Friday, 29 January 2010

Cornish cornucopia in 2010

Regular readers will be aware of my love for Cornwall, and of Cornish books, arising from spending so many holidays and weekends in the region as a child. Fleur_fisher recently mentiond her own Cornish reading challenge and I thought that that sounded like something that I'd like to try. She's planning to read at least one Cornish book a month, and I think I'll do the same, although I'd love to try to read one a fortnight, or certainly more when I am on holiday in the county over Easter. Cornwall is a very diverse country, and having holidayed mostly on the North Coast, many of the books I have previously read have been set in the West and the South of Cornwall so I'm hoping I may encounter more reading which mentions the places which I know.

Cath at read_warbler has a wonderful list here of books set in Cornwall, many of which I have read - the Daphne Du Mauriers, the Wycliffe, Mary Wesley, Rosamund Pilcher, Alan Titschmarsh.

I already have some Cornish themed reading on my TBR pile
Summer in February (Jonathan Smith) (next month's read for obvious reasons)
Rambles beyond railways (Wilkie Collins)
Hungry hill (Daphne Du Maurier)(set in Ireland but apparently mentions Cornwall)

Otherwise, I am hoping to read at least one of Winston Graham's Poldark books, the two Susan Cooper novels (Over sea, under stone and Greenwitch), Thomas Hardy's Pair of blue eyes, Deep down by Ballatyne (if I can get hold of it) and maybe I'll give the Rose Trevelyan novels a go too. I've found an author called Gordon Channer who I haven't yet heard of, and I've ordered his first from the library. Fleur fisher mentioned Laura Knight's autobiography, so I have ordered a copy of that from the library too. Travelogues are good; so along with the Wilkie Collins I might check out Craik's An unsentimental journey through Cornwall.
I'm also hoping to read some non-fiction and maybe do some baking along the way too - Cornish Hevva Cake and Saffron Loaf are two bakes that I have in mind.

This post is as much a brainstorm for me as anything else, but I'd love to hear about books set in Cornwall that you have loved, or anything Cornish related...


  1. Oh, I love books set in Cornwall though I've never been. I think it started with all those Daphne du Maurier books. Thanks for the link. I'll check out the challenge but not sure if I have enough unread books for this.

  2. The Susan Cooper books are some of my favourite children's books - my sister got me a beautiful hardback volume of all five last Christmas, which I love! My favourite is the Dark is Rising, but the two Cornish ones are brilliant too - I love how she includes so much Cornish mythology and legend.


  3. I am sadly lacking any Cornish experience Verity! The Wilkie Collins got my attention as I just loved discovering his work recently, can't wait to hear how you get on with that one.

    You remind me that it has been far too long since we've had a loaf of something delicious in the's time.

    Enjoy immersing yourself!

  4. Mrs B - oh you must go - there is nothing better than reading a Cornish book in Cornwall!

    Alison - I am really looking forward to reading the Susan Cooper as she passed me by in my childhood.

    Darlene - I think one day on an England trip you should make it down to Cornwall, maybe for the Daphne Du Maurier Literary festival. I've always wanted to go and do the Rebecca themed walk.

  5. Sorry. Verity, but I can offer no help at all.

    I am reading My Cousin Rachel though, which, as you know, is set in Cornwall :).

  6. There are the Wycliffe books by someone Burley, sorry can't remember the initials off the top of my head.

    Janie Bolitho is another author of crime fiction set in Cornwall.

  7. Yes, WJ Burley is on my radar, but I've read most of them. Am hoping to check out Janie Bolitho soon Geraldine.

  8. Last year I read "The Main Cages" by Philip Marsden and was quietly impressed, even if it is quite slow paced. As the title suggests much of the action in this one takes place off the Cornish coast. I have a vague recollection at having heard somewhere (probably on the "Coast" BBC TV show) that Cornwall has a greater length of coastline than any other English county, so I would imagine the salty air is unlikely to far aware from many books set in this part of the world.

    Cornwall also stands out as the source of many interesting, almost exotic sounding surnames. One such is Paleologus, which is the name of the family at the heart of Days without Number, a Cornwall-set thriller from the master of the plot-twist Robert Goddard. I've been hooked on his books since someone lent me one a few years ago. Like Robert Harris he writes what might best be described as quality popular novels. Don't be put off by the gold embossed lettering on the covers: he is good.

  9. Excellent. I'm putting together a list, and there will be a post and an email next week!

  10. A Pair of Blue Eyes is a wonderful book, a bit bleak of course but hard to put down and with a very tense scene on top of a cliff on the Cornish Coast.

  11. Hi Verity, I am a regular reader/devotee! of your blogs, but havn't as yet commented. Have you read Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore? This is a fictitious story based on DH Lawrence's stay in Zennor with beautiful writing and good social comment on the prejudices and social divisons of the era.

    Thank you, immensely, for your superb blogs. They have inspired me to seek out many a book. Your VVV is one of my top favourite blogs. Thanks for the huge effort that you obviously pour into your blogs. I drink them in!

