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Old and new – 13 brilliant books set in Yorkshire in the north of England

The landscape and people of Yorkshire have inspired writers for hundreds of years. With its rich history and incredible variety, it’s no surprise the county has produced such a wealth of great literature. I’ve written a few articles about books inspired by or set in Yorkshire over the years, but with brilliant new books coming out all the time, I thought it was time for an updated list.

Here is a list of books, old and new, inspired by some of the locations in Yorkshire.

Helena Fairfax. Freelance editor. Author
Whitby Harbour. Image courtesy of Pixabay

The seaside town of Whitby, home to Bram Stoker, is the setting for some of the scenes in Dracula

helena fairfax. Romance editorA Woman of Substance, written by Yorkshire-born Barbara Taylor Bradford, is partly set in the city of Leeds and the surrounding rural area.

In the brooding moors above a humble Yorkshire village stood Fairley Hall. There, Emma Harte, its oppressed but resourceful servant girl, acquired a shrewd determination. There, she honed her skills, discovered the meaning of treachery, learned to survive, to become a woman, and vowed to make her mark on the world.

In the wake of tragedy she rose from poverty to magnificent wealth as the iron-willed force behind a thriving international enterprise. As one of the richest women in the world Emma Harte has almost everything she fought so hard to achieve–save for the dream of love, and for the passion of the one man she could never have. 

helena fairfax, freelance editor
    The Yorkshire moors

helena fairfax, freelanceeditor

Ross Raisin’s God’s Own Country (Out Backward in north America) is set in the Yorkshire moors.

Sam Marsdyke is a lonely young man, dogged by an incident in his past and forced to work his family farm instead of attending school in his Yorkshire village. He methodically fills his life with daily routines and adheres to strict boundaries that keep him at a remove from the townspeople. But one day he spies Josephine, his new neighbor from London. From that moment on, Sam’s carefully constructed protections begin to crumble—and what starts off as a harmless friendship between an isolated loner and a defiant teenage girl takes a most disturbing turn.

Dotheboys Hall, the infamous boarding school in Nicholas Nickleby, is also set on the Yorkshire moors, and of course the classics, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

Helena Fairfax. Freelance editor
       York Minster above the rooftops

The city of York has been the setting for so many great books, it’s hard to choose just one. So here are three…

helena fairfax, freelance editorBehind the Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson, is based on York’s Castle Museum.

Ruby Lennox was conceived grudgingly by Bunty and born while her father, George, was in the Dog and Hare in Doncaster telling a woman in an emerald dress and a D-cup that he wasn’t married. Bunty had never wanted to marry George, but here she was, stuck in a flat above the pet shop in an ancient street beneath York Minster, with sensible and sardonic Patrica aged five, greedy cross-patch Gillian who refused to be ignored, and Ruby…

Sovereign, by C.J. Sansom

Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant helena fairfax, freelance editorsubmission by his rebellious subjects in York.

Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as legal work processing petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a secret mission for Archbishop Cranmer – to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator who is to be returned to London for interrogation.

But the murder of a York glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle but to the royal family itself. And when Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret documents which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead to Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age . . .

The novels by Reginald Hill featuring detectives Dalziel and Pascoe, and made into an excellent BBC series, are all set round York. Bones and Silence is about the York mystery plays.

One woman dead and one threatening to die set Yorkshire’s police superintendent Dalziel and Inspector Pascoe on a chilling hunt for a killer and a potential suicide. A drunken Dalziel witnesses the murder that others insist is a tragic accident. Meanwhile the letters of an anonymous woman say she plans to kill herself in a spectacular way…unless Pascoe can find her first. Dalziel has been picked to play God in a local Mystery Play, but can he live up to his role by solving this puzzling psychological thriller…or unveiling the passions and perversions that lie hidden in the human heart?

 

Yorkshire Dales. Image courtesy of Pixabay

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. The books have sold over 80 million copies!

A more recent book set in the Dales is Mary Jayne Baker’s A Bicycle Made for Two, a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of the 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ in Yorkshire.

In a lost corner of the Yorkshire Dales, Lana Donati runs a medieval theme restaurant, Here Be Flagons, with her brother. When she hatches a plan to boost business by getting the Grand Départ route to pass through their village, the small community must work together to convince the decision-makers they’re Tour material. Not easy when the cast of characters involved includes Lana’s shy, unlucky-in-love brother Tom, man-eating WI chair Yolanda, bickering spouses Gerry and Sue, arrogant TV star Harper Brady, and Lana’s arch-nemesis, former pro cyclist turned bike shop owner Stewart McLean, whose offbeat ideas might just cost them everything.

