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 … ?

Tales of Terror From The Tunnel’s Mouth by Chris Priestley

I saved up my copy of Tales of Terror From The Tunnel’s Mouth for a long, time. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read the stories, but I didn’t want them to be over. And I knew that this was the final part, the third book, of a wonderful trilogy.

In the end though I couldn’t resist. And when I picked the book up I read and I read.

I read the story of Robert, a child in Edwardian England, travelling back to school on his own for the very first time.

At first Robert was alone in a compartment. But as the train made stops others joined him. A number of men. And one woman. A pale young woman dressed in pure white ….

The train came to a halt by the mouth of a tunnel. The delay seemed unending. Robert noticed that many of his fellow travellers had fallen asleep, and that only he and the woman in white were awake.

She noticed too. And she began to tell him stories. She was a wonderful storyteller.

She told him stories of children she had known, and of things that had happened to them. Her stories started quietly, but as she spoke the sense of foreboding grew. And each story would end with a strange and unexpected twist. There would not be any happy endings.

The story of a governess struggling with a problem child who will lead her, and those around her, to question her sanity. A boy whose resentment of his father’s other interests leads him into terrible danger. A girl who is fascinated by a puppet theatre that is not at all what it seems. And, maybe the strangest tale of the whole trilogy, the story of a crack in a wall …

There are wonderful echoes of other stories in these tales.

Tales that are of their time, and yet utterly timeless.

It would be quite impossible for anyone, child or adult, not to be entranced.

Robert was. But he began to realise that something was amiss. That the train was two quiet. That his fellow travellers were too deeply asleep. In between the stories he tried to ask questions, but the woman in white gave him no answers.

Until her very last story, when everything would become clear ….

The ending was exactly right.

Everything was right – once again the words of Chris Priestley and the illustrations of David Roberts worked together quite beautifully.

I’m sorry that the trilogy is over, but now that it is I am quite sure that I will be going back to the beginning, visiting with Uncle Montague again, and listening to his tales.

If you haven’t met him yet, you really, really should …


Still Book Counting : 1 2 3 4 5

I never could resist the chance to make a list, and so Simon’s Five Book Meme is completely irresistible …

1. The book I’m currently reading

The story of the 20th century told through snapshot of one family – a family saga like nothing I’ve read before, and I am loving it.

2. The last book I finished

A wonderful addition to the Persephone Books list: a long out of print novel from 1911 that captures the heart and soul of the struggle for female suffrage. I’m still gathering my thought, and I’ll write a little more soon.

3. The next book I want to read

Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth by Chris Priestley

I’ve saved this one for a while, torn between really wanting to read it and not wanting to run out of Chris Priestley’s spooky short stories. But I think Halloween is the time …

4. The last book I bought

Speaking of Love by Angela Young

I spotted this one on a low shelf in a charity shop. It rang a bell, and I placed it when I looked at the back cover and saw:

‘If you like Maggie O’Farrell, You’ll Love Angela Young’  STUCK IN A BOOK

5. The last book I was given

The Yangtze Valley and Beyond by Isabella Bird

My fiance is a trained Virago spotter, and he bought this one home for me last week.

So those are my five books – what are yours?

As Summer Draws to a Close, RIP VI Begins …

Summer is fading, the temperature is dropping, and the evenings are drawing in. Autumn is approaching, bring with it the sixth annual RIP challenge.

A wonderful opportunity to read mystery,suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, supernatural…

“Regardless of what my thermometer tells me, my heart tells me that autumn is here and that it is once again time to revel in things ghostly and ghastly, in stories of things that go bump in the night. It is time to trail our favorite detectives as they relentlessly chase down their prey, to go down that dark path into the woods, to follow flights of fantasy and fairy tale that have a darker heart than their spring time brethren. To confront gothic, creepy, horror stories in all their chilling delight.”

Now doesn’t that sound perfect?

So many wonderful possibilities, and I have pulled together a pool of eight books.

Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth by Chris Priestly has been waiting for quite a while. The final part of a trilogy, I so want to read it but I really don’t want the series to be over.

I have already begun What They Do in the Dark by Amanda Coe. It is very strange and very dark.

The story of Sweeny Todd has been retold many times, and I want to read the book that told the story first: The String of Pearls by Thomas Peskett Prest.

Ghastly Business by Louise Levene caught my eye quite recently – a bluestocking is caught up in a murder mystery in twenties London.

The Baskerville Legacy by John O’Connell tells the story of Arthur Conan-Doyle as he travels to Dartmoor and writes – or maybe co-writes – that famous story.

Midwinter Sacrifice by Mons Kallentoff is a Scandinavian murder mystery, with a woman investigator who looks very, very interesting.

The Unseen by Katherine Webb is a story of spiritualism in Edwardian England that has been sitting on my bedside table for a while, waiting for this season.

And I am intrigued by the The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

So many intriguing possibilities.

And there are group reads, short stories, films to ponder too.

Autumn will be wonderful.

What do you plan to read as the days shorten?

Teaser Tuesdays / It’s Tuesday, where are you?


“Where am I? At home! I live with my sister, Cathy and my father at the Old Inn on the Cornish Cliffs.

A storm is raging but father has had to go out for the doctor. Cathy and I were very sick earlier, you see. We are both feeling much better now, and so we decided to get up and come downstairs.

Wait! – there’s a man outside. I don’t recognise him. Who is he? What does he want? And why on earth is he out on a night like this?”

It’s Tuesday, where are you? is hosted by raidergirl3.


