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Literary Cornwall

Updated: Sep 26, 2018

Cornwall's stunning landscape and fascinating history have inspired many authors. If you've been following me here or on Instagram you'll know just how much of a bookworm I am so here are a few of my favourite books set in the county.

By the way, if you’re here during the summer, don’t miss the Penzance Literary Festival which brings a host of well-known authors to the town.

Vintage Penguin books
Some of my vintage Penguin editions of Daphne du Maurier's works

Daphne Du Maurier spent most of her life living in and around Fowey on the south coast. Her novels, including Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek and My Cousin Rachel, have become classics.

Winston Graham’s Poldark series has been in the spotlight recently, thanks to the BBC television adaptation. This saga follows the fortunes of a Cornish tin mining family during the late 18th century. 

Jonathan Smith’s novel, Summer in February, is based on a real-life love triangle amongst a group of artists who lived in Lamorna at the turn of the 20th century. 

Locally-based novelist Patrick Gale lives near Land’s End and many of his works, including Notes on an Exhibition, Rough Music and A Perfectly Good Man are set in Cornwall. 

The late, great Helen Dunmore made her literary debut with Zennor in Darkness, a novel exploring the experiences of DH Lawrence and his wife Frieda who stayed in the village in 1917. One of her more recent works, The Lie,  is set in Cornwall in aftermath of the First World War.

Fans of the detective novel should try W J Burley’s Wycliffe series and for a lighter read, grab a copy of one of Rosamund Pilcher’s books or A Cornish Affair by Liz Fenwick or Fern Britton’s The Holiday Home.

For children, the superlative Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper features two books set in Cornwall. Over Sea, Under Stone and Greenwitch are both set Mevagissey. 

For lovers of non-fiction, Philip Marsden’s Rising Ground offers a fascinating insight into the spirit of the Cornish landscape and The Levelling Sea is a brilliant history of Falmouth.

This one's a little bit of a cheat but I'm going to include The Brontes because their mother, Maria Branwell, was from Penzance. If you walk down Chapel Street you'll see a plaque on one of the red brick houses on the right hand side where she and her sister, Elizabeth, lived. Maria left the town in 1812 when she married Patrick Bronte but I like to think her Cornish spirit infused the writing of her daughters. 

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