Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Reading Northumberland

I decided to forgo most reading challenges this year in order to read widely about Northumberland. I'm planning on hiking along Hadrian's Wall later this year and wanted to have the time to read about Roman Britain and life along the English/Scottish border over the past two millennia, fiction and non-fiction, geography, history, politics, romance, mystery, and natural history.

As a starting point, I asked Margaret from BooksPlease if she could recommend some books, as she lives in the area and has posted about her travels as well as books from the area.

She provided me with a wonderful list that she was able to get from a friend, and I thought I would share it here.  There's many more titles than I can get to, so I would love to hear from anyone who can recommend some of these or would steer me away from others.


Rory Stewart: The Marches - A Borderland Journey Between England and Scotland

George MacDonald Fraser - The Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers

Hunter Davies, A Walk Along the Wall


Rosemary Sutcliff - Eagle of the Ninth, and others in her Roman Britain series.

Ruth Downie - Medicus, and others in her Roman doctor in first century AD Britain

Rosemary Goring - After Flodden; Dacre's War

Bernard Cornwell ("Saxon" series, 9th century Northumbria) The Last Kingdom; The Pale Horseman; The Lords of the North; Sword Song

A.J. Cronin - The Stars Look Down; The Northern Light

Carola Dunn, Murder on the Flying Scotsman (Daisy Dalrymple mysteries)

Anne Cleeves, Inspector Ramsay books (A Lesson in Dying; Murder in My Backyard; A Day in the Death of Dorothea Cassidy; Killjoy; The Healers; The Babysnatchers)

Charles Barnitz, The Deepest Sea (historical, Vikings)

Jonathan Aycliffe, Whispers in the Dark (ghosts, 1900s)

Lorna Hill, Northern Lights; Castle in Northumbria (actually, all of the Marjorie books) and almost all her pony and ballet books 

Henry Treece, Legions of the Eagle 

Richard Denning, The Amber Treasure (6th century Northumbria)

Dorothy Dunnet, Lymond chronicles - Philippa's family live in Northumberland, so various parts of the six take place there

Robert Westall, The Wind-Eye (St Cuthbert, present day, children's); Kingdom by the Sea

Malcolm Archibald, Pryde's Rock (1st in Matthew Pryde series)

Ann Coburn, Glint (children's) - based on border legends

Rosalind Kerven, Grim Gruseome books were inspired by Northumbrian legends

Theresa Tomlinson, Wolf Girl (Whitby Abbey in 633 AD)

Mary Rhees Mercker, Northumberland Dreaming: A Past Life Remembered (not really a novel)

Nigel Tranter, Cheviot Chase; Lords of Misrule (Otterburn)

Kathleen Herbert, "Northumbria" Trilogy: Bride of the Spear; Queen of the Lightning; Ghost in the Sunlight

Anne Colledge, Falling into Fear (timeslip, children's, Durham Cathedral)

Amanda Baker, Eleanor and the Dragons of Death (set in Morpeth, children's)

Tom Sharpe, Throwback

Gordon Taylor, Cometh the Man (1820s)

Carla Nayland, Paths of Exile (605 AD)

Janet MacLeod Trotter, Chasing the Dream (mining and football); The Jarrow Lass

Roz Southey, Broken Harmony; Secret Lament; Sword and Song; Chords and Discords 

Audrey Howard, A Place Called Hope (romance)

Denis O'Connor, Pawtracks in the Moonlight

Colin Wilson, The Killer (County Durham)

Nevil Shute, Ruined City (aka Kindling): shipbuilding

Donna Fletcher Crowe, A Very Private Grave

Margaret McAllister, High Crag Linn

Sue Hepworth, But I Told You Last Year I Loved You  

Penelope Gilliatt, Mortal Matters (shipbuilding / suffragettes; Braw Fell = Cragside)

Diana Norman, Makepeace Hedley books

Benita Brown

David Almond, Skellig; Kit’s Wilderness; The Fire Eaters

Jane Harvey, The Castle of Tynemouth (1806)

Hazel Osmond, Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe? 

Nancy Bond, Country of Broken Stone (children’s, archaeology, legends)

Wendy Perriam, Born of Woman 

Sir Walter Scott

Stephen Baxter, Conqueror

Trevor Hopkins, Bridge at War (YA, fantasy); World of Lyndesfarne series

Melvyn Bragg, Credo

Robert Swindells, Brother in the Land (YA, fantasy)

Nancy Farmer, The Sea of Trolls (children's, fantasy)

Gordon Honeycombe, Dragon Under the Hill (ghosts/legends)


  1. How fun that you get to travel to that part of the world twice this year: once in books, and once in real life. I hope you enjoy both journeys! And I'm only a little bit jealous. ;)

  2. I think that it is a super idea to concentrate your reading on Northumberland while also visiting and hiking the area. That is active and engaged reading!

    I look forward to your future commentary on these books.

  3. What a coincidence, at U3A this term I've signed up for a course called Walking in the steps of the Emperor Hadrian, which covers the history and architecture of the wall.
    Also, visiting Australia last month was a 2nd cousin and her partner from the UK. He has a farm and B&B near the wall. My sisters had been in the area 3 years ago, not realising there were relatives nearby, and took a photo of Vindolanda Roman ruins which includes his farm in the background! They really enjoyed Vindolanda.
    I think it would be a great walk to do.

    1. What a happy coincidence! I took a FutureLearn online course a couple of years ago on Hadrian's Wall, and found it absolutely fascinating. Enjoy your course.

      How funny that your sisters took photos that included your cousin's farm. Very excited to visit Vindolanda and other sites along the wall.

  4. What a great list of books! I'm from that area too and have visited several parts of Hadrian's Wall, but I can't think of many books I've read set in Northumberland. The only ones that come to mind that you haven't already listed are Edoardo Albert's Northumbrian Thrones trilogy and Devil Water by Anya Seton.

    1. I loved Katherine, by Anya Seton, so I think I would like Devil Water. I'll check out the Eduardo Albert trilogy as well. Thanks for the recommendations.

  5. I agree with others: what a great list of books! I will print and save these for future armchair hiking and time-traveling! I am just starting The Lymond Chronicles myself, now reading Book 1, The Game of Kings. Anya Seton's book appeals to me too. Ah, you have so much to choose from! I know you will make great choices as you always do with a bit of geography, a bit of history, and a bit of good fiction to prepare yourself to enjoy the hike! My feet and legs couldn't take it but I'm glad you're able.

  6. Oh what a great list. We hope to walk Hadrian's Wall someday so I will write some of these books down. Excellent! I hope you have a great trip!

  7. That sounds like an exciting trip Jane. I hope your reading about the area is a treat as well.