Just quote a couple of spoiler-free sentences the book you’re reading to tempt other readers.

Here is mine:-

“Perhaps,” he said, looking back at us, “and I only say perhaps – perhaps I might while away some time, as I drink my drink and wait for the storm to quieten, by sharing with you a few tales I’ve gathered on my travels. “How might that be?”

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB.

This all comes courtesy of Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestley

This proved to be a well timed book – we had our first big storm of the winter last night. At high tide we had waves coming up over the promenade and spray over the garden right up to the windows. Definitely a night to stay in and read!

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley

Uncle Montague

I forget where I first spotted Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror, but I do remember that I was completely captivated by the cover.

And I was delighted to discover that it was a gothic and a portmanteau book – two things I can never resist.

Edgar is a solitary child – his parents are distant and, because he has been sent away to school, he is not close to the neighbourhood children. As the story opens with young Edgar walking through the woods to visit his Uncle Montague. The author takes you along on that walk, and you never leave Edgar’s side, through everything that is to come.

Menace is so cleverly hinted at with very small details – a slow-moving kissing-gate, silent children lurking in overgrown woods, a cold and heavy garden gate …

Finally Edgar and Uncle Montague settle down for tea, cake and stories in Uncle Montague’s wonderfully gothic house. And what stories! Each one is simple, clear, and perfectly-formed. And they are strange tales, each with a child protagonist, and each escalating to a striking twist.

A boy enters the house of a woman he believes to be a witch and meets a most unexpected fate; a girl opens a forbidden door and is trapped in a dolls’ house; a boy chased off a cliff by a demonic version of himself; a girl granted three wishes who finds that those wishes have dark consequences…. It would be unfair to say too much.

Some of the stories are stronger than others but they all work. And, while each is distinctive, they come together well as a set.

But that’s not all. Edgar and Uncle Montague talk between stories, and their own story develops. Edgar begins to wonder. Is there is truth in the stories? Where have the artefacts that Uncle Montague shows him come from? And who are the strange children trying to gain access to the house?

All becomes clear in the astonishing final story – Uncle Montague’s own.

Everything comes togethere just perfectly.

Tribute is paid to many great writers of ghost stories and the volume itself is a lovely little hardback, beautifully illustrated by David Roberts.

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror is a chilren’s book but it makes wonderful reading for adults too – and it would be lovely for parents or grandparents to read to children with a love of scary things.

short story peril

Library Loot

I two big books of my own in progress (Little Dorritt and The Tale of Genjii), so I wasn’t looking to bring too much home from the library this week. But I couldn’t not go in (it’s theraputic at the end of the day!) and I couldn’t come away completely empty-handed. There were a lot of great books on the shelves, but I was very restrained and only came away with three. Here they are:

Leaving The World

Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy

“On the night of her thirteenth birthday, Jane Howard made a vow to her warring parents – she would never get married and she would never have children. But life, as Jane comes to discover, is a profoundly random business. Many years and many lives later, she is a professor in Boston, in love with a brilliant, erratic man named Theo. And then Jane falls pregnant. Motherhood turns out to be a great welcome surprise – but when a devastating turn of events tears her existence apart she has no choice but to flee all she knows and leave the world. Just when she has renounced life itself, the disappearance of a young girl pulls her back from the edge and into an obsessive search for some sort of personal redemption. Convinced that she knows more about the case than the police do, she is forced to make a decision – stay hidden or bring to light a shattering truth.”

I was a lttle disappointed in Doulas Kennedy’s last couple of books, so I studied this one carefully before making a decision. The synopsis suggested that it could be a return to form, so home it came.

Uncle Montague

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley

“Uncle Montague lives alone in a big house and his regular visits from his nephew give him the opportunity to relive some of the most frightening stories he knows. But as the stories unfold, a newer and more surprising narrative emerges, one that is perhaps the most frightening of all. “Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror”, it transpires, are not so much works of imagination as dreadful lurking memories. Memories of an earlier time in which Uncle Montague lived a very different life to his present solitary existence.”

Staci of Life in the Thumb reads a lot of great Young Adult books, and she inspired we to take a look in the section of my library. This book caught my eye and I though a few short scary tales would contrast nicely with my other reading. Thank you Staci!

Where Shall We Go For Dinner

Where Shall We Go For Dinner?: A Food Romance by Tamasin Day-Lewis

“Sharing a good dinner is one of the chief pleasures of life. This is a year of travel and culinary discovery, part memoir, part love story, but the glue that holds it together is food, a shared passion, if not obsession. Tamasin and her companion Rob set out with no real plan for the forthcoming year other than that each trip offers the possibility of perfection and discovery of something new. Whether investigating the food scene in San Francisco, sipping a cocktail in Venice, or walking down Sullivan St in New York to dine on fried chicken at the Blue Ribbon, they always set out in hope of the perfect dinner. They may find it at a small cafe in the hills of Santo Stefano Belbo in Piemonte, or snacking on falafel in a warm wad of pitta bread at Mamoun’s, a hole in the wall in Greenwich Village. Sometimes they try too hard and don’t find it at all, but even the disappointment is food for thought…and there is always tomorrow.”

I love Tamasin Day-Lewis’s writing and I have a few of her cookery books, but I wasn’t aware of this book until Belle of Ms Bookish included it in her Library Loot last week. It looked wonderful, so I ordered it staight away and it appeares on the reservations shelf just two days later. So thanks are due to both Belle and the Cornish Library Service!


So have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

And what did you find in the library this week?

See more Library Loot here.