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House of Fiction: From Pemberley to Brideshead, Great British Houses in Literature and Life

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Take a journey through history to discover how authors’ personal experiences in their homes helped to shape the imaginative dwellings that have become icons of English literature: Virginia Woolf’s love of Talland House is palpable in To the Lighthouse, just as London’s Bloomsbury is ever-present in Mrs. Dalloway. E.M. Forster’s childhood home at Rook’s Nest mirrors the idy Take a journey through history to discover how authors’ personal experiences in their homes helped to shape the imaginative dwellings that have become icons of English literature: Virginia Woolf’s love of Talland House is palpable in To the Lighthouse, just as London’s Bloomsbury is ever-present in Mrs. Dalloway. E.M. Forster’s childhood home at Rook’s Nest mirrors the idyllic charm of Howards End. And Horace Walpole’s "little Gothic castle" in Twickenham inspired him to write the first English Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. But the English country house is also viewed through a modern lens—Kazuo Ishiguro’s Darlington Hall, Ian McEwan’s Tallis House, Alan Hollinghurts’s Two Acres. Using historic sources, authors’ biographies, letters, news accounts, and the novels themselves, this book presents some of the most influential houses in Britain through the stories they inspired.


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Take a journey through history to discover how authors’ personal experiences in their homes helped to shape the imaginative dwellings that have become icons of English literature: Virginia Woolf’s love of Talland House is palpable in To the Lighthouse, just as London’s Bloomsbury is ever-present in Mrs. Dalloway. E.M. Forster’s childhood home at Rook’s Nest mirrors the idy Take a journey through history to discover how authors’ personal experiences in their homes helped to shape the imaginative dwellings that have become icons of English literature: Virginia Woolf’s love of Talland House is palpable in To the Lighthouse, just as London’s Bloomsbury is ever-present in Mrs. Dalloway. E.M. Forster’s childhood home at Rook’s Nest mirrors the idyllic charm of Howards End. And Horace Walpole’s "little Gothic castle" in Twickenham inspired him to write the first English Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. But the English country house is also viewed through a modern lens—Kazuo Ishiguro’s Darlington Hall, Ian McEwan’s Tallis House, Alan Hollinghurts’s Two Acres. Using historic sources, authors’ biographies, letters, news accounts, and the novels themselves, this book presents some of the most influential houses in Britain through the stories they inspired.

30 review for House of Fiction: From Pemberley to Brideshead, Great British Houses in Literature and Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    This is an entertaining exploration of the house in British fiction, operating at the intersections of biography and social history. Richardson takes a chronological view of great fictional houses from Shandy Hall (Tristram Shandy) to the Tallis family home in Atonement. En route, we travel through the gothic property which inspired and paralleled Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, the great houses to which Austen's heroines aspire, the haunted passageways of Bronte fiction, to the cottages of Har This is an entertaining exploration of the house in British fiction, operating at the intersections of biography and social history. Richardson takes a chronological view of great fictional houses from Shandy Hall (Tristram Shandy) to the Tallis family home in Atonement. En route, we travel through the gothic property which inspired and paralleled Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, the great houses to which Austen's heroines aspire, the haunted passageways of Bronte fiction, to the cottages of Hardy. 'Popular' literature gets a look in with a chapter on du Maurier's Manderley and the settings for many of Agatha Christie's ingenious crimes; and no book on this topic would be complete without a look at Brideshead. Modern houses such as the contested avant-garde Robin Hill of Galsworthy moves the story on and we end with thinking about the urban environment which serves as a backdrop to the stories of e.g. J.G.Ballard. Richardson's interests in architecture and building inform this study throughout and combine with biographies of the authors, tracing the real-life houses which often inspire their fictional counterparts. There's enough story-telling here to make sure you don't have to have read the books to make sense of this narrative (though obviously it helps). What this isn't is an analysis of what houses and the spaces they provide might mean within the context of the novels which contain them. An engaging review, then, of the role played by houses in British literature, and an appealing way of focusing social history via the literary house and its real-life relations. Thanks to Unbound for an ARC via NetGalley.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paula Bardell-Hedley

