Ten Books for Cornish Holidays

I’ve spotted a lot of Top Ten Holiday Reads  lists lately. Fascinating reading, and they set my mind spinning in a direction that was similar but different.

Ten books to transport you to Cornwall. Or to read on holiday in Cornwall.

I’ve picked books that are in print – and I think they are all available electronically – and I’ve picked wonderfully readable books, old and new, that I can happily recommend.

And her they are …


Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

“The road to Manderlay lay ahead.  There was no moon.  The sky above our heads was inky black.  But the sky on the horizon was not dark at all.  It was shot with crimson, like a splash of blood.  And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.”  

Daphne Du Maurier fell in love with a house named Menabilly on the north coast of Cornwall. In Rebecca she calls that house Manderlay, and she spins a wonderful tale of suspense intrigue and romance, with lovely echoes of Jane Eyre around it.

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood

Lucy Wood comes from Cornwall, she understands, really understands what makes it so special, and she mixes myth and real life to fine effect in this wonderful collection of short stories.

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

“Crossing the Tamar for some reason made me feel different inside. It was only a river, yet every time I crossed it I felt I had stepped through some mystical veil that divided the world that I only existed in from the one that I was meant to be living in.”

Susanna Kearsley captures the magic of crossing the Tamar Bridge, leaving Devon and coming into Cornwall, and she captures the magic that draws so many people here in this lovely story of a house, a garden, history, time travel, and above all romance.

Rambles Beyond Railways by Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins crossed the Tamar by boat, a few years before the bridge was built, and he and his friend, the artist Henry Brandling, set out on a 214 mile walking tour.  This account of their travels holds a wealth of  material, wonderful vivid writing and extraordinary insight.

Love in the Sun by Leo Walmsley

“Leo Walmsley gives the reader a true story, classic in its simplicity, of a man and a girl who possessed nothing in life but love for each other and faith in the future, and because of these things, were courageous and happy…”

So said Daphne Du Maurier, in her introduction to a story that is vividly and beautifully written. The man and the girl are utterly real, every detail rings true, and it is so easy to be pulled in, so easy to care.

Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestley

A visitor tells two children stories of the sea as they wait in their home, and Inn on a Cornish cliff, for the storm to abate and for their father to come home. Tales are deliciously twisted, and the final revelation – who the visitor is and why he has come – is perfect.

The Burying Beetle by Ann Kelley

This is the story of twelve year-old Gussie, who has a head full of films and books, who is fascinated by nature and the world around her home in St Ives. She is ill, waiting and hoping for a heart transplant, and that makes life all the more precious, and her story all the more life-affirming. I loved Gussie, and I loved seeing Cornwall through her eyes.

Peril at End House by Agatha Christie

On holiday at a Cornish hotel Poirot encounters an accident-prone heiress, and  he soon realises that her accidents are not accidents at all. A solid mystery, a very nice setting; all in all, a lovely period piece from the 1930s.

Penmarric by Susan Howatch

A wonderful family saga, spanning half a century, telling their story and the story of Penmarric, their grand Cornish home, in five voices. The house, its inhabitants, the world around them come to life in a dramatic, compelling story. I had no idea when I first read it that it was inspired by real mediaeval history ….

The First Wife by Emily Barr

The story of a girl from a Cornish village who loses her home when her grandparents die, moves to town, and finds herself caught up in a story elements of chick lit, strands of a psychological thriller, and echoes of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. It’s wonderful fun!

I’m waiting now for Emily Barr’s new book, the story of a woman whop disappears from the train between Penzance and Paddington. A train I have travelled on so many times …

There are more books of course, by these authors and by others.

Have any of these books, or have any other books, transported you to Cornwall, I wonder … ?

26 responses

    • Hello Beth, it’s lovely to meet you. I wouldn’t argue with Jamaice Inn, but I couldn’t resist Rebecca and I wanted ten different authors. I’ve loved Daphne Du Maurier ever since I picked up her books when I first joined the adult library.

  1. Susan Cooper’s Over Sea Under Stone is the magical mystical Cornwall. And Helen Dunmore’s Zennor in Darkness is based on D H Lawrence’s time in Cornwall during the 1st World War.

    • Thank you for two excellent recommendations.

      I have yet to read Susan Cooper – and I must, because I know so many people love her books.

      I have read Zennor in Darkness, and thought about putting it on the list but I wasn’t sure that it would work as a holiday read as well as some of the others.

  2. A lovely list. I’ve read 6 of the 10 & I agree, they all transport the reader to Cornwall. I’d have to add Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt, a book I read over & over again when I was young. Also the Poldark novels by Winston Graham, especially the first six.

    • I read Mistress of Mellyn for the first time a year or so ago and loved it. It got squeezed out of the list because there were too many books to chose from. and because I didn’t want too many gothic romance in big house on cliff type books.

      And I loved that Mistress of Mellyn and The Rose Garden started on the same train.

      I read the Poldark novels when I was at school, but I haven’t picked them up since. A re-read might be interesting.

  3. Thanks for the list! I’m only familiar with the Du Maurier and Wilkie Collins. Am much intrigued by the Agatha Christie now and will definitely look to this list whenever I start missing Cornwall.

  4. You know how much I love Cornwall so I will write down the books here that I haven’t read and, with luck, savour them this summer. Thank you, Jane!

  5. I’ve just discovered your blog! I love Cornwall and there are many on your list with which I am unfamiliar -what treats to come! How about the novels of Patrick Gale? I particularly loved “Rough Music” and his latest “A Perfectly Good Man”.

    • Hello Deborah, it’s lovely to meet you. I have liked Patrick Gale’s books, but they don’t evoke the magic Cornwall for me in the same way as the books I’ve listed.

      That might be because I’m more drawn to books set in the past, or it might be that he’s too close to home (he lives just a few miles away) but sees this area in a different way to me.

  6. Fabulous list! I am just listening to Jamaica Inn after having read it for the 2nd time earlier this year. The Bodmin landscapes are beautifully described and in such detail. Just wonderful! Rebecca brilliant too for a Cornish feel. How about The Camomile Lawn? – I guess a lot of it plays in London, so not entirely Cornish.

    • That settles it, I must re-read Jamaica Inn!

      I did think of The Camomile Lawn, but I thought of a couple of other Cornwall/London/War books and I couldn’t pick one and so none of them went on the list.

  7. Pingback: Sunday Caught My Interest | Reflections from the Hinterland

  8. Pingback: The Classics Club Survey « Fleur in her World

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: