Fiction Map of the World – England

by Travelbag on 29 July 2014, 11:07AM

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Choosing which book to take on holiday is, for me personally, a far more trying experience than the usual clothes packing nightmares that most go through. Even when being lifted from the mundane to the exotic, I still want that fantastical getaway that a really good book can provide.

This series shall endeavour to help eradicate your own decision headaches by offering a few choices not only for a good read but also additional bits and pieces on music and film originating from a variety of countries across the world.
   
We begin at home: England!

Essential Holiday Reading
The best-selling Discworld series by Sir Terry Pratchett is one of the most endearing and longstanding series not just in England, but worldwide. Upwards of 80 million copies sold is a decent indicator of its popularity. With sharp wit, smart observations and endless charm they are standout fantasy novels each in their own right.

The next question, considering there are almost 40 to choose from, is which to read? Sensibly, let’s start at the beginning – The Colour of Magic. Appropriately, central to the story is a hapless tourist with luggage that has a mind of its own (and a voracious appetite) and an inept wizard who cannot, in fact, spell wizard (wizzard). Their tumultuous journey across the Discworld (a single disc upon the back of four elephants who in turn rest upon the back of a great turtle floating through space) encompasses most of the story which rattles along at a swift pace. Both light-hearted and very funny it is a perfect escape whilst on holiday.

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Notable English Authors
English literature is littered with popular, transcendent figures. There are those whose names you would associate with what are broadly known as ‘classic English novels’ such as Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, controversial authors such as D.H Lawrence all the way through to renowned children’s authors like Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter and J.K Rowling. Only the United States can compete when it comes to sheer vastness of quality in the field of literature.

Genre specialists are also strong, with James Herbert (author of The Rats and The Fog, amongst others) one of the masters of horror, or Agatha Christie, creator of well-loved sleuths such as Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. And with the likes of double Booker prize winner Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies) and Whitbread award winner Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) English fiction is still going strong in the 21st century.

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Notable English Books
A phrase I’ve used previously should be the first port of call here: the ‘classic English novel’. Two immediate titles spring to mind; Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights. By Jane Austen and Emily Bronte respectively they are towering titles of the 19th century and equally contrasting. One more playful in tone and the other a darker exploration of the soul and with two differing pictures of the English countryside, yet both often labelled as similar. Remaining in the 19th century it is impossible to ignore the man who once wrote under the pseudonym Boz – Charles Dickens. Undoubtedly to thank for many great English novels such as David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Hard Times and many more, nobody has offered a keener insight into Victorian England than Dickens.

A change of tone is required and provided by J.R.R Tolkien’s epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings, setting the bar high for all prospective fantasy novelists. An alternative to Tolkien’s fantasy would be Douglas Adams’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, or the science-fiction of H.G Wells with The Time Machine and War of the Worlds. And when talking English novels it’s impossible to ignore the near revolution Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone launched more recently, reviving young people’s interest in reading.
England has without doubt produced some of the finest and most popular novels across all genres.

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Notable English Films
English film is often low budget, high drama. No crazy flourishes or tricks. This is abundantly clear in the classic gangster films such as The Long Good Friday, Get Carter and more recently in films like Sexy Beast and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Not much further down the line we have espionage thrillers such as The Ipcress File and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy preferring substance over style (not that they lack style!). And we can’t mention espionage thrillers without mentioning James Bond, with arguably the very first Bond, Dr No, being the finest.

It should be noted that the English film industry isn’t without the ability to laugh. From the Carry On... films to Ealing studio classics like The Ladykillers, Kind Hearts and Coronets to the more modern Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love, Actually (both Richard Curtis), comedy has remained a strong genre. At the opposite end of the scale is horror, another vibrant genre, most notably with the Hammer horror films such as Dracula, or recent, cult classics such as Dog Soldiers or The Descent (both directed by Neil Marshall).

Essential Holiday Listening
England is perhaps most prominently associated with rock and pop music, with everything from The Beatles to Arctic Monkeys and plenty in between. If it’s a stay in the big city then the grandiose and diverse A Night at the Opera by Queen or Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles might be appropriate.
For those moments of relaxation and contemplation that are required even when on holiday try Ok Computer by Radiohead with its serene tone and supreme musicianship.

But for those who are looking for rock and roll, inspired by the past, repackaged and given a thick Manchester accent, look no further than Oasis. Their debut album Definitely Maybe and follow-up What’s the Story Morning Glory went on to sell approximately 30 million copies worldwide. With sing-along choruses, dirty riffs and Liam Gallagher’s distinctive voice they conquered the world.

Notable English Musicians
To simply confine England’s finest musicians to a short paragraph or two seems almost criminal, but here it goes. Arguments often break out over the greatest guitarist of all time, but you’re always likely to hear names such as Eric Clapton, Brian May (Queen) and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) enter the fray, testament alone to their abilities. There are also the driving forces of the aforementioned Britpop battle in Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn, multi-talented and tireless, still making persistently popular music today.
When it comes to reinvention there are few better than David Bowie, forever moving forward. And to not mention Paul McCartney and John Lennon would be a travesty. England has an endless list of ambitious, ever-evolving musicians, of recent times there’s Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) and even popular artists like Dizzee Rascal and the late Amy Winehouse. Of course, it’s not all about popular music. England has produced some of the finest composers to grace the world too, names such as Edward Elgar and Benjamin Britten amongst others. 

Next week, we visit Scotland in our Fiction Map of the World!


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