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From Wuthering Heights to The Secret Garden: Literature inspired by Yorkshire in the north of England

I’m part of an excellent Book Club on Facebook, whose members organise actual meetings – not just in the virtual world, but in real life! This weekend many of the members will be meeting in Leeds, in my home county of Yorkshire, to talk about books. It sounds a brilliant day out, but sadly, I can’t make the meeting :( as I’ll be at the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference in London. But especially for the members – who suggested lots of the books mentioned below – I’m reposting this article on Yorkshire literature, which I originally wrote for James Crofoot’s blog.

(By the way, if you’d like to join THE Book Club, please send Arthur Bookman a friend request and he’ll be happy to add you)

I hope you enjoy this fabulous collection of Yorkshire books – and if you can think of any others to add to the list, please let me know!

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From Wuthering Heights to the Secret Garden – Literature inspired by Yorkshire in the north of England

 

Yorkshire literature, Helena Fairfax
Heather on the Yorkshire moors

The Lonely Planet recently voted the county of Yorkshire in the north of England one of the top ten travel destinations in the world.

To the inhabitants of Yorkshire, this came as no surprise at all. We’ve always called Yorkshire “God’s Own County,” and the people at The Lonely Planet have just reinforced our pride in our part of the world!

The landscape of Yorkshire has been the inspiration for many writers. The Brontë sisters are perhaps the most famous of all authors to come from this region. The family lived in the parsonage in the village of Haworth, and the moorland above the Brontë Parsonage is said to be the setting for Wuthering Heights.

I count myself really lucky to live close to the Yorkshire moors, and I walk the moors every day with my dog. In the summer, when the heather blooms purple and the sun shines, it’s not hard to find the landscape idyllic. But the weather can change in an instant. I’ve seen the sun disappear behind a cloud to be followed swiftly by hailstones. But even when the moors are at their bleakest, I feel as Emily Brontë did when her sister wrote of her, “My sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers brighter than the rose bloomed from the blackest heath for her. Out of a sudden hollow in the hillside, her mind could make an Eden. She found in the bleak solitude many and dear delights, and best loved was liberty.”

There’s a fabulous description in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden of Mary Lennox’s journey through the moors to Mistlethwaite Hall:

A wind was rising and making a singular, wild, low, rushing sound.

“It’s–it’s not the sea, is it?” said Mary, looking round at her companion.

“No, not it,” answered Mrs. Medlock. “Nor it isn’t fields nor mountains, it’s just miles and miles and miles of wild land that nothing

Yorkshire literature, helena fairfax
The moors looking bleak on a misty day

grows on but heather and gorse and broom, and nothing lives on but wild ponies and sheep.”

“I feel as if it might be the sea, if there were water on it,” said Mary. “It sounds like the sea just now.”

“That’s the wind blowing through the bushes,” Mrs. Medlock said. “It’s a wild, dreary enough place to my mind, though there’s plenty that likes it–particularly when the heather’s in bloom.”

On and on they drove through the darkness, and though the rain stopped, the wind rushed by and whistled and made strange sounds. The road went up and down, and several times the carriage passed over a little bridge beneath which water rushed very fast with a great deal of noise. Mary felt as if the drive would never come to an end and that the wide, bleak moor was a wide expanse of black ocean through which she was passing on a strip of dry land.’

I love this description of the bleakness of the moors. They can appear wild to people newly arrived from a city.

But the county of Yorkshire contains a lot more than just the moorland where I live. It contains some of the most varied landscapes of any county in the UK, and ranges from the mining district in the south, to the rural Dales in the north, the Roman city of York and the beautiful coastline to the east.

