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Our handpicked reading list for your Jurassic coast staycation 2021

If you want to find some inspiration for what to read on your Summer staycation to the Jurassic Coast this year whether it's classic literature, romance, drama, or reading with the children look no further than Fossil Coast Gin's handpicked reading list.

The British Isles is home to some of the world’s most notable writers who have used the Jurassic Coast and the towns of Lyme Regis, Chesil Beach, West Bay (a.k.a Broadchurch), and Seatown as inspiration and featured in the plots as well as being the home of many iconic protagonists.


Chris Chibnall who created the ITV series Broadchurch says it best, "It's a love letter to the landscape of West Dorset, where I've lived for the best part of a decade. The landscape informs the drama: the cliffs, the sea, the beach are all key elements of the story". It’s therefore unsurprising that Jurassic Coastline has such a deep literary heritage that many literary events are scheduled throughout the year.


Among these notable writers and literary legends are Thomas Hardy, Enid Blyton, and Jane Austen who was a frequent visitor to Lyme Regis where she wrote 'Persuasion' along with John Fowles set his classic novel 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' in and around the town. The classic novel 'Moonfleet' by John Meade Faulkner was based in Chesil Beach as was Ian McEwans's 1962 'On Chesil Beach', Booker Prize-shortlisted and 2017 feature film.


Thomas Hardy (1840 – 1928) spent most of his life in the town of Dorchester using Wessex (Dorset) as his geographic muse and fictional setting for his novels including 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' and 'The Mayor of Casterbridge'. Both Hardy’s Cottage where he was born and raised and Max Gate his Dorchester townhouse are wonderfully preserved, owned, and managed by the National Trust and are free for members to visit.


Enid Blyton regularly spent her holidays along the Jurassic Coast especially on the Isle of Purbeck. It was here, the location of Corfe Castle, that is believed to be ‘Kirrin Castle’ from her Famous Five series, along with Brownsea Island as ‘Whispering Island’ and Stoborough heath re-imagined as ‘Mystery Moor’.


Children's Books


Mary Anning (History VIP) by Kay Barnham

'She sells sea shells on the sea shore' - and she really did! This rhyme is thought to have been written about Mary Anning, an amazing fossil and dinosaur expert, who was almost unknown at the time she lived. This biography explores the life of Mary Anning, from her first fossil finds at the age of ten to her sales of important discoveries to wealthy scientists. Mary's fossil finds made a great contribution to what scientist understood about pre-historic life.


Through the story of Mary Anning, readers learn about life and society in the 1800s and Victorian Britain. We learn what it was like to be born into a poor family and about the roles of women in society and in the field of science. Readers will learn to draw conclusions from the evidence provided - a great basis for class discussions.


History VIP biographies each look at the life of a famous Briton telling the stories of these Very Important People with clear, lively text. Amazing facts are added with feature panels and lively illustrations that give visual information of the time and society the VIP lived in. (Buy this book)


The Dinosaur Detectives by Stephanie Baudet

Matt Sharp has a secret talent: if he touches dinosaur eggs, he experiences mysterious visions of the prehistoric world. This is lucky because Matt wants to be a paleontologist just like his dad. Now that he's twelve, he's allowed to join his father on an exciting search for dinosaur eggs - too bad his annoying eleven-year-old cousin, Jo, is tagging along. Even worse, it looks like Matt's dad's rival is following them! Who will win the race and find the fossils first?


Join Matt, Jo, and Dad on their adventures to the Amazon Rainforest, Florida, the Antarctic, and Australia! The Dinosaur Detectives is a fun-filled adventure series following the story of Matt Sharp and his family as they hunt for dinosaur eggs.


This fact meets fiction series is great for the young explorer aged 7+. (Buy this book)




The Famous Five: Five on a Treasure Island (Book 1) by Enid Blyton

Meet Julian, Dick, Anne, George, and Timothy. Together they are THE FAMOUS FIVE - Enid Blyton's most popular adventure series. All 21 titles are also available as audiobooks! 'There was something else out on the sea by the rocks - something dark that seemed to lurch out of the waves . . . What could it be?' Julian, Dick, and Anne are spending the holidays with their tomboy cousin George and her dog, Timothy. One day, George takes them to explore nearby Kirrin Island, with its rocky little coast and old ruined castle on the top.


