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Monday, 6 May 2013

Novels to capture the feel of Britain's coastline

In our researches we have come across many wonderful novels that are set around the coastline of Britain, so we thought we would bring some of them together to make an eclectic mix (no mean feat, we can tell you!); some are well known, some are less so and we ask you to contribute your favourite reads via the Comments Box below - let's build a comprehensive list of writing that brings the British seaside to life. Click on the covers to find out more. Here goes and in no particular order:

The Fortnight in September by R C Sheriff tells the story of the journey from 22 Corunna Road in Dulwich by train, via Clapham Junction, to the south coast, two weeks living in lodgings and going to the beach every day. This is the story of one family's holiday on the coast in Britain, in Bognor Regis. "A delightful and evocative book..."

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles has to feature. This icon of storytelling is the story of Sarah Woodruff, the woman of the title, also known as the "Tragedy”. She lives in the coastal town of Lyme Regis, as a disgraced woman, supposedly abandoned by a French naval officer named Varguennes, who was married, unknown to her, to another woman. Sarah is reputed to have had an affair with him before he returned to France. Charles Smithson develops a strong curiosity for her, they build up a rapport and he supports her move to Exeter. Having, eventually made love, he realises that, in fact, she is still a virgin..... A novel set in Lyme Regis and Exeter. "A classic of its time..."

For novels set in Cornwall there was a huge choice! I am sure you will have your favourites, so please do introduce others to your top novels set there that evoke location. The Long Weekend by Veronica Henry is set in a gorgeous quay-side hotel in Cornwall, and the long weekend  of the title is only just beginning... Claire Marlowe owns 'The Townhouse by the Sea' with Luca, the hotel's charismatic chef. She ensures everything runs smoothly - until an unexpected arrival checks in and turns her whole world upside down. "beautiful views, traditional beaches, and a busy old fashioned resort town - think Padstow or Fowey."

In Rook by Jane Rusbridge, Nora has come home to the Sussex coast where, every dawn, she runs along the creek path to the sea. In the half-light, fragments of cello music crash around in her mind, but she casts them out - it's more than a year since she performed in public. In the village of Bosham the future is invading. A charming young documentary maker has arrived to shoot a film about King Cnut and his cherished but illegitimate daughter, whose body is buried under the flagstones of the local church. "A mesmerising story of family, legacy and turning back the tides, Rook beautifully evokes the shifting Sussex sands, and the rich seam of history lying just beneath them".

A Cottage by the Sea by Carole Matthews brings us to Pembrokeshire in Wales, a novel that bowls along as though carried on a warm wind off the Atlantic Coast (yes, it can be warm in Wales). Friends Grace and Flick bring their partners for a week's holiday at Cwtch Cottage (prounounced Cutch Cottage), where they join Art and their third friend in the group, Ella, who owns the cottage. Set right on the coast, it is in an idyllic location and, as Grace remarks "this has to be one of the loveliest places on the whole earth: miles of golden sand.....".

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan - It is July 1962, Dorset. Edward and Florence, young innocents married that morning, arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their private fears of the wedding night to come...  
"A fine book, homing in with devastating precision on a kind of Englishness which McEwan understands better than any other living writer, the Englishness of deceit, evasion, repression and regret..."

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch transports the reader to dilapidated stone cottage by the sea, somewhere in England, where Charles Arrowby is in search of peace and tranquillity. He hopes to escape from his tumultuous love affairs but unexpectedly bumps into his childhood sweetheart and sets his heart on destroying her marriage. His equilibrium is further disturbed when his friends all decide to come and keep him company and Charles finds his seaside idyll severely threatened by his obsessions.

Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan truly evokes the town of the 1950s. With the excitement of the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (retired Secret Service) thinks her skills are no longer required. After the death of her lover she moves to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job as a secretary at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when confronted by the case of Romana Laszlo, a pregnant Hungarian refugee, Mirabelle discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from the pretty insurance clerk down the corridor, Vesta Churchill, Mirabelle follows a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns, betting scams and corpses to a dark corner of Austerity Britain where the forces of evil remain alive and well.

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene tells the story of a young leader of one of the infamous razor gangs in 1930s Brighton who murders a journalist and then finds that his attempts to avoid any possibility of arrest lead him into ever-increasing complications and violence. The book captures the greyness of England, it is violent, Pinky is a truly vile character, believably delineated.

Being Dead by Jim Crace - Zoologists, Jospeh and Celice, return to the fictional beach in England, where they first made love more than thirty years before. But this visit comes with a very high price. The couple are brutally and senselessly murdered on this strip of beach by a psychopath killer. Their deaths come at the beginning of the book and are the very incident upon which all others turn.

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