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reading: all things brit-ish

I really like reading stories set in Great Britain. One of my all-time favorite authors is Agatha Christie. I’ve loved her every since my very first trip to England when I was eleven. My dad handed me a big bulky anthology of her mysteries, said, “I think you’re going to like these,” and oh, I did. I loved them. It was, as was often the case when he gave me books, a perfect synchronicity in experience and imagination. I was reading about a place while I discovered it for the first time, and vice versa.

I’ve loved reading about Great Britain ever since.

Perhaps because there is so much eating of little cakes. Or because everything feels so atmospheric.

Perhaps it is because, ever since the royal engagement was announced, my husband has seen a 100% increase in people who have told him he looks like Prince William (before the royal engagement, it was zero people, now it stands at about five). Is it true? You decide:

If you would like, you can also talk about how much I look like Kate, and the correct answer is EXACTLY LIKE HER. (Ha! I wish.)

So, here are a few of my all-time favorite reads set in Great Britain:

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Possession by A.S. Byatt
The London Eye by Siobhan Dowd

I’ve read everything Agatha Christie and Kate Morton have ever written. And a lot of PD James, and Dickens, etc., and of course Austen, etc.

I think Britain is on my mind because my husband just came back from his yearly trip to Hogwarts (he spends time each summer researching in England with a colleague who works at Kings College, Cambridge). Last year he brought me a beautiful little book of poetry from a used bookshop and I’ve been looking through it again, loving the old pages and the worn cover.

What are some of your favorite British novels?

+ comments (28)
  • Beth
    June 30, 2011

    Oh, I knew I liked you! I adore Agatha Christie, too 😀

    And you know, now that you mention it, it really does seem like you and your hubs look like Kate and William!

  • Samantha Rowan
    June 30, 2011

    I love traditional English boarding school books, mainly books set in the 1920s and 1930s. These books have thick covers and beautiful dustjackets, even so many years after they were published.

    There is a great used bookstore in Cambridge – The Haunted Bookshop. The second floor is entirely devoted to old-fashioned British children’s books. Going the staircase is like stepping back into time. I’ve spent hours there, pouring over the books.

    I was lucky enough to purchase some of my favorite books there – they have great titles like Dimsie Goes To School by Dorita Fairlie Bruce and The School at the Chalet by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. Another favorite is The Girls of the Hamlet Club and The Abbey Girls by Elsie J. Oxenham.

    Alas, many of these authors are out of print but their books are still around at places like The Haunted Bookshop!

  • Emily
    June 30, 2011

    I really love Austen and Agatha Christie is definitely on my “to read” list. I know, tragedy that I’ve never read her, but there it is. The other book that I think of when I think of books set in Britain is “Her Fearful Symmetry” by Audrey Niffenegger. It’s not terribly British, but I love the setting and her characters are incredibly complex and likable.

  • Crystal
    June 30, 2011

    That is so funny! You guys TOTALLY look like them! 🙂 Someone once told us that David and I look like Jackie and John Kennedy. Not at all, right? Well, in one of our wedding pictures we’re walking hand in hand, looking down, perspective from the side reveals that we look EXACTLY like them, at least in that moment. At that makes all the difference. 😉 It’s fun keeping up with you on your blog. You’ve always been an inspiration to me. Thanks for being so awesome!

  • JessieHumphries
    June 30, 2011

    Wow he does look like the Prince. How Freudian of you! I myself love all things British as well and spent 2 summers abroad studying theater in London and Cambridge. How come you don’t take the yearly trip to Hogwarts too? Those darn kids???

  • BethanyHudson
    June 30, 2011

    Oh, fun topic!

    – Atonement by Ian McEwan
    – A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (although this one is split with France, so may be that doesn’t count?)
    – The Once and Future King by T.H. White
    and it goes without saying…
    – Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (yes, all 7 of them)

    And, yes! Your husband does look like Prince William. My husband is always told that he looks like Edward Norton.
    Here’s Mr. Norton: http://cdn.imnotobsessed.com/wp-content/uploads/INFphoto_1072729.JPG
    Here’s my husband: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=743641414515&set=t.3401115&type=1&theater
    What do you think?

  • ShawnandCarrie-Jo
    June 30, 2011

    I’m going to be a dork and say that after Jane Austen (of course!), J K Rowling in one of my favorite British authors. C.S. Lewis and Emily Bronte are not at all far behind, though 🙂

  • Ali
    June 30, 2011

    I thought the picture of your husband was Prince William before I read that it was a picture of your husband!

    I need to read some Agatha Christie and Kate Morton books. Possession looks good too. Wish I had more time to read and was a faster reader. There are so many books I want to read.

  • Barmy_Bex
    June 30, 2011

    I really enjoyed the London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd too! was a genius book. 😀

    i must admit I’m not an Agatha Christie fan though.

  • Melissa
    June 30, 2011

    It’s so funny that you mention Kate Morton, I keep looking at the paperback for The Distant Hours at Kmart, but was never sure.
    I even had a chance to go to a sigining for Kate at my local library last year, but didn’t make it! She seems to be a great Australian author.
    After your recommendation, I think I’m going to have to take the plunge!

