci-fi/I don't know what to call it, I think that Tom Holt and Robert Rankin do some very English stuff, almost to the stage of making me homesick when I was living abroad.

It's not always accurately defining an area (although there is the Brentford Trilogy), but just the overall feeling they give is very everyday english town existence.

LumpySpacePrincessOhMyGlob Thu 05-Sep-13 21:57:41

Phil Rickamn really makes the place the star, really evocative.

MacaYoniandCheese Thu 05-Sep-13 22:06:11

Alison Lurie's 'Foreign Affairs' for modern London (from the POV of an American).

Pollaidh Sat 07-Sep-13 19:14:14

As well as 39 Steps for Scotland, I'd recommend John MacNab, also by John Buchan, which is really evocative of the Scottish Highlands in the interwar years (and even now), and a great romp.

Dorothy L Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey series for Oxford (Gaudy Night), Fens (9 Tailors).

Ian Rankin's Rebus books for Edinburgh, also Alexander McCall Smith's Scotland Street books for Edinburgh.

Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine Series (like Famous Five but much better written) for Shropshire.

North and South and Mary Barton for northern industrial towns in the industrial revolution.

The Call the Midwife books (on which the TV series was based) are a very interesting look at the east end of London in the 1950s.

7to25 Sun 08-Sep-13 20:11:12

Swing hammer swing by Jeff Torrington for an unrivalled view of 60's Glasgow.
He calls the High Street the vestigal spine of medeval Glasgow. Brilliant.

guggenheim Sun 08-Sep-13 20:28:27

Porterhouse Blue- Tom Sharpe for cambridge

There is a book called ' The Curry club' (poss) set in the mill road

Oh I know- Alexander- a life lived backwards describes the drinking culture and a very grim aspect of poverty in the city.

Parts of neil Stephenson's trilogy are about Issac Newton and Cambridge,but I didn't get on with it so I'm not sure that I could recommend it.

I suggest that you visit cambridge and read the names of the WW2 airmen written on the ceiling of The Eagle instead.

joanofarchitrave Mon 09-Sep-13 21:49:05

The Happy Prisoner by Monica Dickens for Shropshire or any idyllic perfect 'profound England' countryside really.

The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard for Sussex.

Rivals by Jilly Cooper for quite a vivid Cotswolds feel IMO.

MaKettle Tue 10-Sep-13 23:43:58

Philip Hensher, The Northern Clemency (for Sheffield)

The Will Stanton place in the Dark is Rising was Buckinghamshire.

Oh, and The Darling Buds of May - Kent.

colafrosties Wed 30-Oct-13 23:12:27

The Widow's Tale by Mick Jackson, mainly set in North Norfolk

JinnyShantihAndFinmory Wed 30-Oct-13 23:18:15

Secrets by Freya North is set in Saltburn by the Sea near Whitby. The setting plays a big party in the story and when I visited a couple of years later it all felt so familiar.

TheNunsOfGavarone Thu 31-Oct-13 11:36:24

A Place of Execution by Val McDermid, set in a wonderfully evoked Peak District. Cracking read.

TangoRaindrop Sun 03-Nov-13 18:52:27

Anne Cleeves 'Shetland' series. The fifth book has recently been published and the one of them has already been made into a television series. Highly recommended. smile Shetland is part of the UK although it isn't present on the Mumsnet homepage map! We're often forgotten about since we're so far north.

TangoRaindrop Sun 03-Nov-13 18:52:52

oh, here's the link:

DuchessofMalfi Mon 04-Nov-13 08:31:48

Blacklands, Dark Side, and Finders Keepers by Belinda Bauer for Exmoor. Really excellent thrillers, especially Blacklands.

mrswalker13 Tue 05-Nov-13 18:44:57

Another vote for Ian Rankin for Edinburgh - and if you pick up Black and Blue, good on Glasgow and Aberdeen as well.

Previous poster onto something with crime fiction being particularly good for this: Denise Mina for Glasgow and Stuart McBride for a very dark look at Aberdeen!

For me, the best book if you want to understand central belt Scotland is Our Fathers by Andrew O'Hagan.

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