Literary Wiltshire - what books have been been inspired by the county?

The White Horse Bookshop, Marlborough recommends books influenced by the county...

Richard Jefferies – A Miscellany

Richard Jefferies was a true son of Wiltshire and a writer who captured the essence of the countryside in novels, essays and studies of natural history. His combination of knowledgeable observation and a semi-mystical connection to the landscape make him the nature-writer’s nature writer. This collection is the ideal introduction, with extracts from his novels, short stories and journalism.

Thomas Hardy – Far From The Madding Crowd

Hardy’s usual themes of love, betrayal and the harsh realities underlying the picturesque Wessex landscape are all given free rein in Far From the Madding Crowd. The descriptions of town and country are clear depictions of Wiltshire and Dorset in the mid 1800s, and of course the 1967 film with Julie Christie and Terence Stamp was largely shot in and around Devizes.

William Golding – The Pyramid

This, the lightest, most droll of Golding’s novels is set in the fictional town of Stilbourne (a rather viciously named, thinly-veiled portrait of Marlborough, where Golding grew up). It is a deeply personal, mischievous and perceptive dissection of growing up in a small country town.

Nicola Ford – The Hidden Bones

Nicola Ford (a pseudonym) is National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. The Hidden Bones makes the most of Ford’s expertise, creating an evocative murder mystery wrapped in the menace and foreboding inherent in the beautiful but mysterious Wiltshire landscape.

Lara Flecker – Midnight at Moonstone

Creative and artistic Kit runs away and goes to stay with her grandfather at the run-down Moonstone Costume Museum. Once there she discovers that the models in their fabulous costumes magically come to life at night – can they help Kit save the museum and bring her family together? An adventure story for 8-12 year olds by Lara Flecker who grew up in Marlborough.

The Corsham Bookshop recommends books influenced by the county...

James Meek – To Calais in Ordinary Time

This almost prophetically relevant novel is set in England, 1348. Three characters leave Malmesbury for Calais. A noblewoman flees an arranged marriage; a cleric returns to Avignon; a ploughman sets off to war. From across the Channel comes the Black Death. Absorbing, funny, inventive historical fiction - with the added pleasure of recognising the Wiltshire settings.

Frances Kilvert – Kilvert’s Diary Clergyman

Francis Kilvert worked in the Welsh borders but was born in Chippenham when his father was vicar of Hardenhuish. He returned often to visit his parents in Kington Langley. He describes the people and landscape with great affection and it’s fun comparing then and now. On New Year’s Eve 1871 he recounts hearing the bells of Chippenham from Kington Langley Vicarage: traffic would surely drown them out today.

Julia Donaldson & Anna Currey – The Teeny Weeny Genie

Julia (Gruffalo) Donaldson has a surprisingly strong Corsham connection: her most regular illustrator Alex Scheffler studied at Bath Academy of Art at Corsham and her new book is illustrated by the very talented Anna Currey, longtime Corsham resident. It’s a magical adventure filled with favourite farmyard animals. The pictures are, of course, charming!

Nell Gifford & Ols Halas – Giffords Circus Cookbook

Some of you may have had the good fortune to see the wonderful Giffords Circus - a summer highlight for many families in the area. Despite the death of its founder, Nell Gifford, the Circus was all set to go this summer - but it was not to be. The book captures the flavours of Gifford’s kitchen and the excitement and atmosphere of the West’s best loved circus.

Oliver Soden – Michael Tippett

A fascinating account of a life spanning most of the twentieth century some 30 years of which was spent in Corsham and Derry Hill, Wiltshire. Tippett experienced political and social upheavals as a gay man, was a sometime communist and lifelong pacifist. Oliver Soden champions Tippett convincingly as a remarkable musical innovator, while also providing a vivid portrait of him and his contemporaries.

This article first appeared in the September 2020 issue of Wiltshire Life.