On location

I have lived in Bristol for a few years now and am coming to really love it. Like most things I love, I want to get to know it better. There’s a few ways of doing this, like going for random walks and attending community events, but one that particularly appeals to me is finding some books that are set in Bristol to read.

I mean, when a book’s setting is an important element of the story, when it’s evocative and detailed, it invariably makes me want to go to that place and walk in the footsteps of the characters, visit the same cafés and cinemas. I love that feeling. But what makes an author choose their setting? Any writers among my readers want to comment?

I don’t think, as far as I can remember, that I have ever read a book set in Bristol. There must be a few. It’s a reasonably sizeable city and a particularly creative one. But the majority of books I’ve read that are based in Britain use London for a setting. I know it makes sense in terms of mass appeal. At any given time around 10% of the UK population lives in London, possibly more. If you consider how many of those people spend only a short part of their life there, then the proportion of Brits who have either lived in London or regularly visit friends or family in London has got to be pretty high. It’s certainly the UK city that non-Brits are most likely to have ever visited. And I’d guess the number of authors who have lived there is also pretty high. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if some agents have persuaded authors to change the setting of a novel to London so that it has wider appeal.

But I want to read some books set in my city, so I’m going to compile a list. What should be on it? Please leave some ideas in the comments below. I did find this list (PDF, page 2) but I haven’t heard of any of the books on it. If you have and can recommend or indeed warn me off any of the titles, let me know!

The list so far:
Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar
Dead Innocent by Maureen O’Brien
Gone Without Trace by Caroline Carver
Selfish People by Lucy English
A Respectable Trade by Phillippa Gregory
Future Bristol edited by Colin Harvey
A Penny for Tomorrow by Jeannie Johnson
The Last Llanelli Train by Robert Lewis
Where’s My Money by Mike Manson
Life and How to Live it by Daniel Mayhew
The Sun is my Undoing by Marguerite Steen
Shawnie by Ed Trewavas

11 thoughts on “On location

  1. Ann June 16, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I always like Philippa Gregory (she’s the one who wrote “The other Boleyn girl”) – apparently she’s also written something called A Respectable Trade which is set it Bristol…

  2. gusset June 16, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Stephen Bentar – Wish Her Safe at Home

    There was a series of detective novels set in Totterdown but I can’t remember what they were called or who they were by. I’ll ask me mum.

    Also see Tangent Books fiction series:

  3. Nose in a book June 16, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Ann I read a few Philippa Gregorys back in my teens but in my head I’ve lumped them in with all the other romantic dross I read back then. Maybe I should give her another chance.

    gusset Wish Her Safe at Home sounds interesting. And I’d definitely like to know what that detective series is!

  4. gusset June 23, 2010 at 8:11 am

    OK, so I check with my detective novel obsessed mother and apparently some of Josephine Cox’s books are based in Bristol but unsure which ones.

    Also, some of (ex-Dr Who actress) Maureen O’Brien’s books are based here:

  5. Chris Bertram June 23, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    There are some tie-in Casualty novels, set in “Holby City” – do they count?

  6. Nose in a book June 24, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Chris Bertram Now now, there’s some far better TV than that set in Bristol!

  7. TripFiction October 25, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    You are so right when you say that ‘place’ can be an important part of a book – we are bringing together novels set in locations around the world and here is what we have for Bristol so far http://www.tripfiction.com/Search?Location=Bristol

    Have fun choosing!

  8. june hodge February 25, 2015 at 11:59 am

    The Sun is my Undoing by Marguerit Steen is a fantastic but it may be out of print.

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