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The Year of the Runaways, by Sunjeev Sahota, is set in Sheffield, and is on my reading list.

helena farifax, freelance editorThree young men, and one unforgettable woman, come together in a journey from India to England, where they hope to begin something new—to support their families; to build their futures; to show their worth; to escape the past. They have almost no idea what awaits them.
In a dilapidated shared house in Sheffield, Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his life in Bihar. Avtar and Randeep are middle-class boys whose families are slowly sinking into financial ruin, bound together by Avtar’s secret. Randeep, in turn, has a visa wife across town, whose cupboards are full of her husband’s clothes in case the immigration agents surprise her with a visit. 
She is Narinder, and her story is the most surprising of them all. 

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Bradford Town Hall in the sun

The city of Bradford is the setting for Jon McGregor’s award-winning If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

On a street in a town in the North of England, ordinary people are going through the motions of their everyday existence – street cricket, barbecues, painting windows… A young man is in love with a neighbour who does not even know his name. An old couple make their way up to the nearby bus stop. But then a terrible event shatters the quiet of the early summer evening. That this remarkable and horrific event is only poignant to those who saw it, not even meriting a mention on the local news, means that those who witness it will be altered for ever.Jon McGregor’s first novel brilliantly evokes the histories and lives of the people in the street to build up an unforgettable human panorama. Breathtakingly original, humane and moving, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is an astonishing debut.

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Just a very small selection of the best of Yorkshire. There are many more classic and new books I didn’t have room for!

Hebden Bridge – an old mill town in West Yorkshire – is the setting for Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endingsan anthology of stories put together by a group of nine romantic novelists from Yorkshire and Lancashire. I’m delighted to represent Yorkshire as part of the group!

helena fairfax, miss moonshine, hebden bridge, yorkshire and lancashire romance authorsMiss Moonshine’s Wonderful Emporium has stood in the pretty Yorkshire town of Haven Bridge for as long as anyone can remember. With her ever-changing stock, Miss Moonshine has a rare gift for providing exactly what her customers need: a fire opal necklace that provides a glimpse of a different life; a novel whose phantom doodler casts a spell over the reader; a music box whose song links love affairs across the generations. One thing is for certain: after visiting Miss Moonshine’s quirky shop, life is never the same again…

Out now on release

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Which of the Yorkshire books on this list have you read? Which books set in Yorkshire are missing that you think I should have mentioned?

If you have any comments – or any suggestions for great Yorkshire books to add to the list – please let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

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10 thoughts on “Old and new – 13 brilliant books set in Yorkshire in the north of England

  1. Thank you – you have reminded me of books I want to read, and others I must re-read! Looking forward to reading ‘Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings’. And I set my own 3 novels – ‘Ella’s Journey’, ‘Alice’s Secret’ and ‘Sarah’s Story’ in York and fictionalised versions of Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall.

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    1. Oh, I’m really excited about reading your Yorkshire set novels. They look just my cup of Yorkshire tea! :) Thanks very much for dropping in. They’re definitely going on my list!

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  2. I never realized the settings of so many of these books were in Yorkshire. Thanks so much for sharing these titles. I’ll have to add them to my Kindle. Already enjoying the stories from Miss Moonshine’s Emporium.

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    1. There are so many great books set in this part of the world, JQ. I’m so glad you’re enjoying our Miss Moonshine stories. ((Some of the authors are from Lancashire, so I must give that county a mention! :) )
      Thanks so much for your comment!

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  3. I went to school in York in the 1970s. You mention one of my favourite books ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’. A wonderful novel, but what really really tickled me about it was the description of the requirements for the Queen Anne’s School uniform, which was identical to the one we received for my school, Mill Mount. The school skirt: flared pleated or gored, but NOT STRAIGHT.

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    1. I didn’t realise that uniform was based on Mill Mount, Chris! I went to the Bar Convent in the early 70s. As far as I remember, our school skirt was straight. This was the era of platforms, and girls were sent home if their heels were more than an inch high. One girl came in platforms I loved – at least three inches high, with a domino pattern on. She was sent straight home in disgrace. We all silently cheered her for trying :) Thanks so much for dropping in, and for bringing back memories!

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  4. Hi, great to see your list. What about all Peter Robinson’s books? His DCI Banks series are all set in Yorkshire. They are fabulous reads and he captures the Yorkshire characters and scenery with amazing accuracy.

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    1. Thanks so much for mentioning Peter Robinson, Susan. He would have been a great addition to the list! I’m constantly updating my list of favourites, and next time I do he’ll be on it. Thanks for dropping in!

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      1. Thanks Helena, I found your list of Yorkshire inspired books helpful as I am a ‘Yorkshire Lass’ although I have lived in Australia the past 11 years. I always enjoy reading books which mention Yorkshire to remind me of home.
        Happy reading, Sue

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