Since I started my Classics series on YouTube, the most requested video people have asked me to make is one about Jane Austen. Luckily, she’s one of my favourite authors, so it wasn’t much effort to gather all of my Jane Austen books together and talk about them. Here is the result!
To celebrate, GWR are running a campaign to immerse yourself in the world of books and escape by train to the places some of our favourite books are set. They’ve hidden free return train tickets all over the South West and you can find out where to find your own on the Immerse Yourself page.
GWR have invited me to tell you about some of my favourite books set in the South West of England which is particularly handy because 1. it’s where I live and 2. it’s one of my very favourite places on Earth. I had so much fun picking out the books to feature – it made me realise just how many books are set in the South West, and some of my all-time favourites too!
Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
Under the Greenwood Tree is probably a very controversial choice because I think most people would choose Tess of the D’Urbervilles as their favourite Hardy book – and I would too. Tess is a literary masterpiece that I insist everyone should read at least once in their lifetime. Under the Greenwood Tree, though, is an obvious choice for this list because I think it sums up West Country life in Hardy’s time perfectly.
Thomas Hardy created the fictional county of Wessex where he set the majority of his books, changing the names of towns and villages he was familiar with to make his own. Under the Greenwood Tree tells the story of a blossoming romance between a church musician and the new teacher that has moved into the village. It’s so much more than that, though – it’s an account of rural life, a snapshot of the beauty of the Dorset countryside. It’s a book that ambles along at its own pace and that’s why I love it so much.
The Rain by Virginia Bergin
Imagine this: a meteor hits Earth, which infects the water system — one drop can, and will, kill you. This is the premise of The Rain, and it is thrilling, fast-paced… and also hilarious. I love the main character Ruby so much because she reacts just like any other teenager I know would in an apocalyptic situation.
I especially loved reading it because of the mentions to places in the South West that I recognised — at one point, Ruby even drives past my hometown, which was very exciting! I could see a map of the places she was visiting in my head, like a SatNav moving along as I followed her. You’ll love this if you’re looking for more realistic apocalyptic fiction!
Red Witch by Anna McKerrow
Red Witch is the second book in Anna McKerrow’s Crow Moon trilogy, and is partly set in Glastonbury. I have fond memories of climbing up Glastonbury Tor a few summers ago, hair blowing wildly around in the wind, barefoot as I reached higher and higher into the sky. It’s a truly magical place, where you can feel the energy surrounding you. If you’ve never walked up the Tor, it’s something you should add to your bucket list!
Both of Anna McKerrow’s books have so far been set in the South West, with Devon and Cornwall separate from the rest of the UK due to the world fighting over the remaining oil reserves and on the verge of destruction. If I could, and if it was real, I would live in the Greenworld. I don’t even have to think about it; it sounds like my dream place to live.
Blue by Lisa Glass
Set in Cornwall, Blue combines surfing, romance, friendship and success. I love the main character, Iris, and as Blue is the first book in a trilogy, you get to know all of the characters intimately throughout the course of the books.
Lisa Glass invokes the setting really well – the windy beaches, the tourists, what it’s like to live near the coast. Having never surfed before, I was a little nervous about not understanding any of the references, but Lisa explains everything really well and is also a great advocate for girls in sport. A must-read for the summer!
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey is, arguably, the most underrated of Jane Austen’s novels, although the first she ever wrote (but last to be published). It’s mostly set in Bath and, as my closest city, I loved reading about the society in Jane Austen’s time and recognising the places she wrote about.
The other half of the novel is set in the gothic Northanger Abbey and Jane Austen writes this perfectly – it’s a satirical look on the gothic genre and demonstrates Jane Austen’s humour really well. I wish more people would read this! There are parts that are even better than Pride & Prejudice.
GWR single fares for city day and weekend breaks can be booked up to 12 weeks in advance, plus are great value!
At the weekend, I visited The White Horse Bookshop, an independent bookshop in Malborough, Wiltshire. It was the second time I’ve visited the shop and each time is just as lovely as the other – it’s such a friendly and welcoming shop.
I love exploring bookshops because each one is unique and after my time working in one during the summer, I have a greater appreciation for them. There’s nothing better than wandering into a bookshop and getting lost in the bookish atmosphere – the smell of books new and old, the feeling of eyes flicking back and forth between words on the page, and that innate sense of coming home.
The YA section in the bookshop contains a table full of wonderful new titles and I was especially pleased to spot Never Evers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison and Deep Water by Lu Hersey. Plus, the paperback edition of The Art of Being Normal (more on that in a bit!).
It would be possible to browse the different sections of the shop for hours if I had the time and there are literally tens of thousands of books contained within the two floors. It’s a book lover’s heaven!
In the end, I decided to buy two books – The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson and an illustrated version of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Alice Pattullo.
I was extremely pleased to find out the other day that I was quoted in the new paperback of The Art of Being Normal, especially as I loved it so much when I read it at the end of 2014. I, of course, had to buy a copy after discovering that and I’d definitely recommending picking your own copy up if you haven’t read it yet because the book truly is brilliant.
I first heard about the illustrated Pride and Prejudice in Zoë’s video and thought it looked amazing – I love Pride and Prejudice so much so an illustrated version is perfection to me! It’s always nice to see classics books reimagined in different ways.
After watching (and loving!) Zoe’s video, I knew that as soon as I found a copy I would buy it, but it turned out that there either weren’t any copies in the shops I was looking in, or I wasn’t looking hard enough. But, by chance, I finally found a copy and I am IN LOVE! I can just picture myself reading this to my kids in years to come.
