A lot of us have spent the last few days staring at our bookshelves wondering whether finally the time has come to read that copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses that we first bought at university and which 20 years on has remained unopened.
Well, maybe, just maybe we will be left with no option but to try to decipher what on earth those 730 pages, which have chapters called Telemachus and Proteus, are all about, but for now take a look at these recommendations by some of Yorkshire’s most talented writers.
One of my perennial comfort authors is Georgette Heyer, whose delightful Regency romances have long gone unnoticed. Those people don’t know what they’re missing: Heyer’s books are as incisively witty and quietly subversive as any of Jane Austen’s; her plots are clever and well-constructed; her period detail and dialogue nicely authentic and her heroines always colourful and engaging.
One of my favourites is Cotillion, a clever subversion of a romantic trope, with a typically ingenious Heyer-style heroine, a marvellously Wodehouse-ish hero. To be read in the bath, with scented candles burning…
Barnsley-based Joanne Harris is the author of the Chocolat and Rune series. Her latest book Honeycomb will now be published next year.
A Month In The Country by JL Carr. Though this short, wistful and concise novel is, at its heart, rather melancholic and set in the aftermath of tragedy – in this instance the First World War – there is something about the gentle tone and slow unravelling of the plot that I keep returning to.
Perhaps it is the summer climate and beautiful North Yorkshire setting, or the fact that it is a perfectly formed piece of writing that revolves around the restoration of a church mural. Either way, in trying times it is a go-to read.
Benjamin Myers is author of The Offing, which has just been released in paperback. He lives with his partner Adelle Stripe in Calderdale.
Persuasion by Jane Austen is a book I never tire of reading. And it’s all set in a gentler world with no mention of wars or bugs.
Anne Elliot was ‘persuaded’ not to marry a young sea-faring gentleman and is now sitting on a spinster’s shelf. Skip forward years and he re-enters her life as the dashing Captain Wentworth. He’s still annoyed at her rejection but these are two people who are meant to be together. I love it because you can see Anne blooming like a flower through the story.
It’s gorgeous, romantic, richly plotted and your heart will sigh at the ending.
Barnsley-born, Milly Johnson’s latest novel My One True North is out now.
If a few laughs and a puzzle is your recipe for escaping the blues for a while, try Edmund Crispin’s Gervase Fen series of comic crime novels.
Start with The Moving Toyshop (1946), a caper in which a drunken poet finds a body in a toyshop one evening, and when he returns the next day, not only has the body disappeared, but the toyshop is now a grocer’s, and no-one seems surprised! Edmund Crispin is the pseudonym of Bruce Montgomery, a composer who wrote the scores for many of the early Carry On films, and his books have been described as Agatha Christie meets PG Wodehouse.
Leeds-born Peter Robinson is the creator of the Inspector Banks crime series.
If I want a book to escape this world and return renewed, my first choice is always Chocolat by Joanne Harris. It’s suffused with magic, that sprinkling of something special that remains long after I’ve turned the final page. Taking place in a time that’s then, almost now, almost anytime, a woman and her young child arriving in a French village, meeting some suspicion, some friendship, and finally a sense of love and acceptance. But she has the alchemy of creating the loveliest chocolates, and Harris’ writing is so rich you can savour each one. And now I might have to read it again…
Leeds crime writer Chris Nickson’s new novel The Molten City is due out in spring.
The soft, green-swathe of new grass dales; clear, gurgling waters. Stone walls, curlews, bleats and bracken. For many Yorkshire folk, the hardest thing about being inside over the coming weeks will be missing spring as it washes over our county, brightening and colouring its winter-beaten corners. For a beautiful evocation of this restorative draft of a season, look no further than Tim Dee’s new book Greenery – a poetic and profound meditation on the natural (and human) world encountered as he follows spring around the globe. It’ll lift your heart and take you places while reminding you that the most important things are close at hand.
Rob Cowan is the Harrogate-based author of Common Ground.
I’m a huge fan of Tony Parker, the North’s foremost oral historian and expert interviewer who published over 18 discrete works from 1962-1996. Known as “the Great Listener”, he created intimate portraits of his subjects using pseudonyms and invented locations – from unmarried mothers to convicted prisoners and striking miners – but it is Lighthouse, his book of interviews with lighthouse keepers and their families that brings the most joy. This is a revelatory portrait of a small community, living on the margins, that gives an exceptional insight into human nature and the British character.
Adelle Stripe is the author of Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile, a fictionalised account of the life of Bradford writer Andrea Dunbar.
I think when times are uncertain, we all have a desire to regress to childhood and lose ourselves in the feeling of comfort we derived from reading some of the classics of children’s literature. My comfort read from childhood will always be The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge. It’s a story with a kind of dreamy timelessness about it that transports the reader from the present day into a past that never was, with princesses and mysterious houses and unicorns. Just seeing the cover makes me smile! And, of course, there’s a wonderful happy ending.
Jane Lovering is a Yorkshire author, specialising in romantic fiction, including Please Don’t Stop the Music.
Where to get books in age of isolation
All the books above are available on Kindle, but if you can, support Yorkshire’s independent bookshops by ordering online. Here are the websites of a number of shops which are either still open or which are continuing to trade online.
Harrogate: Imagined Things Bookshop, 01423 391301, imaginedthings.co.ukIlkley: Grove Bookshop, 01943 609335, grovebookshop.comLeeds: The Little Bookshop – which specialises in children’s books – 0113 212 3465, thelittlebookshopleeds.co.ukRipon: The Little Ripon Bookshop, 01765 606689, littleriponbookshop.co.ukSaltburn: Book Corner, 01287 348010, bookcornershop.co.ukThirsk: White Rose Books, 01845 524353, whiterosebooks.co.ukEditor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.
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