    Phyllis Richardson is the author of several books on architecture and design, and in this, her latest compendium, she writes knowledgeably about the great fictional British houses we have come to know intimately over the last four hundred or so years. She also scrutinizes the actual bricks and mortar structures that inspired many well-known novelists to create their most memorable stories. What do people's homes (grand or otherwise) say about their characters, wealth and standing in society? Writ Phyllis Richardson is the author of several books on architecture and design, and in this, her latest compendium, she writes knowledgeably about the great fictional British houses we have come to know intimately over the last four hundred or so years. She also scrutinizes the actual bricks and mortar structures that inspired many well-known novelists to create their most memorable stories. What do people's homes (grand or otherwise) say about their characters, wealth and standing in society? Writers have repeatedly posed these questions in their works of fiction, and their observations have rarely failed to engage the reader's imagination. Richardson highlights the layout, location and other more intimate aspects of these houses in some detail – no dingy niche, winding staircase or flying buttress is left unexamined. She is particularly good on the dwellings behind Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. Her chapter on Charles Dickens rediscovering Gad's Hill Place while on the road to Rochester, and gloomy Satis House, the Gothic pile he dreamt up for Miss Havisham in Great Expectations is exceptionally good. Facts such as Virginia Woolf basing Orlando on Vita Sackville-West and her family's great Tudor home, Knole, were well-known to me, while others, like Thomas Hardy designing his own writer's residence, less so. Some chronicles are inevitably more interesting than others (your favourites are likely to be determined by your taste in reading), and I found myself skimming over certain architectural details. There are, however, fascinating descriptions of Groby Hall, the inspiration behind Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End; Menabilly, Daphne du Maurier's beloved home, on which Manderley from Rebecca was based; and the numerous settings used by Agatha Christie in her popular crime fiction novels. In fact, there is plenty here to interest most, if not all, lovers of literature. Houses of Fiction can be perused at leisure or read in several sittings. Either way, it is entertaining, often witty and well worth your time. (3.5 Stars) NB This book was funded directly by readers through the website Unbound.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    A thoroughly entertaining and engaging exploration of the most iconic literary houses in fiction and real life. As much a social and cultural history as a purely literary one, there’s much to discover her and it’s a book to refer to again and again whilst reading the many books and authors featured here. I was hooked from page one and read it straight through, but it’s equally a book that can be read a bit at a time. It’s well written, thoroughly researched and has a good selection of images. A A thoroughly entertaining and engaging exploration of the most iconic literary houses in fiction and real life. As much a social and cultural history as a purely literary one, there’s much to discover her and it’s a book to refer to again and again whilst reading the many books and authors featured here. I was hooked from page one and read it straight through, but it’s equally a book that can be read a bit at a time. It’s well written, thoroughly researched and has a good selection of images. A book for all bibliophiles.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julie Bozza

    I bought this as pure self-indulgence, as the subject is so very me: British literature, and the real houses that inspired the authors, and the imaginary houses they created, and what it all means (if anything). I picked it up to read it as my Easter treat. I was looking forward to a highly enjoyable wallow. This may explain why I was niggled by its few imperfections, no doubt reacting out of proportion. The overall discussion was great, and I have no faults to find in the architecture side of t I bought this as pure self-indulgence, as the subject is so very me: British literature, and the real houses that inspired the authors, and the imaginary houses they created, and what it all means (if anything). I picked it up to read it as my Easter treat. I was looking forward to a highly enjoyable wallow. This may explain why I was niggled by its few imperfections, no doubt reacting out of proportion. The overall discussion was great, and I have no faults to find in the architecture side of things. (Going by her other books, Richardson's background is architecture, so that's probably as it should be.) But a few clangers in her summations of Jane Austen's plots somewhat dented Richardson's credibility on the literature side of things early on. I am rather surprised they weren't picked up by an editor or proofreader along the way. (The proofreading missed a few little wording issues, too.) Otherwise I was a tad annoyed by the footnotes - which were very short, mostly only one sentence - and hence either unnecessary or could have been worked into the main text. This might be a question of differing tastes. On the positive side of things, I did enjoy the subject matter as much as anticipated, and pretty much devoured the text whenever I could find an hour to myself. The range of authors covered is terrific, starting with Laurence Sterne, Horace Walpole, Jane Austen, Walter Scott, Charlotte Bronte - through John Galsworthy, Virginia Woolf - ending with Ian Fleming, Julian Barnes, and Kazuo Ishiguro - among others. Chapters sometimes deal with one author and their work alone, and at other times bring in a range of related authors, narratives or houses. The general discussion and analysis seemed fair, and was interesting. For those wanting to follow in the footsteps, there's a list up the back of the book of which houses are open to the public, giving website addresses, and so on. So, alas, I couldn't help but dock a star from my rating for my various niggles. But those niggles may mean little or nothing to other readers. The book does what it says on the tin! So if that appeals, please do give it a go.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, I got lost in the preface and skipped to the part about Jane Austen. Reads like a textbook --- not for me as I wanted something more enjoyable vs. a very wordy, complex tome. Will give two stars as I am sure it is a good book, but not just one I could ever see myself or any other person like me reading.