I admit that I’m not a massive reader of ‘the classics’ but sometimes I’m in the mood for reading something a bit more aged and, often, well-known. Sometimes because it makes me seem very sophisticated, but also because I think you can learn a lot from reading them!
I like to put together TBR (to be read) shortlists, so I can dip in and out from it whenever I choose without feeling daunted by the sheer amount of books that I haven’t yet read. Here are a few of the classics I need to read soon!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, in my mind, is one of the great classics that everyone must read. I just haven’t read it myself yet… Oops? My favourite classics are the modern classics (The Catcher in the Rye, anyone?) so I’m sure I’ll get along fine with this!
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a book I’ve been meaning to read for absolutely ages. For some reason, I just haven’t done so yet! Very soon, I promise!
I’m not sure when I first started to want to read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier but I’ve wanted to for absolutely ages now (there’s a bit of a theme here!). I’d really like to read more gothic fiction and it just sounds so good!
There is no book that scares me more than The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. There’s a lot of pressure to enjoy it and so that’s very daunting and I’ve tried to read it a few times now but it just hasn’t clicked and I’ve had to put it down. Wish me luck with this one!
Finally we have Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and I have no idea why I want to read it because – HELLO?! – I do not like the idea of reading it because I’m sure that it will take me ages. I don’t have time to read books like that! Maybe I’ll just have to brave it…
Which classics do you want to read soon – or one day? Have you read any of these?
Today I’m very lucky to have Rachael Lucas, author of Sealed with a Kiss, on the blog. I loved Sealed with a Kiss and my review will be up later this week, but, in the meantime, here’s a bit about Sealed with a Kiss:
Kate is dumped on her best friend’s wedding day by the world’s most boring boyfriend, Ian. She’s mostly cross because he got in first – until she remembers she’s now homeless as well as jobless. Rather than move back home to her ultra-bossy mother, Kate takes a job on the remote Scottish island of Auchenmor as an all-round Girl Friday. Her first day is pretty much a disaster: she falls over, smack bang at the feet of her grouchy new boss, Roddy, Laird of the Island. Unimpressed with her townie ways, he makes it clear she’s got a lot to prove.
Island life has no room for secrets, but prickly Roddy’s keeping something to himself. When his demanding ex-girlfriend appears back on the island, Kate’s budding friendship with her new boss comes to an abrupt end. What is Fiona planning – and can she be stopped before it’s too late?
My Top Five Romantic Novels by Rachael Lucas
– and this is such a tricky one to do that I’ve actually sneaked in six, and one is actually a whole series, but shhh, don’t tell… Continue Reading
Letterbox Love is a UK based feature where book bloggers showcase the books that they received that week, be they e-books, paperbacks, hardbacks or any other format. It is hosted by Lynsey from Narratively Speaking.
I have a two week long haul to share with you all this week. I’ve been a very naughty girl!
This week it has been Book Week in Scotland and Hive.co.uk were running a competition on Twitter where you could put someone forward to win a paperback and I won this! Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys is one of Stacey’s favourite books of the year and nominated me to win a copy, and win I did! I am so excited to read it because we were only talking about it the other week and I know lots of people who loved it, too. Thank you, Hive.co.uk and Stacey!
These two were sent to me for review by Hot Key Books, one of my favourite publishers ever. The first book I got was Leopold Blue by Rosie Rowell which is a historical fiction novel set in South Africa during the 1990’s. I had to study a poem during the time last year in class, so I’m really looking forward to delving into this one. The second novel is Boys Don’t Knit by T.S. Eaton which sounds hilarious and I can’t wait to start it. Thank you, Hot Key!
I went into my local Waterstones branch last week and bought The Maze Runner by James Dashner because the film comes out next year and I want to read it beforehand. There’s a lot of hype surrounding it so I’m a little nervous but I have high hopes I’ll enjoy it. The other book I got was When It Happens by Susane Colasanti , which I’ve already read. It was a good book, but it didn’t have the ‘wow factor’ I wanted and expected from it.
I found Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen in a charity shop and picked it up because I’m going to be trying to read more classics next year. I’m really looking forward to reading it.
I stopped by Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath a few weeks ago and couldn’t resist going a bit wild and buying these three lovelies. I’ve been looking for a copy of How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff for ages but I wasn’t too keen on the movie tie-in cover and so I was very pleased with myself when I spotted the gorgeous Penguin classic edition. I’m very excited to start it. I also got Vivan Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle which I’ve already started and am enjoying greatly. It’s very different to many books on the market currently and I’m going to be recommending it a lot. The final book I got was Heap House by Edward Carey which is also illustrated by him. They have a display of the books in the shop and I couldn’t say no to buying it (not that I wanted to).
I also visited Waterstones in Bath which has a brilliant YA section and I got Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider which I loved. It was such an amazing book and I should be posting a review sometime in the next few weeks. The next book was Soulmates by Holly Bourne which I’ve been wanting to read for ages now and I can’t wait to start it. I’ve been going into my local Waterstones and it hasn’t been in there so I was glad to finally find it. The last book I got was The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop which was the only book I went in to get. I read it in one afternoon and fell completely in love. Review coming soon!
I won the keyring and badges from the Hot Key Tumblr page and it came with the postcard too. I was so excited when I opened the package because of how much I loved The Isobel Journal and I’m going to be wearing them everywhere now. Thank you, Hot Key!