Here is a list of locations in my county, alongside some of the literature they’ve inspired:

yorkshire literature, dracula, helena fairfax

 

  • The seaside town of Whitby: home to Bram Stoker, and the setting for some of the scenes in Dracula
  • A Woman of Substance, written by Yorkshire-born Barbara Taylor Bradford, partly set in the city of Leeds and the surrounding rural area, and shortly to be released as a film
  • The Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, setting for many of Ted Hughes’ poems, and also of his wife Sylvia Plath’s
  • Conisbrough Castle in south Yorkshire, built just after the Norman Conquest in 1066, features in Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe
  • The city of York: setting for Pamela Hartshorne’s gripping historical novel The Memory of Midnight, and also for a series of
    yorkshire literature, helena fairfax
    York Minster – image courtesy of Pixabay

    novels by Reginald Hill featuring detectives Dalziel and Pascoe, now made into an immensely popular BBC series. Leigh Russell’s best-selling crime novel Race to Death is also set in York

  • James Herriot’s vet novels, including All Creatures Great and Small, are set in rural north Yorkshire and were made into a massively popular TV series
  • Dotheboys Hall, the infamous boarding school in Nicholas Nickleby, is set on the Yorkshire moors
  • The Damned United, by David Peace, is an excellent novel about Leeds football club, later made into a film
  • The mining areas to the south and west are the settings for Barry Hines’ A Kestrel for a Knave (made into the film Kes); Stan Barstow’s A Kind of Loving, and David Storey’s This Sporting Life, both made into films

This is just a small selection of novels with a Yorkshire setting.

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a way from heart to heart, helena fairfaxMy own release, A Way from Heart to Heart, is set partly in London, and partly in the heart of my beloved Yorkshire moors. Kate, the heroine of my novel, takes a group of disadvantaged London teenagers on a trip to the moors, in the company of an upper-class journalist. In the middle of the countryside, in this wild, romantic setting, surrounded by sheep and moorland, how will they all get on?

A Way from Heart to Heart was released by Accent Press on 18th November.

Here is the blurb:

After the death of her husband in Afghanistan, Kate Hemingway’s world collapses around her. Her free time is spent with a charity for teenage girls, helping them mend their broken lives – which is ironic, since her own life is fractured beyond repair.

Reserved, public school journalist Paul Farrell is everything Kate and her teenage charges aren’t. But when Paul agrees to help Kate with her charity, he makes a stunning revelation that changes everything, and leaves Kate torn.

Can she risk her son’s happiness as well as her own?

* * * *

I hope my post has whetted your appetite to read some of the novels I’ve featured. Are there any of them that you’ve read already? Are there any other novels set in Yorkshire that you think should be on my list?

If you have any questions or comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!

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11 thoughts on “From Wuthering Heights to The Secret Garden: Literature inspired by Yorkshire in the north of England

  1. Your writing reflects how much you love the moors. I’ve read James Herriot’s vet novels and loved them. I wonder if I spent time in the moors I could be a great writer too? LOL..Enjoy your conference.

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    1. Thanks for your great comment, JQ. You don’t have to travel all this way, since you already are a great writer. I’m really looking forward to your next book! Thanks so much for dropping in!

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  2. Enjoyed the post on Yorkshire, Helena. Brings back memories of long ago–and certainly far away now. I hope the conference is a great one. It’s good to be able to meet up with others from the world of words.

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    1. Thanks so much, Mary. I’m glad my post brought back memories for you. I think you’d see a lot of changes if you came back to Yorkshire – some good, some not so good. You’ve moved to a beautiful part of the world. I’d love to visit some day and see it for myself. Thanks for dropping in!

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  3. While I was in England 13 years ago, I stayed in the
    day the tour went to that area. Now I am sorry I missed it. Maybe I need to plan another trip? I really enjoyed the article. Have fun at the conference!

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    1. You should definitely book another trip, Kimberly. I think you’d love it. But
      there’s so much to see and do in England, it’s imossible to get round everything. I only just went to Hadrian’s Wall last year, and I’ve lived here nearly all my life. I hope you do get to come back some day. Thanks for dropping in, and for your great comment.

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