4 of the Best Books Set in Suffolk
The British writer T.S Eliot once claimed that “immature poets imitate; mature poets steal” and the very same goes for anyone trying to write about the brilliance of a holiday in Suffolk.
Indeed, why try to describe the excellence of the county when more successful authors have done a much better job of it before?
To make this point more clear, I’ve unearthed four notable works of literature that refer to the towns and coastline of Suffolk in far more exciting ways than I’m capable of.
If they don’t inspire you to take a holiday in Suffolk, I’m not sure anything will.
1: The Pickwick Papers – Charles Dickens
An author who requires no introduction, Charles Dickens had more than a passing affinity with Suffolk. From Blundeston to Bury St Edmunds, various Suffolk towns and villages appear in the works of the celebrated Victorian.
In his debut novel, The Pickwick Papers, Dickens has one of his characters describe his lodgings in Ipswich. Equal parts flattering and equal parts damning, he goes on to explain how:
“The Great White Horse is famous in the neighbourhood, in the same degree as a prize ox, or a county paper-chronicled turnip, or unwieldy pig – for its enormous size. Never were such labyrinths of uncarpeted passages, such clusters of mouldy, ill-lighted rooms, such huge numbers of small dens for eating or sleeping in, but beneath any one roof as are collected together between the four walls of the Great White Horse at Ipswich”
Whilst the hotel is no longer operational, anyone renting one of our barges in Suffolk will have no difficulty getting in and out of Ipswich to enjoy everything else it has to offer. Whether it’s for a bite to eat at one of its many restaurants or to spend time wandering through its museums, a day out in Ipswich promises to be an entertaining one.
2: A Warning to the Curious – M. R. James
A master of the macabre, M. R. James penned an impressive collection of ghost stories that continue to thrill audiences around fireplaces to this day.
Though born in Kent, James studied at Cambridge and subsequently developed a real affection for the Suffolk countryside and coast.
In one of his most popular stories, A Warning to the Curious, James describes a fictional town clearly based on Aldeburgh. On arrival, the narrator describes:
“Flat fields to the north, merging into heath; heath, fir woods, and, above all, gorse, inland. A long sea-front and a street: behind that a spacious church of flint, with a broad, solid western tower and a peal of six bells.”
Unmistakably a sketch of the coastal town, this description goes a long way towards articulating the natural beauty of the destination. A mere ten minute drive from our barges for rent, there’s no excuse for not visiting when staying with us.
Interestingly, rumours have it that James once encountered a ghost himself in the village of Great Livermere. Only a half hour drive from our barns, the more daring of our visitors are by all means welcome to visit the quaint village to determine the truth of such stories!
Another curious fact with a bit of local flavour is that James’ research was responsible for identifying the burial place of the abbots in the Bury St Edmunds Abbey.
Altogether, James did quite a bit for raising the profile of Suffolk.
3: Rings of Saturn – W.G. Sebald
A German author with more than a little love for Suffolk, W.G Sebald taught at the University of East Anglia but spent his downtime on our side of the county line.
Published in 1995, his novel Rings of Saturn chronicles a rather long walk he took through the Suffolk countryside as part of some much needed R&R.
At the outset of his journey, he describes how:
“I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work. And in fact my hope was realised up to a point: for I have seldom felt so carefree as I did then, walking for hours in the day through the thinly populated countryside”
When it comes to a poetic argument for why you should take a holiday in Suffolk, it doesn’t get much better than this.
4: We Didn’t Mean to go to the Sea – Arthur Ransome
One of the biggest advocates of Suffolk, Arthur Ransome penned the hugely successful Swallows and Amazons series. Following the adventures of a small group of children around Norfolk and Suffolk, it is in We Didn’t Mean to go to the Sea that Ransome makes the most direct nod towards our fine county.
Describing the joys of renting a boat on the River Orwell, he goes to explain how:
“..this happy place where almost everybody wore sea-boots, and land, in comparison with water, seemed hardly to matter at all”
If ever there was a perfect description of how much fun it is to get out on the water when holidaying in Suffolk, this is it.