One of the great powers of a book is to transport you to another place. So, in honour of Yorkshire Day, here are some books set in Yorkshire to transport you there from the comfort of your chair.
Told through a series of letters, this is one of the first kick-ass feminist novels. It tells the story of a woman’s fight to escape a marriage of abuse, debauchery and alcoholism, and to start a new life free from scandal. When her new life is disrupted by the gossip-mill, one man refuses to believe the rumours are true, only to discover the truth of her past detailed in the pages of her secret diary.
Joining her sister in causing controversy in Victorian society, Emily Bronte made sure to shock, challenging ideas of religion, morality, the class system, and gender inequality. This is an epic and stormy romance, where one man, cheated of the love of his life, makes a life-long career of getting revenge while being haunted by the one desire he cannot have.
From the third of the Bronte sisters, this novel is set against the Luddite uprisings in the Yorkshire textiles industry. Two men and two women are thrown together into this melting pot and a combination of love triangles ensue. In the end, they must all learn to put love ahead of their pride in order to find happiness.
Moving onto more modern works, here is a novel that became a 1980s TV mini-series. It is the first in a seven-book series about a family retail empire over three generations. Jumping between timelines, the story shows Emma battling against her sons to keep her life’s work intact, whilst telling the story of her fight from single mother to business mogul.
The first of the Inspector Banks series, this novel introduces Banks, a policeman who moved to the Yorkshire Dales to escape the stress of London life. Poor guy. Yorkshire is no less stressful: there’s a peeping-Tom on the loose, an old lady might have been murdered, and there are glue-sniffing thugs breaking into houses and robbing people. Throw into the mix an intriguing young psychologist and Bank’s wife, and things get really sticky.
Told over the course of Billy’s school day, we see a kid who has a difficult and dysfunctional home trying to find a way to cope with his life. This is a kid who steals books instead of buying his mum cigarettes, and whose only healthy relationship is with a kestrel. Through the kestrel, Billy is inspired to find the strength to survive his circumstances. And over the course of that one day, everything crumbles.
Incredibly, finding a synopsis for this book was nigh-on impossible. The best that I could find said that this is a coming-of-age novel, set in an isolated rural environment. However, this book could be worth the effort as R.D. Blackmore was apparently one of the most famous English novelists of his generation. He gained literary merit and acclaim for his vivid descriptions and personification of the countryside and was a pioneer in the new Romantic Movement of the 19th Century.
Jumping between present-day France and Yorkshire twenty years ago, the story follows Jay Mackintosh, a writer suffering from intense writer’s block. After writing an award winning novel ten years ago, all of his good ideas have dried up and he now gets by writing cheap sci-fi under a pen name. Rehashing his childhood, thinking about the old man who befriended him and mysteriously disappeared, he starts drinking some home-brewed wine. The wine has a strange effect but gets Jay writing again, and this time it’s good – good enough to relaunch his career. But his outlook has changed, and his sense of what he needs to be fulfilled is shifting. And then his ex-girlfriend turns up, threatening his new found happiness.
Set in a fictional mining village in Yorkshire during World War Two, this story follows Colin as he grows up, surviving the path through grammar school and college. Despite all of his educational success, he finds himself back in the dead-end village he started in, not sure of what to do with his life. Saville was awarded the Booker Prize in 1976.
William Fisher is a 19-year-old boy living in a fictional town in Yorkshire. Working as an undertaker, he’s bored and fantasises about being a comedy writer in London. But when he starts to make his dreams a reality, will he have the bottle to go through with it?
A coming-of-age story set in the mid-1980s over a hot summer. Mona is 15, and already carving herself out a misspent childhood; she steals, she drinks, she gambles. Home life isn’t going well either. Enter posh-girl Tamsin, whose beauty and sassiness promise to send this precarious situation spiralling quickly downwards.
A precocious orphan, born to wealth and disinterested parents in India, Mary is the sole survivor from her household of a cholera epidemic. She is sent to live with her only living relative, a reclusive uncle, in an old, creepy manor house in the middle of the Yorkshire countryside. Killing time in the gardens of the house, Mary discovers a key, buried in the earth. As she begins to get used to her new life, even if she doesn’t entirely like it, she stumbles upon a bed-ridden boy, Colin, so sickly that he is hidden from everyone. Along with a boy from the village, Dickon, Mary and Colin work to uncover the lock the key belongs to. But when they are finally successful, they discover a darker secret about Mary’s uncle too.
What other great stories are set in Yorkshire? How many of these books have you read? Let me know in the comments below.