Over on the island, they make a thrilling discovery, which leads them deep into the dungeons of Kirrin Castle on a dangerous adventure. Who - and what - will they find there? Fantastic new cover art by Laura Ellen Anderson will draw young readers into this accessible timeless classic. (Buy this book)



Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K Rowling

J.K. Rowling, a former resident, graduate of Exeter University and author of the Harry Potter, named “Budleigh Babberton”, the home of retired Professor Horace Eugene Flaccus Slughorn, is named after Budleigh Salterton.


Let the magic of J.K. Rowling's classic Harry Potter series take you back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This Gryffindor House Edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire celebrates the noble character of the Hogwarts house famed for its courage, bravery, and determination. Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts is packed with more great Gryffindor moments and characters, including Harry's unexpected selection as champion in the Triwizard Tournament - not to mention Hagrid's misadventures with Blast-Ended Skrewts! (Buy this book)


Classic Literature


Persuasion by Jane Austen

'In Persuasion, Jane Austen is beginning to discover that the world is larger, more mysterious, and more romantic than she had supposed' Virginia Woolf


Jane Austen's moving late novel of missed opportunities and second chances centers on Anne Elliot, no longer young and with few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she was persuaded by others to break off her engagement to poor, handsome naval captain Frederick Wentworth. What happens when they meet again is movingly told in Austen's last completed novel.


Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, and a mature, tender love story tinged with heartache. (Buy Book)




The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

Other books by Thomas Hardy set on Wessex backdrop include: Far from the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge.

'To be loved to madness - such was her great desire'


Eustacia Vye criss-crosses the wild Egdon Heath, eager to experience life to the full in her quest for 'music, poetry, passion, war'. She marries Clym Yeobright, native of the heath, but his idealism frustrates her romantic ambitions and her discontent draws others into a tangled web of deceit and unhappiness.


Early readers responded to Hardy's 'insatiably observant' descriptions of the heath, a setting that for D. H. Lawrence provided the 'real stuff of tragedy'.


For modern readers, the tension between the mythic setting of the heath and the modernity of the characters challenges our freedom to shape the world as we wish; like Eustacia, we may not always be able to live our dreams. (Buy Book)


The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles

Widely acclaimed since publication, John Fowles' most beloved novel is the ultimate epic historical romance.


Charles Smithson, a respectable engaged man, meets Sarah Woodruff as she stands on the Cobb at Lyme Regis, staring out to sea.


Charles falls in love, but Sarah is a disgraced woman, and their romance will defy all the stifling conventions of the Victorian age. (Buy Book)











Moonfleet by J. Mead Falkner

Orphaned John Trenchard grows up in the village of Moonfleet with his aunt, entranced by the local legend of the ghostly Blackbeard, who rises each winter night to search for his lost diamond.


While conducting his own hunt for the treasure, John is trapped in the church crypt and discovers the true secret of the village: smuggling.


Taken under the wing of the gruff innkeeper and chief smuggler, Elzevir Block, John begins a dangerous adventure that will see him in a hair-raising chase along a precarious cliff path and deciphering a hidden code in an ancient castle. Moonfleet is a thrilling story of revenge and betrayal, of loyalty and great sacrifice, but it is above all a story about friendship. (Buy this book)



Romantic Comedy


Summer at the Comfort Food Café by Debbie Johnson

Other books by Debbie Johns include Christmas at the Comfort Food Café, Coming Home to the Comfort Food Café , Wedding at the Comfort Food Café and Sunshine at the Comfort Food Café. This series of four books follow the exploits of widowed mum-of-two Laura Walker, and her decision to uproot her teenaged children and make the trek from Manchester to Dorset for the summer isn’t one she takes lightly, and it’s certainly not winning her any awards from her kids, Nate and Lizzie. Even her own parents think she’s gone mad. For her, the Comfort Food Café doesn’t just serve food – it serves a second chance to live her life to the full…

Full of quirky characters, friendship, and humour, you will devour this engaging and heartwarming novel in one sitting’ Sunday Express’ S Magazine


Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you raid the pantry in the middle of the night…


The Comfort Food Café is perched on a windswept clifftop at what feels like the edge of the world, serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle café overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.


Her new job at the café, and the hilarious people she meets there, give Laura the chance she needs to make new friends; to learn to be herself again, and – just possibly – to learn to love again as well.


Other Books to consider...