  6. 4 out of 5

    GONZA

    One interesting essay about the most famous mansion in Literature, some of which became characters in itself. Very dense so I would recommend not to read it all in one Session. THANKS TO NETGALLEY FOR THE PREVIEW!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hella

    Ik heb nu toch zo'n vreemd boek gelezen! En het had zoveel beter gekund. Het is uitgegeven bij Unbound, dat is een soort van uitgeverscollectief waarbij je zelf voor funding moet zorgen. Ik heb er al eerder een boek van gelezen waar ik niet zo enthousiast over was. Ik vond in dit boek ook een paar zinnen die totaal niet liepen, dat je denkt: is hier wel geredigeerd? Het idee op zich is leuk. De Engelse literatuur barst van de mooie landhuizen (Manderley, Brideshead, om er maar een paar te noemen) Ik heb nu toch zo'n vreemd boek gelezen! En het had zoveel beter gekund. Het is uitgegeven bij Unbound, dat is een soort van uitgeverscollectief waarbij je zelf voor funding moet zorgen. Ik heb er al eerder een boek van gelezen waar ik niet zo enthousiast over was. Ik vond in dit boek ook een paar zinnen die totaal niet liepen, dat je denkt: is hier wel geredigeerd? Het idee op zich is leuk. De Engelse literatuur barst van de mooie landhuizen (Manderley, Brideshead, om er maar een paar te noemen). Zijn die op echt bestaande huizen gebaseerd? Welke functie vervulde het landhuis door de eeuwen heen in de Britse literatuur (en in het echte leven)? We beginnen met Tristram Shandy, we eindigen met Ballard en Barnes, en daartussenin Jane Austen, de Brontë's, Evelyn Waugh, E.M. Forster, Henry James, John Galsworthy, Virginia Woolf, Daphne du Maurier enz. enz. Richardson vertelt van alle besproken romans uitgebreid de plot na, inclusief afloop, zodat je die boeken alvast niet meer hoeft te lezen. Niks aan voor degenen die anders wel geïnspireerd konden worden, en niks aan voor degenen die de romans al kennen. Maar waar ik me veel meer aan ergerde, was haar aanname dat schrijvers alleen maar over zaken kunnen schrijven die ze in het echt hebben gezien. Ze gaat dus na in welk landhuis ze kunnen zijn geweest, en concludeert daaruit dat het daar 'dus' op gebaseerd is. Soms is dat ook waar, dan bestaan er brieven of dagboeken van de auteur waaruit dat blijkt. Maar het wordt in veel gevallen veel te stellig aangenomen dat de schrijversverbeelding echt zo één op één werkt. Als ik bij mezelf naga waar het huis van de oma in Brandsporen op gebaseerd is, dan is dat een amalgaam van bijeengesprokkelde details. De keuken van een tante, de gang van een andere tante, het plaatsje achter het huis van opa en oma, de zolder van het oude huis van schoonmama en ga zo maar door. Als schrijver sla je alles wat je in je leven gezien hebt op, en daaruit maak je iets totaal nieuws. Veel interessanter vond ik de ontwikkeling die er aan het eind van de rit in bleek te zitten, hoe je aan de hand van de veranderende kijk op het landhuis en die hele cultuur een sociologische verandering kon waarnemen. En ook hoe in de afzonderlijke romans het huis een weerspiegeling was van thema en karakter. Dat kwam allemaal veel te weinig aan bod. Een gemiste kans, en volgens mij heeft dat dan toch met zo'n soort uitgever te maken.

  8. 4 out of 5

    lauren

    House of Fiction is dedicated to various novels with houses at their centre. Richardson tries to tie together how the houses play a fundamental role in both the narrative and the authors' lives. So, after trial and error, I only read the chapters that interested me. I tried to read the essay-type chapters on books that I hadn't read by authors that I didn't care for, but I eventually gave up. I just grew bored of them and, not only that, but basically ever chapter spoiled the author's work, so I House of Fiction is dedicated to various novels with houses at their centre. Richardson tries to tie together how the houses play a fundamental role in both the narrative and the authors' lives. So, after trial and error, I only read the chapters that interested me. I tried to read the essay-type chapters on books that I hadn't read by authors that I didn't care for, but I eventually gave up. I just grew bored of them and, not only that, but basically ever chapter spoiled the author's work, so I avoided some for that reason. I did, however, read the chapters on Walpole, Austen, Scott, Bronte, Dickens, Hardy & Forester, and du Maurier & Christie. Richardson's arguments were utterly convincing, and made me look at the role of the house in a completely new light. They are centrepieces of these narratives, and shouldn't be taken advantage of. It's very clear that Richardson thoroughly researched the lives of each and very author, trying to find where houses (be that the place they grew up or their occupation as an architect) played a valuable part. She also researched into the novels, not only providing us with her argument but with a variety of different scholar's arguments. I just wish I had read the other novels, and then I might have been interested more in what Richardson had to say. Nevertheless, the chapters I did read, I thoroughly enjoyed! I feel like this might not be a book suited to everyone's needs - it's a task to read, and if you don't enjoy scholarly/academic reads, then it might not be for you.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Camila