  12. Hi Verity
    I have been enjoying your blog for some time now (since before Persephone Reading Week - bliss!) and wanted to say hello. I too love Cornwall but am not able to go as often as I'd like.

    I can warmly recommend Janie Bolitho's Rose Trevelyan mysteries - seven in all but I have only gotten half-way through as I am saving them.

    They are set in Newlyn, if I recall correctly, and her descriptions of the coast are quite breath-taking. The protagonist is a painter and photographer so there are passages in each novel that concentrate on the Cornish coast and countryside that I quite enjoyed. Cornwall is certainly almost a character in these novels and her love of the county shines through.

    Other than Wycliffe and du Maurier, I'm afraid I can't think of any others. I read an Elizabeth Taylor last year, 'A View of the Harbour', that is set in a faded sea-side town. Not sure that it was a Cornish town but I kept picturing the Cornish coast when I read it :-)


  13. Although I was born in England I've spent most of my life in Australia and have never actually been to Cornwall. But I like reading Cornish books and recently enjoyed two memoirs, "The Great Western Beach: A Memoir of a Cornish Childhood Between the Wars" by Emma Smith and "Kisses on a Postcard: A Tale of Wartime Childhood" by Terence Frisby.

  14. I know very little about Cornwall or Cornish authors, so I'm looking forward to reading about your Cornish challenge. I did recently finish A London Child of the 1870s, and there are a few chapters where the family visits relations in Cornwall. Sounds absolutely idyllic.

  15. I am going to have to be a taker rather than a giver of information in this case Verity. I have tagged your post for future reference as I want to start some Cornish reading as my ancestors were from Cornwall. I think I will start with the non-fiction work you mentioned :-)

  16. Ooops, read the bit again about the books you've read and of course Wycliffe was already there.

    There is a series of children's books by Helen Dunmore, set in Cornwall. Ingo, The Tide Knot, The Deep, The Crossing of Ingo.

  17. Wow - what an amazing response to my post - I thinik this has to be the most popular post I've ever written! I hope you will enjoy my Cornish venture.

    Claire - My cousin Rachel is a mighty fine Cornish read.

    David - those books sound interesting - I'll have to have a look. I am a big fan of Coast and watch the episodes featuring Cornwall again and again.

    Jane - brilliant - this could be a fun project for the both of us as we share ideas.

    Merenia - thank you so much for you lovely kind comments and coming out from the shadows. I have read Zennor in Darkness - really rather good - I should have mentioned that.

    Cristina - It's nice for you to pop in and say hello to - thank you. I'm planning to look for some Bolitho when I go to the library on Monday - can't wait!

    Digifish - those two memoirs were wonderful aren't they.

    kate - yes, I remember those chapters. Molly Hughes actually wrote another book about her ancestors in Cornwall called Vyvyans which is also worth reading.

    Samantha - how lucky you are to have Cornish ancestors! I hope you will enjoy my mini-project too.

    Geraldine - I'll have to see if I can spot those in the library. I wonder what Helen Dunkore's connection with Cornwall is - I've had a look on the internet but not turned anything up.

  18. Hi Verity. You might enjoy Careless in Red by Elizabeth George. It takes place in Cornwall, I believe on the North Coast. Even though it is #14 in the Inspector Lynley series, the book can stand on its own. Goerge is one of my favorite mystery writers and I am very fussy about mysteries.

  19. I too loved the Susan Cooper books as a child. i re read a year or two ago and found they hadn't aged so well for me - but still good. hope you enjoy them.

  20. It's not comprehensive, and I've left out anything that I think might be too local or too difficult to get hold of, but I have a list up here.

  21. Don't forget John Betjeman,

  22. Probably not what you had in mind, but every time I think of the Cornish sea, I think of Malory Towers (specially Last Term...).

    Sorry, don't think I was helpful at all!

  23. Ellen - I'll pick that up at the library on Monday!

    Hayley - it'll be interesting to read them then for the first time as an adult

    Jane - your list is brilliant!

    M - absolutely not, I'll definitely have to write about some of his poetry.

    Another cookie - I wouldn't be surprised if Bkyton had had COrnwall in mind when she wrote those as they are definitely not set in the South Coast.

  24. Hi Verity

    Having a look at my TBR, I realised that I have a Cornwall-based mystery! Perhaps you and Fleur Fisher could add it to your lists if it grabs you?

    It's called 'Manna from Hades' by Carola Dunn and its sequel, 'A Colourful Death', is due out on 8 June 2010. They form part of the Cornish Mystery series and are set in the fictional coastal village of Port Mabyn. The author revealed in interviews that the books are set in the Cornwall that she knew in the sixties (the author is now in the US) and that her fictional village is a cross between Port Isaac and Boscastle - both places that I loved when I visted!

    I haven't read this yet so not sure if it's a good read but, given that she is rather a prolific author, the premise sounds good. There are some lovely Cornish photos here


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