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15 of the best books set in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 15:24 08 April 2016 | UPDATED: 15:27 06 September 2016

Books set in Norfolk: Waterland by Graham Swift, Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth and The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom (L-R)

Books set in Norfolk: Waterland by Graham Swift, Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth and The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom (L-R)

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Nelson’s county has been the setting of many fantastic books over the years, from Charles Dickens classics to Stephen Fry novels. Here are 15 of our favourites (in no particular order).

• David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens’ eighth novel, a semi-autobiographical piece, follows the life of David Copperfield from his childhood spent in Great Yarmouth, to maturity. It is a classic tale of an orphan discovering love and life in an unsympathetic adult world.

• The Accidental by Ali Smith

During a family vacation in Norfolk, the Smarts family is visited by an uninvited guest. Amber’s arrival has a profound effect on all four of the family members, which lasts long after their return home to London.

• The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry

Ted Wallace, known unaffectionately as ‘the hippopotamus’, is a shameless womanizer who drinks too much. After being fired from his newspaper job, Ted decides to spend a few months away in Norfolk at a country mansion belonging to one of his old friends investigating mysterious goings-on.

• The Future Homemakers of America by Laurie Graham

It’s 1953 and five American Air Force wives have been stationed at a US airbase in the Norfolk Fens. Initially the women seem to have little in common other than their nationality and the profession of their husbands, who all fly with the 68th bomber wing. But as time passes, it soon becomes clear that all is not as it seems.

• Waterland by Graham Swift

Set in the East Anglian Fens, Waterland spans some 240 years in the lives of its troubled narrator and his ancestors. The novel explores several key themes, including incest, eels, ale-making and madness.

• The Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths

Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist living happily alone in the fictional area of Saltmarsh near Norfolk. In the first novel of the series, The Crossing Places, a child’s bones are discovered on a nearby beach and Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson calls Galloway in to help with the case. Ruth is drawn into completely new territory and quickly finds herself in serious danger.

• The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley

Hartley’s novel follows Leo Colston, a man in his mid-sixties as he clears through his old things and reminisces about a childhood summer spent in Norfolk as a guest at Brandham Hall. While at the luxurious home of his school friend Marcus Maudsley, Leo is enlisted by Marian Maudsley to act as a go-between in her illicit love affair and subsequently, the events that follow hold consequences for all involved.

• Salt by Jeremy Page

In Norfolk, during the summer of 1945, Goose gives birth to a daughter named Lil, but just as she enters the world, her father vanishes. 40 years later, Lil’s son Pip, attempts to make sense of his family’s unusual and fragmented history.

• A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore

Can dreams be passed down through families? As a child, Jude is plagued by nightmares, now her six year old niece Summer is having the same dreams. When Jude is asked to value a collection of scientific instruments belonging to Anthony Wickham, an 18th century astronomer, she leaps at the chance to switch the drama of London for the calm Norfolk countryside. But as Jude learns more about Wickham’s life, she uncovers threatening links with her present and Summer’s nightmares.

• The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom

In 1937 Spanish Civil War veteran Stephen Sefton comes across a mysterious advertisement for a job where ‘intelligence is essential’ and jumps at the opportunity. Thus begins his association with Professor Swanton Morley, who is writing a history of traditional England, with a guide to every county. The pair start their work in Norfolk, but when the vicar of Blakeney is found hanging from his church’s bellrope, they find themselves drawn into something much more sinister.

• Death at Sandringham House: Her Majesty Investigates by C. C. Benison

When Jane Bee, housemaid to Her Majesty the Queen, accompanies the royal family on their annual Christmas holiday to Sandringham, she thinks it will be a boring few weeks, but when the body of a woman turns up in the village hall, a woman bearing a striking resemblance to the Queen, Jane is forced to try her hand at a bit of detective work in order to solve the mystery.

• The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett

The first book in the crime series introduces David Hunter, a doctor who has moved to Norfolk in order to escape from his life in London, his gritty forensic work and a family tragedy that nearly destroyed him. But David’s simple country life is soon turned upside down when a dead body is found in the woods nearby and a twisted killer is on the loose.

• Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth

Twenty years ago, a fifteen-year-old girl named Corrine Woodrow was convicted of murdering one of her classmates. Now new forensic evidence suggests that she didn’t act alone. Set in a parallel version of Great Yarmouth, called Ernemouth, the novel follows private investigator Sean Ward as he attempts to uncover the truth.

• Coot Club by Arthur Ransome

Coot Club is the fifth book in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons children’s book series. The story follows Dick and Dorothea Callum during a visit to the Norfolk Broads over the Easter Holidays where they hope to learn new skills in order to impress their friends back home.

• Devices and Desires by P.D. James


The eighth book in the Adam Dalgliesh series finds Commander Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard in the fictional town of Larksoken on the Norfolk coast, where his aunt has left him a converted windmill. However he is not alone, as a psychopathic mass murderer known as the Norfolk Whistler has also arrived in town.

• What’s your favourite book set in Norfolk? Let us know in the comments below.

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