Talking Location With author Leigh Russell – YORK
Five great books set in SHROPSHIRE
25th April 2020
Shropshire is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Shropshire.
“Give me a land of boughs in leaf
A land of trees that stand;
Where trees are fallen there is grief;
I love no leafless land.”
Precious Bane by Mary Webb
Born at the time of Waterloo in the wild country of Shropshire, Prudence Sarn is a wild, passionate girl, cursed with a hare lip — her ‘precious bane’. Cursed for it, too, by the superstitious people amongst whom she lives.
Prue loves two things: the remote countryside of her birth and, hopelessly, Kester Woodseaves, the weaver.
The tale of how Woodseaves gradually discerns Prue’s true beauty is set against the tragic drama of Prue’s brother, Gideon, a driven man who is out of harmony with the natural world.
Disputed Land by Tim Pears
Leonard and Rosemary Cannon summon their middle-aged offspring, along with partners and children, to the family home in the Welsh Marches, bordering Shropshire, for the Christmas holiday. As the gathered family settle in to their first Christmas together for some years, the grown siblings – Rodney, Jonny and Gwen – are surprised when they are invited to each put stickers on the furniture and items they wish to inherit from their parents.
Disputed Land is narrated by Leonard and Rosemary’s thirteen-year-old grandson, Theo, who observes how from these innocent beginnings age-old fissures open up in the relationships of those around him. Looking back at this Christmas gathering from his own middle-age – a narrator at once nostalgic and naïve – Theo Cannon remembers his imperious grandmother Rosemary, alpha-male uncle Jonny, abominable twin cousins Xan and Baz: he recalls his love for his grandfather Leonard and the burgeoning feelings for his cousin Holly.
And he asks himself the question: if a single family cannot solve the problem of what it bequeaths to future generations, then what chance does a whole society have of leaving the world intact?
Dead Ground in Between by Maureen Jennings
It’s late 1942; the war is still raging and the upcoming Christmas season looks bleak. Detective Inspector Tom Tyler is settling into his placement in Ludlow, Shropshire, a small town jammed with people sent there by the conflict. On the outskirts is an Italian PoW camp and many PoWs work on local farms where manpower is sorely needed. Fraternizing is forbidden but, as Tyler knows only too well, the human heart has a way of crossing boundaries.
Tyler’s job is both to keep the peace and to enforce wartime regulations. Magistrate’s court is busy. Then a troubled old man goes missing in a winter storm. The next day his body is discovered in a secret hideout supposedly known to very few. It soon becomes clear that a crime has been committed, and there is no shortage of suspects. Tyler senses that the two evacuee children who found the body are not telling the entire truth, but when he goes to question them further, he learns they have taken off from their foster home. It becomes imperative that he find them.
Showcasing her characteristic masterful storytelling and deep empathy for her characters — from the bravest and most blameless to the profoundly troubled — Jennings has created another outstanding novel that is both a page-turning mystery and a rich, satisfying reading experience.
Riverflow by Alison Layland
“No longer the benign friend of summer, the Severn was a restless dragon slithering its way past”
After a beloved family member is drowned in a devastating flood, all Bede and Elin Sherwell want is peace to pursue their off-grid life. But when the very real prospect of fracking hits their village, they are drawn into the front line of the protests.
A spring of relentless rain, mysterious threats and suspicious accidents put friendships on the line, and the Sherwells’ marriage under unbearable tension. Is there a connection with their uncle’s death? As the river rises and pressure mounts, Bede’s sense of self begins to dissolve and Elin is no longer sure who, or what, to believe in.
All the Little Children by Jo Furniss
When a family camping trip in Shropshire takes a dark turn, how far will one mother go to keep her family safe?
Struggling with working-mother guilt, Marlene Greene hopes a camping trip in the forest will provide quality time with her three young children—until they see fires in the distance, columns of smoke distorting the sweeping view. Overnight, all communication with the outside world is lost.
Knowing something terrible has happened, Marlene suspects that the isolation of the remote campsite is all that’s protecting her family. But the arrival of a lost boy reveals they are not alone in the woods, and as the unfolding disaster ravages the land, more youngsters seek refuge under her wing. The lives of her own children aren’t the only ones at stake.
When their sanctuary is threatened, Marlene faces the mother of all dilemmas: Should she save her own kids or try to save them all?
Andrew for the TripFiction Team
Have you been to Shropshire? Do you have a favourite read set there? Have we missed an obvious choice? Please let us know in the comments below!
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