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British authors

Hey everyone,

I am looking for some recommendations about books set in England. I tend to enjoy books written by British authors like John Connolly but I also like books set in London like Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (sorry I was confused with a post I just responded to if anyone read it when it said Jodi Picoult). Any advice would be greatly appreciated.



( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
"The Crimson Petal and the White" by Michael Faber is fantastic, set in Victorian London, following a prostitute as she climbs the social ladder. It's one of the best books that I've ever read.

Though only if you like something rather shocking in nature. We had the first chapter read aloud to us in one of my writing class. There were many gasps of astonishment. :-D
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
That actually sounds perfect. I am going to head over to Amazon to check it out.
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
Ooh! Well, if you're open to period pieces, 'Tipping the Velvet' is splendid. And 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' surprised the hell out of me - Anne may be the least famous of the Bronte sisters, but TToWH is a cracker of a feminist, take-no-crap kind of novel.

Also strongly recommend Mary Seacole's fabulous autobiography, which you can read for free online; not British, but bloody marvellous. She's a Victorian lass, Jamaican, a nurse, travelled the world on her own, working her way, remained undaunted in the face of systematic sexism, classism and racism, tended wounded soldiers literally on the battlefield, and she has a HILARIOUSLY dry and ascerbic writing style - a ballsy ballsy lady who deserves to be very much more famous than she is.
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC)
A snippet of Chapter III...
THE sympathising reader, who very likely has been laughing heartily at my late troubles, can fancy that I was looking forward with no little pleasurable anticipation to reaching my brother's cheerful home at Cruces. After the long night spent on board the wretched boat in my stiff, clayey dress, and the hours of fasting, the warmth and good cheer of the Independent Hotel could not fail to be acceptable. My brother met me on the rickety wharf with the kindest welcome in his face, although he did not attempt to conceal a smile at my forlorn appearance, and giving the necessary instructions about my luggage, led the way at once to his house, which was situated at the upper end of the street. A capital site, he said, when the rest of the town was under water – which agreeable variety occurred twice or thrice a year unexpectedly. On our way, he rather damped my hopes by expressing his fears that he should be unable to provide his sister with the accommodation he could wish. For you see, he said, the crowd from Panama has just come in, meeting your crowd from Navy Bay; and I shouldn't be at all surprised if very many of them have no better bed than the store floors. But, despite this warning, I was miserably unprepared for the reception that awaited me. To be sure, I found Cruces as like Gorgona, in its dampness, dirt, and confusion, as it well could be; but the crowd from the gold-fields of California had just arrived, having made the journey from Panama on mules, and the street was filled with motley groups in picturesque variety of attire. The hotels were also full of them, while many lounged in the verandahs after their day's journey. Rude, coarse gold-diggers, in gay-coloured shirts, and long, serviceable boots, elbowed, in perfect equality, keen Yankee speculators, as close shaven, neat, and clean on the Isthmus of Panama as in the streets of New York or New Orleans. The women alone kept aloof from each other, and well they might; for, while a very few seemed not ashamed of their sex, it was somewhat difficult to distinguish the majority from their male companions, save by their bolder and more reckless voice and manner. I must say, however, that many of them adopted male attire for the journey across the Isthmus only, as it spared them many compliments which their husbands were often disposed to resent, however flattering they might be to their choice.

Through all these I pressed on, stiff, cold, and hungry, to the Independent Hotel, eagerly anticipating the comforts which awaited me there. At length we reached it. But, rest! warmth! comfort! – miserable delusions! Picture to yourself, sympathising reader, a long, low hut, built of rough, unhewn, unplaned logs, filled up with mud and split bamboo; a long, sloping roof and a large verandah, already full of visitors. And the interior: a long room, gaily hung with dirty calico, in stripes of red and white; above it another room, in which the guests slept, having the benefit of sharing in any orgies which might be going on below them, through the broad chinks between the rough, irregular planks which formed its floor. At the further end, a small corner, partitioned roughly off, formed a bar, and around it were shelves laden with stores for the travellers, while behind it was a little room used by my brother as his private apartment; but three female travellers had hired it for their own especial use for the night, paying the enormous sum of £10 for so exclusive a luxury. At the entrance sat a black man, taking toll of the comers-in, giving them in exchange for coin or gold-dust (he had a rusty pair of scales to weigh the latter) a dirty ticket, which guaranteed them supper, a night's lodging, and breakfast. I saw all this very quickly, and turned round upon my brother in angry despair.

