Books set in Devon

Just because this is the county I live in and there is something rather nice reading about places you know.

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves ***1/2 080722

Set in North Devon around Barnstaple and the coast, The Long Call is the first in a new series with Matthew Venn as the detective. Venn has left a closed religious community and been ostracised as a result and therefore lost his family. The area is well described in the book and the long call is the call that pulls Venn back to this place. The book looks in detail at treatment of people with Down’s Syndrome and being gay in a small village.

A Devon Night’s Death by Stephanie Austin *** 12/06/022

The title is a play on the am. dram production the town of Ashburton is putting on – A Midsummer Night’s Dream with all the local characters. But aside from that there are some dodgy drug dealings going on in an abandoned farm building and an amateur sleuth, Juno, to sort it out along with the other characters.

This isn’t normally my sort of book but I did enjoy it and I liked all the references to Ashburton, Plymouth, Widecombe-in-the-Moor and other nearby villages. At times it did read a bit like a tourist guide:

I must confess to a sneaking affection for Tavistock. It’s a market town on the western edge of Dartmoor and has a population roughly three times the size of Ashburton. it also has World Heritage Status and a definite sense of being grand. This is partly because of chunks of ruined historic abbey lying about the place but mostly due to the activities of the Seventh Duke of Bedford who built fine stone cottages for all of his mine workers as well as the Guildhall and the famous pannier market.


Nothing to do with the story and everything to do with the setting.

The Horseman by Tim Pears ****

This book is more like a poem to the rural world of the Devon /Somerset border in 1911-12 than a narrative although it could also be described as a coming-of-age tale as well. This is about ‘the boy’ Leo Sercombe who is in tune with the outside world and not with the inside world of the classroom. As a primary school teacher in Devon, I have worked with plenty of boys like Leo who know absolutely everything about sheep, cattle, tractors, birds on the farm and who are reluctant to apply that same focus to reading and writing.

The book almost feels like a love-letter to that time but it is saved from that by the reality of those times, the hardships, the flys and mosquitos, losing animals and the repetitiveness of the life driven by the seasons and weather.

I was glad this wasn’t a version of Warhorse by Morpurgo as I can’t read that sort of story. The book leaves the 2nd book in the trilogy perfectly set up and I will find it in the library.

Secrets of a Devon Wood: My nature journal by Jo Brown

This book is an exact copy of Jo Brown’s journal that she drew when observing nature in the woods. She is based in Teignmouth although the book does not say where the wood is or whether it is her own land. Each of the pages is a drawing of a photograph that she has taken of the wildlife, both plant and animal, and is beautifully illustrated with a small piece of writing about the item. Part of the delight for me was looking through and identifying plants and insects that I have photographed on the wildlife plot on the allotments and I almost thought I could do the same thing but I can’t. I can’t draw so I’ll stick with photos.

It is beautiful.