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chesilbeach

The English Counties Challenge

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I'm not sure if anything has been put forward for Somerset, so I'm going to suggest Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by R D Blackmore.  It does encroach slightly into Devon, but is mostly set in Exmoor.

 

Lorna Doone is the one that jumped to mind for me, not least because my parents used to live on the edge of Exmoor - it's certainly classic Somerset. BTW, I'm not suggesting it, it's not famous enough I would think, but a superb children's book that jumps to mind, in the same vein as Arthur Ransome, also set on Exmoor is the Far Distant Oxus. Very evocative too!

 

I've got a long list of other suggestions for various counties, but I'm waiting for Claire to ask for nominations for specific counties - unless you want us to plunge in!!

 

Without running ahead too far though .. I'd like to plead the case for having Dickens for London? (as in city of) .. surely he is the author most synonymous with London? Which Dickens though that's the thing :confused: (probable candidates A Christmas Carol, Bleak House, Little Dorrit and Oliver Twist).

 

I agree about Dickens being so synonymous with London, but we need to bear in mind that most of his books,aren't actually set in the City of London, apart from the odd scene.  Christmas Carol is probably the most City based, with Scrooge's counting house being just off Cornhill.  However, Bleak House, Little Dorrit and Oliver Twist are all mostly outside the City - they are very much of County of London. So the decision may not be as difficult as it first appears.

 

Edited by willoyd

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The Far Distant Oxus sounds really good.  :) I have to say I haven't heard of it before.  :blush:  It is quite pricey on Amazon though and it doesn't seem to be available on the Libraries West catalogue. 

 

Edit:  A Christmas Carol is one I'll definitely reread as I do every December - but as it's not one you're keen on, Willoyd, it's a shame that's the only option for Dickens in that case.  :)

Edited by Janet

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Just reading through the thread , i think it's a great idea for a reading challenge. I second Willoyd's choice of Melvyn Bragg I just finished reading The Hired Man last month & it's one of my best reads of the year so i'd definitely be up for reading more of his books. I'd also like to voice my support for Lorna Doone  :smile:

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A Christmas Carol is one I'll definitely reread as I do every December - but as it's not one you're keen on, Willoyd, it's a shame that's the only option for Dickens in that case.  :)

 

I'm not unkeen on any Dickens. I just think that of the Dickens canon that I've read, Christmas Carol is quite safely one of the weakest. But what one thinks of the novel is neither here nor there - it's what famously represents the county that matters, and for me, whilst Christmas Carol is in so many ways classic Dickens, it's not really classic London, unlike some of his other novels.

 

So, I do sort of wonder: maybe London (covered by two 'counties' if the City is actually a county) could be done slightly differently. Dickens is so synonymous with London, maybe we could have one Dickens and one 'best of the rest' to represent the two counties. Dickens so ranges over London, that even if his books aren't specifically of the City, they certainly cover it, along with London outside the walls. And then we really could have that discussion - which Dickens?! Could be serious.....!!  I also have a favourite for that best of the rest!

Edited by willoyd

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If we're doing Hardy for Dorset, could I please nominate Far from the Madding Crowd please?  :)

 

ETA:  What's your favourite for best of the rest then, Willoyd?   I've only read two Dickens so far - the other being Oliver Twist.

Edited by Janet

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If we're doing Hardy for Dorset, could I please nominate Far from the Madding Crowd please?  :)

 

That's the one I've got down to nominate too, so will second!

 

ETA:  What's your favourite for best of the rest then, Willoyd?   I've only read two Dickens so far - the other being Oliver Twist.

 

Mrs Dalloway, but, and it's a big but, there is some brilliant London literature, any one of which could do the job well.  I just don't think they are as famous.  My favourites of these are:

 

London Belongs To Me - Norman Collins

King Solomon's Carpet - Barbara Vine

Mother London - Michael Moorcock

Hawksmoor - Peter Ackroyd

Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem - Peter Ackroyd

The Crimson Petal and the White - Michel Faber

Edited by willoyd

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I have Mrs Dalloway lurking somewhere to read.  :)  

 

I really like the sound of King Solomon's Carpet - I've been keeping an eye out for it since it was first mentioned on here.  No pun intended on what I've just said, but I found loads of Barbara Vine books in the Book Barn yesterday - but they were nearly all A Dark Adapted Eye!  I seem to remember it being on TV some years ago so I suppose that's why there were so many copies.  :)

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To keep things rumbling along:

 

Can I make some offerings for Yorkshire outwith the West to give something to look at!.

How about:

 

East Riding:  South Riding by Winifred Holtby

South Yorkshire: Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines

North Yorkshire:  A Month in the Country by JL Carr ?

