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Novels and Memoirs about Life in the United Kingdom and Ireland

Pauline Kenny

When I am planning a trip to England, I like to read novels by British authors (both modern day and older) and memoirs about life in England. From these I get a "feel" for the country, plus some practical trip planning tips. See our page on recommended Guidebooks and Maps for the UK and Ireland.

Books about Life in England

Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island, Perennial, 1995

Bill Bryson, an American, moved to England in his twenties, married and had a family. He lived there for almost twenty years, then moved with his family, back to the US. Before he left England, he did a trip around the country, mostly on foot. This book is about that trip and also talks about his years in England. A good description of life in England.

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Kate Fox, Watching the English, The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour, Hodder & Stoughton, 2004

Good book about the rules of etiquette in England. She goes into great detail. She also wrote a book about Pubs "Passport to the Pub: The Tourist's Guide to Pub Etiquette. I liked this book, but it got a very bad review in the New Statesman.

Novels Set in England (Modern, 20 - 21st century)

I am by no means a literary expert; these are just some of the novels that I enjoyed and that give me a feel of England.

Martin Amis, The Information, Vintage, 1996

"A pitch-black comedy about literary envy and the declining state of literary culture." (Publisher's Weekly) This is my favorite Martin Amis book. It is set in London and gives some insight into the London lifestyle.

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Ian McEwan, Enduring Love, Anchor, 1998

Another great novel, set in current day London. All of Ian McEwan's novels are great.

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Nick Hornby, High Fidelity, Riverhead Books, 1996

"This funny novel is obsessed with music; Hornby's narrator is an early-thirtysomething English guy who runs a London record store." (Amazon Editorial Review) A good novel set in a more working class and young London the the ones listed above.

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P.D. James, The Murder Room, Vintage, 2004

P.D. James writes the excellent Adam Dalgliesh mystery series. These mysteries are set in London and other locations in England. The Murder Room is the latest one (although a new one is due in November 2005) and is set in London.

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Elizabeth George, With No One As Witness, HarperCollins, 2005

Elizabeth George, an American, writes the Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers Mystery series set in London and other locations in England. They are good mysteries and have good details about life in England.

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Novels Set in England (19th century and earlier)

I am still working on this list.

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Modern Library, 1995 (Hardcover), first published 1813

If you are only going to read one Jane Austen book, read this one and then watch the BBC movie. This is the famous romance story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. The first line of the novel: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

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Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, Everyman's Library (Hardcover), first published 1811

This is a nice hardcover version of this classic. If you are only going to read two Jane Austen books, read this one too. This is the story of two sisters looking for love and marriage.

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Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?, first published 1864 (?)

This is the first novel in Trollope's Palliser Novels series.

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Anthony Trollope, The Warden, first published 1855

This is the first novel in Trollope's Barset Novels series. The Warden was inspired by a visit to Salisbury.

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Thomas Hardy: Thomas Hardy lived in the county of Dorset (southwest, on the coast). If you are visiting that area, read some of his novels.


www.victorianweb.org: The Victorian Web, literature, history and culture in the age of Queen Victoria (1837-1901).

www.trollopesociety.org: The Trollope Society.

Slow Travel UK - Jane Austen: See my page on Jane Austen

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