    *This book was given to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review – all opinions are my own.* House of Fiction is a perfect way to delve back into beloved books. I thought it was very well written and very engrossing - especially for the books I did read. I could picture the houses I had imagined and the characters populating them. I found it difficult to follow on the chapters about books I had not read though. What is wonderful about this book is how it mixes both t *This book was given to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review – all opinions are my own.* House of Fiction is a perfect way to delve back into beloved books. I thought it was very well written and very engrossing - especially for the books I did read. I could picture the houses I had imagined and the characters populating them. I found it difficult to follow on the chapters about books I had not read though. What is wonderful about this book is how it mixes both the fictional world of the books with the real life inspiration from the authors. A great read for those who love literature.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    Natürlich fallen Essays, die sich mit der Rolle britischer Architektur und konkreter Häuser, Wohn- und Lebensorte als Inspiration für die Werke bekannter Autor*innen beschäftigen, eher in die Kategorien "Trivia" und "Fachliteratur". Aber genau das machte die Abhandlungen so charmant. Auch die eingebundenen biographischen Inhalte bieten nochmal einen echten Mehrwert und runden mein Bild über viele meiner Lieblingsschriftsteller*innen ab. Schön auch das Fazit. Zwar mehr auf der wissenschaftlichen Natürlich fallen Essays, die sich mit der Rolle britischer Architektur und konkreter Häuser, Wohn- und Lebensorte als Inspiration für die Werke bekannter Autor*innen beschäftigen, eher in die Kategorien "Trivia" und "Fachliteratur". Aber genau das machte die Abhandlungen so charmant. Auch die eingebundenen biographischen Inhalte bieten nochmal einen echten Mehrwert und runden mein Bild über viele meiner Lieblingsschriftsteller*innen ab. Schön auch das Fazit. Zwar mehr auf der wissenschaftlichen als auf der "Ich lese ein Sachbuch privat aus Freude"-Seite, aber das ist definitiv ein Buch für meine fellow Ravenclaws!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    Lovingly rendered exploration of the house and its place in some Very Important English Literature. Now, I didn't really enjoy this as much as I wanted to BUT a social/historical exploration of this kind is, to me, a very personal itch to scratch. The reader will likely linger over those houses that feature in her or his favorites novels - like, talk to me about Rebecca and Agatha Christie and spare me the Jane Eyre, for God's sake. Anyway, a worthy read. I received an ecopy from the publishers a Lovingly rendered exploration of the house and its place in some Very Important English Literature. Now, I didn't really enjoy this as much as I wanted to BUT a social/historical exploration of this kind is, to me, a very personal itch to scratch. The reader will likely linger over those houses that feature in her or his favorites novels - like, talk to me about Rebecca and Agatha Christie and spare me the Jane Eyre, for God's sake. Anyway, a worthy read. I received an ecopy from the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    John Griffiths

    Fascinating book which allows you to revisit writers of English Literature you know and those you don't and see how the houses fit in as characters and commentators in the novels. All the way from Tristram Shandy past Ian Fleming and all those loopy modern houses Bond villains like to live in. A real education to look much harder at how settings are chosen. And taking in Jane Austen and Charles Dickens on the way. Its a long book but you'll persist if its your thing. Fascinating book which allows you to revisit writers of English Literature you know and those you don't and see how the houses fit in as characters and commentators in the novels. All the way from Tristram Shandy past Ian Fleming and all those loopy modern houses Bond villains like to live in. A real education to look much harder at how settings are chosen. And taking in Jane Austen and Charles Dickens on the way. Its a long book but you'll persist if its your thing.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Trisha

    Loved loved loved this. If I were writing a book, this would be my topic.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Baty

    Very interesting chapter on Soames Forsyte's Robin Hill. Very interesting chapter on Soames Forsyte's Robin Hill.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    A fascinating easy read. Not so much about the houses in fiction, so much as the houses that inspired the writers, kept me engaged and I finished it in a day.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    What more could I want - a book about books referencing British homes (mostly stately). Really interesting, engaging and enjoyable. Fantastic.

  17. 4 out of 5

    José Machado

  18. 4 out of 5

    Liv

  19. 5 out of 5

    Angela Madin

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alison

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gabriele Gregory

  22. 5 out of 5

    Eilis O sullivan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Josephine

  24. 5 out of 5

    VG

  25. 5 out of 5

    Karl Øen

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rachelle (RavenclawRachelle)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Faith Edwards

  28. 4 out of 5

    Meg

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tiny Keats

  30. 5 out of 5

    Deb

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