Devon Life investigates the ideal books for great Summer reading

PUBLISHED: 14:31 13 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:43 20 February 2013

Devon Life investigates the ideal books for great Summer reading

Devon Life investigates the ideal books for great Summer reading

Many of this year's critically acclaimed books have their roots in Devon. Harriet Mellor rounds up some of the best of the summer reads which are connected to the county by author, location or inspiration.

Books for the Beach

Many of this years critically acclaimed books have their roots in Devon. Harriet Mellor rounds up some of the best of the summer reads which are connected to the county by author, location or inspiration.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

by Rachel Joyce (Transworld)

Hailed as one of the best fiction novels of 2012 and also Devon Libraries summer reading choice.

Recently retired, Harold and Maureen Fry have lived in Kingsbridge for 45 years. Existing behind net curtains, married by name alone. When Harold gets a letter from Queenie, a former friend/colleague informing him that she has cancer and is in a hospice in Berwick upon Tweed, it literally sets everything in motion.

With a perfunctory reply in his hand, Harold goes off to the postbox only he doesnt stop there, he carries on walking to Queenie without a mobile, map or mac, in his shirt, tie, trousers and yacht shoes, through Loddiswell, South Brent, Buckfast Abbey, Exeter, Thorverton, Tiverton, Bagley Green and then beyond the county, clocking up 627 miles in total.

Poignant writing and great dialogue dont just bring Harold to life but also Maureen and the eclectic people encountered along the way, proving the journey is as important as the destination.

Harold Fry hangs about in ones mind well past the last page.

Devon connection: Detail of the county, and particularly around Kingsbridge, is because Rachel Joyce knows the area well her husband grew up there.

King of the Badgers

by Philip Hensher (4th Estate)

Henshers picturesque North Devon estuary town of Hanmouth may be fictional but the residents and setting feel mighty familiar. Dwelling in artsy gentrification, there are more incomers than actual born-and-bred locals the relocating middles classes, artists and liberal intellectuals who attend a book club and frequent the specialist cheese shop owned by a nice gay couple.

Socially, the housing estate on the edge of town feels hundreds of miles away, but then an 8-year-old girl goes missing, the national media arrive on the doorstep and the community and vast cast of characters interconnect.

The plot sounds like the beginning of a chintzy Aga-Saga novel until you scratch beneath the Farrow & Ball surface for a brilliant satire with sexual shenanigans that are recommended for more open-minded Devon Life readers!

Devon connection: Apart from being an award-winning author, journalist and critic, Philip Hensher has also been a professor at University of Exeter since 2005 and lives in Topsham.


by Joanna Briscoe (Bloomsbury)

The best-selling author of Sleep With Me goes back to her Dartmoor roots as the setting for a web of inappropriate relationships and their multi-generational consequences.

Its the 1980s and the bohemian Bannan family live an almost commune-like existence in a sprawling longhouse. Bookish Cecilia is 17, and is secretly obsessed with her enigmatic teacher Mr Dahl, whilst her mother Dora is simultaneously infatuated with his manipulative wife, Elisabeth. The result is a fall-out between mother and daughter, and an exit that lasts 20 years until Cecilia, now a married mother herself, returns to Dartmoor and to Dora who has breast cancer and a deluge of emotional debris from the past.

Devon connection: The writer who spent her childhood in Widecombe says: Something about my own nostalgia for Devon, and constant dreams of returning to Dartmoor, inspired the novel. Growing up there definitely influenced my writing, especially the very remote, bleak but beautiful countryside, being cut off there and having to make our own entertainment. I cant imagine a richer childhood setting for a writer.

Torquay Tornado - A Memoir

by Paul King (Zero Lubin)

If you know a bit about the South West boxing scene, youll have heard of the Torquay Tornado Paul King who died aged 79 in April 2010. A one-time contender for the British Welterweight title, he took part in 59 fights as a professional, won 33 of them and had 13 knockouts.

This autobiography was unearthed as a manuscript in a tatty brown envelope by son Gerry. It also reveals there was a lot more to King than throwing punches. A real character, he was a face around the Bay latterly a publican, clubman and, it turns out, such a great gritty writer that Foyles, the worlds most famous bookstore currently have it as a staff pick.

The actual book format makes this one for keeps. Laid out in cool scrapbook style with grainy images, its a social documentary from the heros mouth which paints a lively picture of retro Torquay.

Devon anecdote: Son Gerry said of his colourful father: Dad was a publican, salesman, doorman, a teacher and a bit of a hellraiser. As he used to say in many bars, A little nuisance now and then is relished by the wisest men.

Best for young teen readers

Buried Thunder

by Tim Bowler (Oxford University Press)

When Maya strays into the forest she also walks straight into a nightmare. Its not just the horrific discovery she makes among the trees, its whats waiting for her at home. Something too terrifying to believe in. Shes not even sure she believes it herself. Perhaps shes going mad - only imagining the sounds in the night and the feeling of being stalked.

The above is the blurb for the latest from teen thriller writer Tim Bowler, winner of 15 awards including the prestigious Carnegie Medal. I didnt actually read this book but my 12 year-old daughter Amaya did so youll have to take her more authentic word for it: Oh my God this is the best book Ive ever read. I never got bored! It was so dark and haunting but exciting and unexpected and it all fits together like a puzzle.

Anyway Tim, youve got yourself another young convert and I immediately ordered the kid two more of your books.

Devon connection: The writers dark, psychological tales emerge from an idyllic setting. I live in a quiet Devon village. Its a beautiful county and Ive lived there since 1983. My workroom is an old stone outhouse ten minutes walk from my home. Family and friends call it Tims Bolthole. Its situated in a tranquil part of the village with nothing to hear but birdsong and the occasional snort of horses in some stables.

The Campervan Coast

by Martin Dorey with recipes by Sarah Randall (Saltyard Books)

The BBC were so taken with Martin Doreys first book, The Campervan Cookbook, that they jumped on the VW bandwagon and signed him up to do his own 10-part TV series, One Man and His Campervan. Now Martin and Gordy (the van), sometimes accompanied by wife Joanna, daughters Maggie and Charlie, with Bob the dog, have hit the road again.

Whilst clocking up another 5,000 miles, book II traverses both the seasons and Britains beaches with 95 recipes for two-ring cooking. Parasol Mushrooms and Rock Samphire Omelette is an example of full foraging fayre, but plenty of other dishes like Mackerel with a Vietnamese Dressing, and Nettle Soup with Crispy Bacon require a partial catch of the day or a trip to the shop,

The pages are a testament to the books tagline: cooking, eating, living the life, and is chocca with outdoorsy pictures, informative snippets and witty observations. The appeal is cool families with young kids dipping their toe into a lifestyle rather than veteran campervan aficionados.

Devon connection: Pre-family, Martin bought his first house in North Devon for 35,000 in 1996. Then he was a London dweller who lived for surfing and the sea.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Devon Life