Aug 09

A Break From Business: Holiday Reading: Jane Cable on fiction from Cornwall, her adopted county

Spread the love

The question I’m asked most frequently since moving to Cornwall is ‘so are you going to write a Cornish book now?’ The answer is that I’m in no hurry to, but in that I seem to be alone and with so much fiction set in the county I thought I’d pick out a few which would make great holiday reading.

Old favourites

I would have to start with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, in many ways the ultimate in romantic fiction with a seriously heavy twist of suspense. The beautiful house by the sea, the spooky aged retainer and the dear departed wife in the background, it has it all – especially as it didn’t resolve in the way I expected.

Also a classic is Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers which is in part set in Cornwall and known to readers of this column as my favourite book. The characters are so superbly drawn they could break – or make – your heart every time. But almost as good and often forgotten is Pilcher’s Coming Home, a saga which starts in Cornwall in the late 1930s and follows the heroine and her adopted family through the Second World War.

Another writer from my youth associated with the county is Mary Wesley. Camomile Lawn is her most famous Cornish novel and always a popular choice but I enjoyed Harnessing Peacocks far more. I like her heroine Hebe’s unconventional take on life – it seems especially suited to a backdrop in Cornwall.

In a totally different vein is Patrick Gale’s Notes From an Exhibition which perfectly captures (for me, anyway) the artist community at St Ives. The book tells the story of a family coming to terms with the dazzling genius of their late mother. At times a harrowing tale of depression, the wonderful language Gale uses lifts us and takes us to a completely different place.

New friends

Cornwall is now famous for chicklit and romcoms, a trend surely started by Judy Astley with her Just for the Summer, a sharp, witty read about Londoners who decamp to their Cornish second homes for the holidays.

Among those new out this summer, which means I haven’t actually read them but they may well appeal, are these:

Confetti at The Cornish Café by Phillipa Ashley – the third book in this hugely successful series sees the café become a celebrity wedding venue. Described as warm, funny and feel good by doyenne of romantic fiction Katie Fforde.

The Returning Tide by Liz Fenwick – the latest from a writer who has a built a career based on Cornish novels, this time with a saga of sisters and a wartime betrayal that spans the generations.

The Cornish Hotel by the Sea by Karen King – a heart-warming novel from my April Business of Books guest. Ellie returns to help her widowed mother keep the family hotel afloat, but will she succeed or will love intervene?

Dying to Take The Tour by Chrissie Loveday – a murder mystery set against the backdrop of a Poldark sightseeing tour. Cosy crime from a writer who I have to admit is a Cornish neighbour and is also published by Endeavour Press.



  • Interesting article, Jane and I expect Cornwall will sneak into your writing one day. It took years before I started to write about Nashville because I didn’t trust myself to mess it up! I’ve read several of your choices and enjoyed them but you missed out Poldark how could you?

  • Karen King

    Thanks so much for mentioning my book, Jane. :) x