My accolades may be few and far between, but one thing I like to pride myself on is knowing a blimmin’ good book (if you argue with me I’ll only try use my English degree and Post Grad to back myself up).
Being a great lover of all things outdoors, and fresh air, and the vast views of greenery, does not mean a person can’t also love nothing more than just curling up by a roaring fire with a cup of tea and a good book. And probably biscuits.
I am a massive, humongous book worm with no shame about that whatsoever. My job revolves around literature and writing, so it’s a good thing too really.
Today I thought I would bring to you a shortlist of some of my favourite curl-up-in-your-cottage country reads.
- The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse – I’ve read Mosse’s other books, Labyrinth etc. but this one is definitely my favourite. Set in a large house in the marshes it focuses on a taxidermist’s daughter, which gives us some nice little snippets into the world and work of such artists. It is also full of mystery, intrigue and drama with this glorious gothic feel to it.
- Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons – A classic! This was given to me as part of a Penguin’s Classic set for Christmas one year, and I was incredibly annoyed at myself for not discovering it sooner. Flora Poste is one of those characters that feels like your friend by the end of it, you know her so well. It’s a really heartfelt, comical read, so if the ‘classics’ labels put you off – ignore it! Flora goes to live on a farm run by her distant relations, an eclectic mix of intriguing characters. She sees it as a challenge to sort the place out, which is well and truly crumbling at the edges, which leads to hilarious events and relationships.
- Notwithstanding by Louis de Berniere – You may have heard his name from Captain Corelli’s Mandelin fame, a book I loved, and probably a large contribution as to why I read this. It’s based on his own experience growing up in a little village, but written in the form of a collection of short stories. If you live in a small rural village I implore you not to laugh out loud and nod in agreement throughout. Quick and easy to read, but really well written, too.
- Shooting Party by Isabel Colegate- When Downton Abbey came out I read that it was based on this book, but I read it because I fell in love with the film Gosford Park years ago, and subsequently had this recommended to me. Another classic, and I find it so interesting to see where our British traditions and history hails from. A far cry from the shooting parties of today, and yet also really familiar!
- Lake District by James Redbank – It’s nice to have some non-fiction, which can sometimes be underrated. I connected to this book early on because Redbanks discusses that he wanted to write it in order to promote a place from the perspective of the people that actually live it and work it – not that of the tourists guide’s, and the passing poet’s. I may not live in the Lake District, but that can be related to my beloved Cotswolds. I do also have a special place in my heart for the lakes.
- Lucy Talk by Fiona Walker – I’m not a ‘chick lit’ fan. Really, really not. Also, I’m not really into the boy-meets-girl stories which so many of them are about, there’s more to life than romance. However, I am also open minded so will give everything a go! This one was my mum’s book that I borrowed late in my teens. I remember thinking the characters were so old, with such grown up lives. I read it recently and realised that I’m now the same age as the protagonist, and that I am living that grown up life. A brief nostalgic moment aside… it still gripped me and I read it in a couple of days. Lucy lives in a cottage in the countryside with two housemates. So relatable and the characters feel so genuine and real you feel like you know them. Written entirely from Lucy’s point of view using a variety of e-mails, letters, and diary style snippets, we see her life over a two and a half year period. You’ll definitely recognise the people and the scenarios if you live the countryside.
- The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – This is an adult fairy tale, a concept I love, with magic and mystery and emotion. It’s set in a picturesque cabin the woods, with – you guessed it – lashings of snow. It involves those dark undertones true fairy tales have, with such emotion and mystery. Definitely a fireside read!
- Dark Matters by Michelle Paver – This doesn’t feature the countryside really, but pivotal to the story is the relationship between one person and their dog, so it will melt your heart if you, too, can understand that bond and that feeling. A bit ghostly and creepy, in a gripping way, which is no mean feat considering it is basically about one man trapped in a log cabin in a snowy, bare, remote landscape. Another winter, fireside read!
So there you go… your winter is sorted! Now I’m off to go and discover something new to bury myself in on these cold and gloomy evenings!