    And your hubby does look like Prince William!

  • Ems
    June 30, 2011

    The Distant Hours is one of my most favorite books EVER. Kate Morton is a genius.

    I’m with you on all things Britain. Perhaps it’s the little cakes, who knows. But I’ll take it.

    (And your hubby does kinda look like Prince William!)

  • Maegan
    June 30, 2011

    Harry Potter, of course. But also Jane Eyre – it’s the ultimate girl power, quiet strength, self respect story. I’ll have to try Agatha Christie one of these days.

    I’m also a sucker for those PBS Masterpiece Classic-type movies: Small Island, North & South, South Riding and of course, Downton Abbey.

  • Dandy
    June 30, 2011

    The answer is yes, he does look like your husband!

    I’ve just recently picked up a Kate Morton book. The Forgotten Garden, I believe. I haven’t read her before and I’m looking forward to it.

    I’m not reading it until I finish Matched. I always hesitate to start a trilogy so early on (before they are all published) because the waiting for the next one kills me.

    But I can’t not read this book…

  • becca
    July 1, 2011

    I just read “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” – and what’s not to love? Also, for whatever reason, it took me until this last month to find “I Capture the Castle” and I adored every page.

  • JodieLane
    July 1, 2011

    Oh l feel a little proud to be British right now! Although l may say small cakes? I am definitely more of big cakes ! 😉

  • Margie Allred
    July 1, 2011

    Other British mystery authors that you might like are Dorothy Sayers (she wrote about Lord Peter Wimsey) and Margery Allingham (Campion) and Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn). All are wonderful.

  • Charlotte
    July 1, 2011

    Now that you said it AND posted pictures I must concur, he looks very much like Prince William. As for favorites, although it isn’t set in Great Britain I can’t help but feel very British when I read Tolkein. Perhaps that was his intent, to create the British mythology that the islands had lacked for so many years. I also loved the Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory.

  • Libby
    July 1, 2011

    That is hilarious Ally! Scott totally looks like Prince William. That must only add to your love of all things British. It was meant to be!!! I wonder if I put a picture of James next to a picture of Colin Firth, if they would like alike?

  • Mariam
    July 1, 2011

    love the British reads myself. While there I read and read and read. I read Jane Austen of course, Harry Potter (I can claim I lived in the same city as Emma Watson). I also like Anthony Horowitz who writes the Alex Rider Series. I must say I don’t like how the publisher’s change the words in the books for the American’s. Such as changing the word ‘football’ to ‘soccer’.
    You and Scott are both better looking the the royal couple.

  • Naomi
    July 3, 2011

    I don’t really read much that was actually written there. But I like several books that take place there.
    ‘Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes’ and its sequel by Maureen Johnson, ‘Ruby Red’ by Kerstin Gier, ‘The Season’ by Sarah MaLean, ‘Bewitching Season’ and its sequel by Marissa Doyle, ‘Mairelon the Magician’ and its sequel by Patricia C Wrede. The list goes on. But I’m pretty sure these are all American authors. oh well. xD

  • Tiffany L.
    July 4, 2011

    I just returned from a trip to England as well, and finally, finally took the chance to read “A Tale of Two Cities.” Dickens never disappoints.

    G.K. Chesterton is another favorite. His essays are brilliant.

  • RuthCarter
    July 6, 2011

    I just started reading Matched. LOVE it. I will definitely reccommend it to my students. I am thinking if you love Britinsh based novels, you should try Anne Perry’s Thomas and Charlotte Pitt murder mystery series. They are set in the Victorian Era. Perry really has the era DOWN. Don’t know that I would have wanted to live in that time period, but I surely do enjoy reading about it.
    Yes, your hubby DOES look like Prince Charles.

  • RuthCarter
    July 6, 2011

    OOPS! make that Prince William. definately NOT CHARLES!

  • Jessica P.
    July 6, 2011

    to tell the truth, at first before reading this and only seeing the pictures, I thought the picture of your husband really was a pic of prince william haha

    and thanks for the book suggestions..i’ve been needing something to read lately 🙂

  • Laura
    July 11, 2011

    I am a Jasper Fforde junkie- although technically he’s Welch. I fell in love with his first Thursday novel and have been smitten with his clever use of the written word ever since. Loved all of your book suggestions- especially Kate Morton. I read The Forgotten Garden on a plane ride back from Ireland and it haunted me for days after. Agatha Christie is still brilliant, and is my go to gal for escapism.

  • Tori
    July 11, 2011

    You lent me that book one summer. I think it took me the whole summer to read. I haven’t read any Agatha in awhile. I will have to pick up one of her books. Thanks for the good memories.

  • Sarah
    July 21, 2011

    P.G. Wodehouse’s books are so darn funny, especially the ones with Bertie Wooster and Jeeves in them. There are several of his books available as Kindle freebies (at least they are for the Kindle app I have on my phone), so if you feel like reading some light-hearted farce you might check them out. 🙂 Oh, and I adore Terry Pratchett.

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