"What am I to do? Why did you ever bring me to this place? See what a state I am in – cold, hungry, and wretched. I want to wash, to change my clothes, to eat, to— "

But poor Edward could only shrug his shoulders and shake his head, in answer to my indignant remonstrances. At last he made room for me in a corner of the crowded bar, set before me some food, and left me to watch the strange life I had come to; and before long I soon forgot my troubles in the novelty of my position.
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:38 pm (UTC)
"The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" is one of my favourite classics, I was surprised when I read it that it isn't as widely known as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
Yes yes yes! I was in Haworth the day before yesterday, actually, and saw this cartoon tacked up in a shop window, and it made me laugh out loud. SO TRUE.

(Well, no - I'm not sure that Emily thinks Heathcliff is fanciable or admirable - but inasmuchas there's a wide body of readers who think 'Wuthering Heights' is a romance in the sense of love & desire - is, effectively, 'Twilight' in corsets sans sparkle - this is pretty damn spot on, imho. Oh, Anne, Anne, how are you so awesome?)
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
Haha. I'm familiar with that cartoon and love it.

That thing that horrified me most was when I came across the edition of Wuthering Heights with the Twilight-ified cover and the sticker "Bella and Edward's Favourite Book". Ugh.
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
I had not heard of this book
In looking up this title I learned that it is going to be made into a movie. No casting info at imdb but director and producers have been signed to the project.

It could be quite the atmospheric movie in terms of the period and the location.
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC)
Re: I had not heard of this book
A movie of this book could be kinda fun, that's something I'd like to see.
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)
Specifically England? Because Iain Banks is a fabulous fabulous Scottish writer whose books are often set in various bits of Britain. (He writes SF as Iain M Banks, but his Iain Banks books are usually straightish fiction. Ish. 'Espedair Street' is made of win, as is 'The Crow Road', for more mainstreamy set-in-Britain flavour books of his. His is a gloriously labyrinthine mind full of grotesqueries and loveliness. 'The Crow Road' has one of my favourite opening lines: "It was the day my grandmother exploded" - but I think I &hearts 'Espedair Street' more, on balance.)

Zadie Smith's 'On Beauty' is a gorgeous gorgeous book set in both the UK and the US, about a British family and an American family, and I only realised about half way through that it's basically a BRILLIANT AU retelling of EM Forster's 'Howards End'. Strongly rec both Forster and Smith.

On an entirely different note, Nick Hornby's books are engaging, funny and very British, in a blokey fashion.

Jeanette Winterson is variable, but I have a great fondness for Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, a semiautobiographical novel about growing up in the North. (NB - "lemon" is a common euphemism for lesbian up north.) I &hearts the opening lines of this one too - the link takes you to the first pages of the book, for a flavour.

A Kestrel for a Knave deserves a mention, set as it is in my home town of Barnsley. It's a fairly devastating story, which was made into a superb (and fairly devastating) film, 'Kes'. ('Billy Elliot' is like a happy-go-lucky feelgood upbeat kind of version of 'Kes', with dancing instead of a Kestrel.)

Jul. 18th, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
Seconding Iain Banks and Zadie Smith :)

I'm currently reading "Arthur and George" by Julian Barnes, which is excellent, set in early 20th century England.
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier is set in London at the begining of the 1900's. Its also centered around a cemetary, kind of like her fearful symmetry
Jul. 18th, 2010 11:03 pm (UTC)
Anything by Charles Dickens, Anthony Burgess, Ian Fleming, and Roald Dahl.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel by Susannah Clarke.

Jul. 18th, 2010 11:53 pm (UTC)
I second Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell. This book made it straight on my favourite list.
Jul. 18th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)

Since I live in England, I naturally know masses of books set here! Care to narrow it down a bit? ;) Classics? Historical novels? Chick lit? Crime? Sci-fi/fantasy? Children's/children's classics? Etc...!

I've just started reading Single in the City by Michele Gorman, which is about an American woman who moves to London, so that might be of interest to you. Obviously I can't say for sure it's a great read since I'm only a few pages into it, but it seems pretty good so far (aside from some annoying footnotes explaining UK/US differences; they'd be far better put at the end of the novel where they wouldn't distract me).
Jul. 18th, 2010 11:17 pm (UTC)
I'd love to hear about any of the classics, historical novels or sci/fi fantasy that you can recommend.

For some reason I also seem to be drawn to stories about The London Blitz, if that's any help to you.

Thanks so much for your help.

Edited at 2010-07-18 11:18 pm (UTC)
Jul. 19th, 2010 06:24 am (UTC)

Classics - well, Jane Austen definitely, all of her novels. The Bronte sisters, though your favourite may vary (personally I dislike Emily and love Anne's "Tenant of Wildfell Hall").

