Fiction recommendations for the Anglophile.

Fiction recommendations for the Anglophile | Modern Mrs Darcy

The details on this ongoing project, the factors I’m taking to heart, and the literary matchmaking podcast that accompanies it.

Readers told me 3 books they loved, 1 book they hated, and what they’re reading right now. In turn, I’m recommending 3 books for each reader. (Or more, if I can’t help myself.)

This week we’re choosing books for Katie of Cakes, Tea, and Dreams, who says:

I know you and I have similar (though not identical) tastes, but I’ll give it a go anyway:

3 books I adore: Gaudy Night (and anything by Dorothy Sayers); A Circle of Quiet (and anything by Madeleine L’Engle); The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
1 book I put down because it was NOT working for me: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
The last book I read: Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill – such a fun YA story. Currently reading Micha Boyett’s wonderful memoir, Found.

Recommending books for Katie makes me nervous: I feel like she’s read everything, and I suspect our to-be-read lists already overlap a good bit (although she does read a lot of modern fiction that I skip over). I’d love to be able to introduce her to something new, but I’m not sure I can do that!

I have a long list of books that I would recommend in a heartbeat, but I either know or strongly suspect she’s already read them: Flavia De Luce and Maisie Dobbs, Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, I Capture the Castle, and a good many foodie memoirs.

(I once again asked on facebook for your suggestions. Read those here.)

My picks: 

Best series chronicling women’s lives: The Virgin in the Garden by A. S. Byatt
Best religious series that has a lot more grit and sex than you’re expecting: Glittering Images, Susan Howatch
Best modern novel that readers love to hate: Atonement by Ian McEwan
Best modern novel for Downton Abbey fans: Snobs, Julian Fellowes

My picks for Katie are all British, which I didn’t do on purpose, but strikes me as a good idea all the same.

The Virgin in the Garden is the first book in Byatt’s Frederica Potter Quartet, which I read forever ago and want to read again. The series follows the unusual life of a Cambridge academic, starting in the 1950s. Byatt is known as being a faithful, intelligent chronicler of women’s lives, and this series is no exception. These novels are smart, leisurely paced, and unquestionably cerebral.

Glittering Images is the first book in Howatch’s 6-book Starbridge series, which are set in the Church of England. Forget everything you’re thinking when you hear “religious thinking”: these books could fairly be categorized as psychological dramas, and are pretty racy. The first 3 books take place in the 1930s; the second 3 in the 1960s. Each book is narrated by a different character; the books can be read as a series (in which case, start here) or as stand-alones.   

Many readers love to hate McEwan’s breakthrough novel Atonement. (Count me among them, on many days. On other days, I admire the structure that gets readers up-in-arms.) But since Katie loves all things British, I think this haunting, wistful novel is worth reading once. (It reminds me of Rules of Civility, which I think Katie would also like, if she hasn’t read it yet.)

Snobs, by Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes, is fluffy and just for fun, although as an American I found its gossipy examination of British class structures fascinating.

Please share YOUR recommendations for Katie in comments. Thank you!

View all the literary matchmaking posts here. And learn more about What Should I Read Next here.

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  1. Kerry Kenney says:

    Can we nerd out about the Battle of Britain, the Mass Observation Project–I’d love every pinterset pinner who has a Keep Calm picture to have read excerpts from the Mass Observatio Project, memoirs written by those that knew Winston Churchill, Jeeves– PG Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde (ha, not sure if he is British), Dorothy Dunnet–the Lymond Chronicles, Literary Guernsey Potato Pie Peeling Society, Princess Diana books (oh goodness guilty pleasure). A Little Princess by France Hodgson Burnett. And then of course the spate of books that came out around Downtown Abbey.

    • Sherri says:

      This sounds fascinating. Dorothy Dunnett has been on my mind lately due to the Scottish referendum. I’m always thrilled to meet another Lymond devotee!

  2. liz n. says:

    Not fiction, but hilarious: Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island,” about his life as an ex-pat in England. Everything Bryson writes is poignant and funny, and he is a great story-teller. Every time he is befuddled, annoyed, or embarrassed, you feel all of it right along with him.

  3. Tuija says:

    For some reason, Dorothy L. Sayers brings to my mind Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham. Maybe it’s because they’re all (female) detective novelists of roughly the same period, and their detective novels are not just puzzles of ‘who did it and how’, they’re also good novels with great characters. I’d recommend these for any anglophile who likes detective fiction – and you don’t need to be an anglophile, either.

    • Fahy Bygate says:

      Absolutely! My mother and I used to argue over who was better “Dorothy Sayers or Josephine Tey”. I finally gave in and agreed with her that Josephine Tey was the very best. For a writer who transports you to small villages during and following the Second WW and keeps you laughing all the while try an oldie but gooodie, Angela Thirkell. Droll, wry humor about village life.

    • Fahy Bygate says:

      Of course Tey, Ngaio Marsh, Margary Allingham. I’ve read them all plus Sayers. My anglophile mother and I argued constantly about which was the better writer, Sayers or Tey. My mother chose Tey but I couldn’t get Lord Peter off my mind. But once I got some gray hairs on my head and better sense in my head, I had to admit that Josephine Tey was the champion. If Daughter of Time doesn’t do it for you nothing will!