Broadchurch by Erin Kelly

Inspired by the first season of the BAFTA award-winning ITV series, this is the official, unmissable Broadchurch novel. Incredibly moving and containing never-before-seen material, it takes you inside the minds and motivations of the unforgettable cast of characters. It's a hot July morning in the Dorset town of Broadchurch when Beth Latimer realises that her eleven-year-old son, Danny, is missing. As Beth searches desperately for her boy, her best friend, local police officer DS Ellie Miller, arrives at work to find that the promotion she was promised has been given to disreputable Scottish outsider DI Alec Hardy. When Danny's body is found on the beach Ellie must put her feelings aside as she works with DI Hardy to solve the mystery of Danny's death. As the case becomes a murder investigation the news hits the national press, jolting sleepy Broadchurch into the national spotlight. As the town's secrets begin to unravel, members of this tight-knit community begin to consider those in their midst. Right now it's impossible to know who to trust. (Buy this book)


No Turning Back by Susan Lewis

Eva Montgomery is at the peak of her career when she is viciously attacked by a stalker. While still traumatised, she makes the biggest mistake of her life - one she can never turn back from. Sixteen years later, Eva has managed to rebuild her life in a way that seemed impossible after the attack. Her home in Dorset, high on the cliffs overlooking the sea, is as elegant as she is, but bears none of the scars. To an outsider, her world seems perfect in every way. Then the past invades the present - with shattering consequences. Hurt, frightened and confused, Eva struggles desperately to put right the terrible mistake she made sixteen years ago and finally break free from a past that nearly destroyed her. (Buy this book)


Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Vivid and engrossing’ says the Financial Times. I don’t remember there ever being a time when I wasn’t out upon the beach. Mam used to say the window was open when I was born, and the first thing I saw when they held me up was the sea. Mary Anning may be young and uneducated, but she has “the eye”. Scouring the windswept Jurassic coast near Lyme Regis, she finds fossils nobody else can, making discoveries that will shake the scientific world of the early 19th century. But science is a male-dominated arena, and there are many who disapprove. She finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot: unmarried, middle-aged and middle class, and a fellow fossil enthusiast. If they can weather differences in their age and standing, and overcome professional envy, will true friendship prove the rarest find of all? (Buy this book)


Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell

Every family has a secret: a dramatic family saga with a dark thread of suspense lurking at its heart. The Tides are a family with dark secrets. Haunted by the events of one tragic day ten years ago, they are each, in their own way, struggling to move forwards with their lives. Dora, the youngest daughter, lives in a ramshackle East End warehouse with her artist boyfriend Dan. Dora is doing a good job of skating across the surface of her life - but when she discovers she is pregnant the news leaves her shaken and staring back at the darkness of a long-held guilt. Returning to Clifftops, the rambling family house perched high on the Dorset coastline, Dora must confront her past. Clifftops hasn't changed in years and moving through its rooms and gardens, Dora can still feel the echo of that terrible summer's day when life changed forever for the Tides. As Dora begins her search for clues surrounding the events of that fateful day, she comes to realize that the path to redemption may rest with her troubled sister, Cassie. If Dora can unlock the secrets Cassie swore she would take to her grave, just maybe she will have a shot at salvation. But can long-held secrets ever really be forgiven? And even if you do manage to forgive and forget, how do you ever allow yourself to truly love again? (Buy this book)


The Forgotten Village by Lorna Cook

1943: The world is at war, and the villagers of Tyneham are being asked to make one more sacrifice: to give their homes over to the British army. But on the eve of their departure, a terrible act will cause three of them to disappear forever. 2018: Melissa had hoped a break on the coast of Dorset would rekindle her stagnant relationship, but despite the idyllic scenery, it’s pushing her and Liam to the brink. When Melissa discovers a strange photograph of a woman who once lived in the forgotten local village of Tyneham, she becomes determined to find out more about her story. But Tyneham hides a terrible secret, and Melissa’s search for the truth will change her life in ways she never imagined possible. Winner of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award, as well as the Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers. (Buy this book)


The Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin

A historical romance set around the backdrop of Lulworth. Cora Cash, possibly the wealthiest heiress in 1890s America, has been raised to believe that money will open every door to her. But when her mother whisks Cora to England to secure her an aristocratic match, Cora is dismayed by the welcome she at first receives. The great English houses in which she is entertained are frosty and forbidding, dogged by intrigue above stairs, and gossip below. And it is only when she loses her heart - to a man she barely knows - that Cora realises the game she is playing is one she does not fully understand, and that her own future happiness could be the prize. (Buy this book)


The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

Previously The Guardian best books of Summer and The Sunday Times Bestseller, Winner of the Royal Society of Literature Christopher Bland Prize, shortlisted for the 2018 Costa Biography Award and Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018. Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall. Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea, and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey. The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt, and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways. (Buy this book)


Enjoy your staycation...

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