Jenny Haddon’s Top Three Books Set in Cornwall
To celebrate the paperback release of A Cornish Stranger on the 23rd of April and Under A Cornish Sky of the 7th of May I’ve asked several of my favourite authors to share their top three Cornish reads.
Here’s what Jenny had to say…
I have to admit that I’m a bit scared of Cornwall – it seems so involved with the sea, for one thing, a place of danger to a soft inland creature like myself. And then there is the natural magic and the mists of Merlin; where history weaves in and out of myth; where nothing is ever quite what it seems and quite a lot of it will eat your soul.
I’d also better come clean and admit to a positive recoil from Daphne du Maurier, an author whose ability to call up nastiness off the page is, well, magical. There’s never any comfort in her books. They take you somewhere ba-a-a-ad and leave you there, small and shivering.
So my top three Cornish books are all more than a bit unsettling but with a bonus of some human comfort in there too.
OVER SEA, UNDER STONE by the wondrous Susan Cooper – the very first story of what became THE DARK IS RISING, to which she returned ten years later. It’s all there: brave, careful, enquiring children, unreliable grown ups, moral choice, the power locked into myth and history – and the forces of the Dark. The point where two apparently friendly grown ups reveal themselves to be something entirely different is almost unbearable. But the Dark doesn’t win. Really exciting stuff. So glad that she went back and went even deeper.
THE CAMOMILE LAWN by Mary Wesley – this is a family story, bearing comparison Rosamund Pilcher’s novels set at Nancherrow and Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles. Set in Cornwall and London, from the outbreak of war, it charts lives ended, ruined and saved, to a final, healing reunion 40 years later. The two faces of Cornwall are there – the endlessly sea and welcoming, scented camomile lawn and the frightening cliff path, where bad things happen and, even more, the family challenge the elements. It is also very sexy, very funny, and one of the clearest-eyed stories of the Second World War I’ve ever read.
JACKDAW by K J Charles – fantasy, alternative history and, according to the author, ‘a kind of love letter to Looe’ this new book jumped straight into my top three for sheer story telling verve and power of writing. The dark stuff here is magic again, misused and powerful, exacting a toll of its users. The gay lovers are profoundly moving – including the one I really didn’t like at all for a good third of the book. And the human comfort comes straight out of people behaving well – eventually. This is not just the lovers, but their pursuers and, wonderfully, a whole damn village. Even sexier than Mary Wesley, though, so approach with care.
My latest novel is TO MARRY A PRINCE by Sophie Page – no magic but alternative history. Princess Charlotte and her baby survived, the Kensington Museum is the Leopold and Charlotte and the twenty-first century heir to the throne meets an ordinary girl in a lantern-lit garden . . .
Please come back tomorrow to read Essie Fox’s selection….