Historical novels - I don't really read these I'm afraid, but I know Alison Weir is one of the most popular authors, she's written a lot of novels (& popular histories) about English royalty, including some relatives of kings & queens that probably nobody's ever bothered to write about before. Also Philippa Gregory is another famous author. Or for a very different type of historical fiction, Pat Barker... she tends to write about ordinary/working-class people and can get very dark in subject matter. I studied her "Regeneration" in school, which deals with traumatised soldiers during WW1 and includes some genuine historical figures such as war poets.

Sci-fi/fantasy - Stephen Baxter's "The H-Bomb Girl" is set in 1960s Liverpool. I imagine some or all of his other novels are also set in parts of the UK, but that's the only one I've read. Jasper Fforde's "Thursday Next" books are set in an alternate UK (mainly London and Swindon) and involve jumping inside of books.

I'm afraid I can't think of any about the Blitz, but then as I said I don't really read historical fiction.
Jul. 19th, 2010 07:46 am (UTC)
Night Watch by Sarah Waters is mainly set during the London Blitz.

Also, The Fire Fighter by Francis Cottam

Jul. 21st, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I actually have The Night Watch and haven't read it yet.
Jul. 19th, 2010 12:37 am (UTC)
I second the Jeanette Winterson rec.

What about Agatha Christie? She's a british mystery writer, although all her books don't take place there.
Jul. 19th, 2010 12:40 am (UTC)
If you like Audrey Niffenegger, you might like The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.
Jul. 19th, 2010 01:46 am (UTC)
I loved Her Fearful Symmetry too! I love reading books set in Europe as well.

Here are a few that I've read in the last few years (hopefully I'm not repeating what others have said):

The Eyre Affair ~ Jasper Fforde
City of Masks ~ Mary Hoffman (this one is young adult fiction)
Possession ~ A.S. Byatt
Hard Times ~ Charles Dickens
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall ~ Anne Bronte
Ruth ~ Elizabeth Gaskell
The Moonstone ~ Wilkie Collins
Sarum ~ Edward Rutherfurd
The Golden Compass ~ Philip Pullman
Jul. 19th, 2010 05:54 am (UTC)
Anything by Joanna Trollope, Monica Dickens, Ruth Rendell, or Miss Read. (Yes, she writes as "Miss Read".)
Jul. 19th, 2010 01:23 pm (UTC)
Pat Barker's books are wonderful: the Regeneration trilogy (also Life Class) are set mostly in England during the First World War, so may be of special interest. For historical fiction, my top recommendation is another Scot, Dorothy Dunnett: she wrote two very lengthy series both of which I love.

Seconding Iain Banks, and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: don't be put off by the length as you get sucked in very quickly. If you like 19 century novels and also fantasy, I would say you're bound to enjoy it.

Classics wise I would put in a word for Elizabeth Gaskell: she was a good friend of Charlotte Bronte's, though those of her novels I've read aren't nearly so brooding. North and South is my favourite.
Jul. 19th, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC)
Well, of course any of the Sherlock Holmes stories or novels are fabulous.
Jul. 19th, 2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
I would second Possession by A. S. Byatt. It is amazing.

The other book that springs to mind is Brick Lane by Monica Ali. It is the story of a Bengali woman who comes to London for an arranged marriage and her struggles with her husband and English society.
Jul. 19th, 2010 11:00 pm (UTC)
They Devil You Know by Mike Carey. Hard-boiled noir detective story set in a London where the dead have come back and are sort of part of society now. The main character is an exorcist who also in his work has to act like a detective. He's sarcastic, smart, an arse, and gets beat up a lot helping people. I've only done the audio for them(its the first book in a series "The Felix Castor" novels) because the guy who reads them is brilliant. Slang and literal meaning of brilliant.

Neverhwere by Neil Gaiman. Main character gets sucked into a fantastical version of a London underworld. People in this underworld are rarely ever noticed by normal people as if they're invisible. Its not really a riff on the homeless though. It helps facillitate the world neverwhere creates.

Kraken by China Mieville. Just started it. Also fantastical using cults and religions with miracles. Miracle not always meaning something good, just miraculous.
Jul. 25th, 2010 04:46 am (UTC)
Many mystery series are set in England. For example, the Mrs. Pargeter series by Simon Brett, the classic Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie. My favourite of the Miss Marple ones is The Mirror Crack'd From Side To Side

Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede
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