  4. Laura says:

    I love this! Katie is a non-virtual friend and one of my favorite book recommenders! She’ll have some new books to throw in her back for her next trip to England!

  5. Anne, these picks look amazing! You are correct – I’ve already read and loved Flavia de Luce, Maisie Dobbs, I Capture the Castle, both Elizabeth Wein novels and a host of foodie memoirs. The Byatt series sounds fascinating and I’ve been curious about Snobs. I did see the film version of Atonement – should I still read the book? I did read and enjoy Rules of Civility.

    This is such a fun series and I’m so glad it was finally my turn!

  6. Lee Ann Roberts says:

    If you liked the movie, go ahead and read Atonement. Things are spelled out in the book, as I recall, that weren’t as clear in the film.

    Having said that, Atonement is one of the few books that I wanted to throw against the wall when I finished it.

  7. Kristen says:

    I pretty much added all of these to my ‘to read’ list. I read Atonement so many years ago I barely remember it, so I think I need to read it again. I remember feeling sad when I finished it though.

  8. I’d forgotten that Virgin in the Garden was the first in a 4-book series. For some reason recently I have to be in the right mood for A.S. Byatt, but I used to adore them all. Atonement is definitely one of those books that I wanted to throw against the wall when I was finished – very nicely written (obviously) but I felt manipulated.

  9. 'Becca says:

    Ruth Rendell is an excellent writer. For those who don’t generally read murder mysteries, the books published under her pen name of Barbara Vine are less about murder than about the twists and turns of people’s psyches and relationships. The one I recommend most is A Dark-Adapted Eye, in which you start the book already knowing who was killed by whom, yet there’s still plenty of mystery to unravel.

  10. Kelly says:

    I’d recommend the Royal Spyness Mysteries by Rhys Bowen. The series (which I devoured in a week) is lovely…nothing too serious but fun, especially for an anglophile. The first in the series is Her Royal Spyness.

  11. Mimi says:

    I’ve enjoyed all of the Maggie Hope Mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal. The first was Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. The are World War II era stories which feature famous Brits, including then-Princess Elizabeth. Maggie is an intelligent woman who is tapped to serve her country in surprising ways.

  12. Carrie says:

    Loved: Life of Pi, Bel Canto, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, The Good Earth
    Hated: The Great Gatsby
    Recently Read & Loved: The Giver series, Life Afterr Life, The Martian

  13. liz n. says:

    I cannot believe I forgot this one: The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett. It’s a very short book about what happens when the Queen discovers the mobile library and takes up the selfish practice of reading for pleasure. Utterly captivating, charming, and witty!

    • Marie says:

      I loved this one! In addition to those already mentioned, I love all the Miss Read books and anything by Marcia Willet. A Week in Winter is my favorite. I am currently reading all the Miss Read books over again.

  14. Tina says:

    I am delighted to have found your website! I was putzing around on Pinterest and came across your site. New follower here and will delve into all these Anglophile suggestion as soon as I am on a proper computer.

  15. Nancy says:

    I am interested in promoting Jane Garden. She is a very popular British writer but not well known here. Start with “Old Filth” which means failed in London try Hong Kong. A very interesting story of a man and his long life and marriage. There are several follow up books. One great one tells the story from his wife’s viewpoint.

  16. Nell says:

    You absolutely MUST read all seven of the Williamsburg novels by Elspeth Thane. Written in the 1940’s, this series follows the fortunes of two families, connected through marriage. Beginning with the American War of Independence and ending around 1942, the stories are set in
    England and America, filled with characters who move from book to book, down through the years. As one of my friends said, when she finished them all, “These people are my family”. Badly need making into a beautifully-produced BBC miniseries! Highly recommended. Called collectively The Williamsburg novels, the first one is Dawn’s Early Light. Lucky you to have all this lovely reading before you.

    • Fahy Bygate says:

      I loved all the Williamsburg books. I was just in high school but they make a real impression on me. Fell in love with the characters. Wonderful books.

  17. Marg Kennedy says:

    Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey is excellent. This book is used by historical novelists because of the research Tey did. Her detective is in hospital and decides to investigate the death of the two princes in the Tower of London.

    • Fahy Bygate says:

      What a wonderful book and important too. My college History professor required us to read it. With the latest news on the discovery of Richard III’s body just coming out it is a perfect
      time to read it.

  18. Regina says:

    I read The Sense of an Ending, Rules of Civility, and Snobs together. I thought they had a similar theme, that people are not what they seem. Loved all three.

  19. Siv says:

    Bill Bryson’s The road to Little Dribbling, more notes from a small island was very amusing. Ngaio Marsh in audiobook versions read by Benedict Cumberbatch!! Dawn French’ A Tiny Bit Marvellous also on audio is a joy to listen to.
    And not to forget the classics.. Graham Greene is an all time favourite, ever since I first read Travels with my Aunt. Read it several times and it
    always cheers me up. Also loved Our Man in Havana.

    There are just so many..I did read Atonement and liked it but it was hard work getting through it. I think McEwan writes so beautifully though so was delighted to read some lighter work: Solar is hilarious and cringeworthy at the same time.

  20. It was a good day when my blog readers recommended both Elizabeth Goudge and D. E. Stevenson books. Although written in the early to mid-1900s, both provide lovely stories of Great Britain. Especially England and Scotland. A book loving friend calls Stevenson books “Goudge-light”.

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