10 Books Set in the English Countryside

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Give me a story set in an English village, inundated with curious characters and gentle descriptions of nature and musings about life- and you have me sold. Here in no particular order are some of my most favorite books set in rural idylls. I go to them, for comfort…

1) One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes

This is the story of a day in the life of a woman, set in the small coastal English village of Wealding. In the aftermath of the Second World War the English middle class are struggling to come to terms with their new life, less dependent on domestic help and trying to let go of the grandeur of the old days. This is a quiet contemplative novel which captures the beauty of the location. Despite not having much plot the story conveys a sense of longing and melancholy hard to capture in words.

 

2) Fairacre Festival by Miss Read

Dora Jessie Saint who wrote under the pen name of Miss Read captured the bucolic beauty of Cotswold villages and penned wonderfully human, simple stories that conveyed a sense of calm and goodwill. Tinged with a wry wit and the most wonderful characters, Miss Read’s ‘Fairacre‘ and ‘Thrush Green’ series are the height of comfort reading.

 

3) Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

Tolstoy freely admitted that one of the influences in his writing were the novels of Victorian author Anthony Trollope. One of Trollope’s most famous series are the Barchester Chronicles– a set of six books set in the fictional rural county of Barsetshire. Apart from writing about nature and characters set in small towns and villages, Trollope wrote remarkably about money, social prejudice, politics and women with the most humane touch.

 

4) If Only They Could Talk by James Herriot

James Alfred Wight wrote semi-autobiographical novels under the name of James Herriot. A veterinary surgeon, he wrote about his work and personal life in the rolling hills and dales of Yorkshire. Though the work was often back breaking and hard, Herriot’s love for the location and the Yorkshire people freely emanate from each page. His books are a sheer delight.

 

5) Portrait of Elmbury by John Moore

Portrait of Elmbury published by Slightly Foxed is the first book in the rural trilogy, recounting the history of a small market town in England, named Elmbury. In this first book, the author John Moore describes his childhood and youth in the market village. How the village was hit by the aftermath of war, the poverty and declining conditions of the Depression era. The rural descriptions are particularly evocative of time and place.

 

6) Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell

Freely borrowing from Trollope’s fictional county of Barsetshire, nearly a century later Angela Thirkell wrote a long series of loosely linked novels that mapped the social history of a generation destabilized by the Second World War. Thirkell’s books are light and frothy but they capture a slice of history that is interesting to witness as a reader.

 

7) Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Though some of Gaskell’s works are set in the city and beautifully depict the Industrial Revolution of Victorian times, Cranford is set in a rural location. The small country town of Cranford supposedly corresponds to Knutsford in Cheshire. Small country customs and the portrayal of wonderful human characters cover the scope of this novel.

 

8)Miss Buncle’s Book by DE Stevenson

Miss Buncle’s Book is delightful not only due to the unique plot but also the brilliant cast of characters set in a small country village. 30 something unmarried Barbara Buncle resorts to novel writing as a source of income. As she has no imagination whatsoever her book draws heavily upon the characters and incidents occurring in her village. And when the villagers discover the book and their own unmistakable, unflattering portrayal they are determined to hunt down the secret author.

 

9)A Month in the Country by JL Carr

In this story a young war veteran seeks occupation in the form of the restoration of a church mural in a sleepy, English village. Recovering from shell shock, the restoration of the religious mural is accompanied by the artist’s own reparation of spirit and sense of well being.

10) Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Sailing holidays in the English Lake District, hunting for stolen treasure and camping on deserted islands- Ransome’s books abound with the charm of a time that was much safer and secure. The descriptions of the lake country will simply mesmerize you.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim, Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge, Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons receive honourable mentions. Before I finish it would be remiss of me to omit the works of Thomas Hardy- the ultimate guru of pastoral literature.

Books that I intend to add to this list are George Eliot’s Middlemarch and the novels of Tolstoy. Let me know of your favourite books set in rural locations. I’d love to hear about them.

12 New Authors I Would Like to Read in 2016

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Now that I’m approaching my fourth decade of life, I feel more confident about the choices that I make in life. For example, I know when I enter a Starbucks, to be confronted by a bewildering array of choices, that I am NOT a green tea latte type of person. Most definitely not. For me, it is the subtle aroma of the simple cappuccino, made with a hint of sugar, that gives me pleasure.

Similarly, I have accepted the fact that I will never be the ‘skinny jeans wearing type of gal’ with the permanently furrowed brow. Give me the comfortable boyfriend jeans and I will sink comfortably into my favourite couch, to reach for that reassuring book.

When it comes to book choices too, I have finally reached that beautiful place, when I am able to appreciate in advance, exactly what kind of book I will enjoy reading, even when I have never read a single line written by that author.

Most of them are modern classics, written in and around the twentieth century and deal with stories related to the home and society.

Here in no particular order, are the twelve authors whom I have never read, but I expect (and hope!) will give me many hours of unadulterated reading pleasure in 2016.

1) E.M. Delafield-  The Diary of A Provincial Lady

2) Elizabeth Jenkins-  The Tortoise and the Hare

3) E.F. Benson- Mapp and Lucia

4) D.E. Stevenson- Mrs Tim of the Regiment or Miss Buncle’s Book

5) Monica Dickens-Mariana

 

 

6) Penelope Lively- Consequences

7) Muriel Spark-The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

8) Beryl Bainbridge- The Bottle Factory Outing

9) Winifred Holtby- South Riding

10) Barbara Comyns- Our Spoons Came from Woolworths

11) Elizabeth Taylor- Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

12) Josephine They- The Franchise Affair

Please let me know if you enjoy reading these particular authors and which books you have enjoyed reading by them.

Which books do you look forward to reading in 2016?

Here’s to a great year of reading ahead!