Edited by willoyd

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Can i make a suggestion for Staffordshire  Anna Of The Five Towns  Arnold Bennett. Bennett was born in Staffordshire & a lot of his books are set there so i think he ticks the right boxes  :smile:

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Can i make a suggestion for Staffordshire  Anna Of The Five Towns  Arnold Bennett. Bennett was born in Staffordshire & a lot of his books are set there so i think he ticks the right boxes  :smile:

 

Either that or his even better known The Old Wives' Tale (which, incidentally, was the inspiration behind the recently published and well reviewed Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera).

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I thought of the The Old Wives Tale as it's on my Christmas wishlist but as it does end in Paris i thought Anna Of The Five Towns would be a more fitting choice. I did hear Sanghera talking about his book on the radio & thought it would be interesting to read both books . I hadn't actually heard of Arnold Bennett till Deborah Moggach mentioned him when she was interviewed at the Hay Festival & i got AOFTFT for my birthday, it was such a good read that i'd be quite happy to read any of his books if he's picked for the challenge  :smile:

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I thought of the The Old Wives Tale as it's on my Christmas wishlist but as it does end in Paris i thought Anna Of The Five Towns would be a more fitting choice.

 

Could be - I've not read either, although, like you, I'm more than happy reading either, and would be equally so with either as choice.   I had OWT listed primarily because it is probably his most famous, but it may not be as place specific, and that could be a good reason to choose AOTFT (which is still IMO famous!). It would be good to hear from somebody who has read either or both.  We certainly agree on the author!

Edited by willoyd

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Sorry I've only had phone access yesterday, so couldn't keep up with the thread.

Please can I ask again, not to just nominate books for random counties, as it's going to get a bit confusing (in fact, it already is! :D). I will try and remember to go back through the thread when those counties come up, but I might miss them, so for now, can we stick to just a few counties at a time, and not move on until we've got a consensus. Sorry to be bossy :blush:

But, since I am being (a bit) bossy, please remember we're supposed to be finding the most famous book for each county and not our favourite books or books we want to read. If you want to do your own challenge and decide on your own books for each county, or even just to pick and choose the ones from this list and mix in your own, you're more than welcome to just use this as a resource, but I think for this list, we should try and stick to our original aim which was the most famous books from each county.

I'm not trying to put you off nominating, discussing and generally just joining in, but it is quite a challenge in itself to try and fill the gaps for all 48 counties, so I would like to just set some boundaries (no pun intended ... well, maybe a little bit ;))

Ok now for the nice bit … back to the book discussion! Next post will be about the counties still under discussion at the moment. :smile2:

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From all the discussions I can see, can we stick to these two counties next, then I'll move onto the next batch of suggestions once we have a consensus.  I know there was already some voting/seconding, but it's getting a bit lost in other comments, so can you just confirm which you think is the most famous for each of these two:
 
 
Surrey: So far we have:
 
The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
A Room With a View by E. M. Forster
Emma by Jane Austen
 
I've never read The War of the Worlds so I don't know how strong the association with Surrey would be, but I'd be happy with either of the other two as knowing they are (mostly, the case of A Room With A View) set there, and I think are famous for that country.
 
I don't think there's an agreement on any one of these in particular, so please can you say which one you think fits the criteria of the most famous in Surrey.  Thanks :smile2:
 
Somerset
Janet has suggested Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore, and possibly Persuasion and Northanger Abbey which are partially set there.  The other book I thought of was the The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding which Kay also mentioned.  Willoyd has also mentioned Far Distant Oxus by Arthur Ransome, but I'm from this area and have lived here all my life, and I've never heard of it, so I wonder if it's famous enough. [Edit: Sorry, I just re-read the post and you said you weren't recommending it! :doh:]  
 
Lorna Doone was the one that sprung to mind for me, and seems to strike the right note with everyone else that I can see so far - everyone happy with that as our final choice?

Edited by chesilbeach

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Surrey: Ooh .. a real difficult one .. I can see a case for each of those three books :blush2: .. not very helpful I know. I have only read Emma but know the other two from films etc. My gut feeling is that The War of the Worlds springs immediately to (my) mind for Surrey because of the Horsell Common connection but am .. rather unhelpfully .. happy for it to be any three of them (my initial vote though goes to TWOTW)

 

Somerset: Lorna Doone .. perfect :)

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Somerset: Lorna Doone is perfect.

 

Surrey:  I know that The War of the Worlds is set largely in Surrey, and there are plenty of place names, but as somebody brought up in Surrey (and who has competed in cross-country and orienteering on Horsell Common!), it's just a bunch of names - it evokes nothing of the county for me.

 

I'd support either of the other two: my first choice would probably be Emma (Box Hill and all that!), mainly because it is all set in Surrey, but the second half of A Room with a View is strong on place as well, so would be happy to go with that - plus the facts that we've already got a Jane Austen book on the list, and that for me the most realistic alternative to P&P would have been Howard's End (which is why I went for Emma for Surrey and Howard's End for Hertfordshire on my original list!).

 

Sorry about nominating the other Yorkshire counties out of turn - just trying to keep things rolling, and am happy to wait - what you say makes complete sense Claire..  I did try to nominate what I thought were the most famous - but will wait and see what others come up with when we get round it them!

 

As you gathered Claire, I wasn't recommending Far Distant Oxus - I was just mentioning it as a suggestion for further reading, especially for the S&A fans!

Edited by willoyd

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Ok, well Lorna Doone definitely for Somerset, so it's still a toss up with Surrey.  
 
Typically, since you've both chosen the other two, I would prefer to go for A Room With A View as I just loved the book although I haven't read it for a long time, but it is only the second half that really chimes with Surrey.  I don't have a problem with more than one Jane Austen in the list, and although Emma is not one of my favourites (by a long chalk), I can see it's association with the county, and wouldn't mind it being chosen either!  Can anyone else add to the discussion on Surrey?
 
While we're waiting for more thoughts on Surrey, we'll pick up on some of the other counties which have had some discussion, and I thought we might as well weigh in with City of London and Greater London.  These are the nominations which I think are famously associated with those areas from those suggested:
 
 
City of London:
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem by Peter Ackroyd
The Crimson Petal and the White Michel Faber
 
Greater London:
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

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It seems a little unfair that we're not allowed to nominate books if we're all going to be reading the same one - what may be 'most famous' to you might not be 'most famous' to other people.  If we're not allowed to make suggestions then perhaps you'd better just tell us which book you want us to read for each county.

 

ETA:  I loathed A Room with a View - I'd much prefer to reread War of the Worlds or Emma.

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[These are the nominations which I think are famously associated with those areas from those suggested:

City of London:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd

Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem by Peter Ackroyd

The Crimson Petal and the White Michel Faber

 

Greater London:

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens[/font][/color]

 

If we are going to stick with the geography, then you need to move Mrs Dalloway, both Ackroyds, and the Faber in under Greater London - they have little if anything to do with the City. Indeed, the only connection I can ascertain between any of these and the City, is that one of the five real churches featured in Hawksmoor is in the City - the others are all outside.

 

So far, the only suggestion discussed that has a strong connection with the City is Christmas Carol, which is partly why I suggested the other approach.  However, I recognise that this may be too much of a variation for others to go for it. Another alternative could be North and South of the river???? Or central London and outer London (but how do you define central), or the Cities (i.e. Westminster and London) and the Rest?

 

My main problem with Christmas Carol is that for me it isn't a book - it is a short story which on my shelves is just one part of a volume of Dickens's Christmas Stories.

Edited by willoyd

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It seems a little unfair that we're not allowed to nominate books if we're all going to be reading the same one - what may be 'most famous' to you might not be 'most famous' to other people.  If we're not allowed to make suggestions then perhaps you'd better just tell us which book you want us to read for each county.

 

But we are allowed to nominate books - all those listed by Claire are ones suggested by others. If you've got some alternative suggestions, please put them forward - they might well ease the decisions currently up for discussion!  All Claire has limited is which county is being discussed at any one time, just to keep things under control - but not the books.

Edited by willoyd

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Sorry - I must have missed the post where it said which counties we're currently nominating for.  It's rather a long thread so maybe I missed something - clearly I misunderstood Claire's post.  

 

I had edited my post to give my thoughts on Surrey, but obviously not before you saw my edit.

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Sorry - I must have missed the post where it said which counties we're currently nominating for.  It's rather a long thread so maybe I missed something - clearly I misunderstood Claire's post.  

 

I had edited my post to give my thoughts on Surrey, but obviously not before you saw my edit.

 

So far, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Cornwall, Cumbria  and West Yorkshire have been resolved, and the books are listed at the top of the thread. In Post #64 Claire summarised that we had then moved on to Surrey and Somerset, but it looks as if Somerset is now sorted.(Lorna Doone - your nomination).  Post #67, she asks for more input on Surrey, and goes back to earlier 'rogue' discussion on London to glean the nominations put forward there for the two counties covered (mostly a selection from what Kay and I suggested).  For Surrey, Kay suggested War of the Worlds and A Room with a View, whilst I chucked in Emma!   I suspect that when we get on to other counties that have been raised here previously (like Staffordshire), Claire will do the same again, and pull in the nominations made then.  Complicated, but hope that helps.

 

Yes, it was before I saw your edit!

Edited by willoyd

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would prefer to go for A Room With A View as I just loved the book......?

I loathed A Room with a View - I'd much prefer to reread War of the Worlds or Emma.

 

Just picking up on these comments - as Kay has reminded us, it's about the book that is most famously associated with the county rather than what we like and dislike. But then this is an easy one for me to say that on, as I've read and enjoyed all three!

Edited by willoyd

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Just picking up on these comments - as Kay has reminded us, it's about the book that is most famously associated with the county rather than what we like and dislike. But then this is an easy one for me to say that on, as I've read and enjoyed all three!

But surely it's all subjective?    I didn't know ARWAV was set in Surrey, despite having read it!   However I know that WoTW is.   Maybe we should set up polls when there is more than one suggestion?  :)

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