John Appleby, an American serviceman who was stationed near Bury St Edmunds and Lavenham during WWII wrote his ever-popular and highly evocative book A Suffolk Summer (1948). Describing his time here towards the end of the war, he wrote: “The English landscape at its subtlest and loveliest is to be seen in the county of Suffolk. I can say this with dogmatic certainty because it is the only county in England that I can pretend to know. Furthermore, the people of Suffolk themselves tell me this, and I know it must be so.”
Author of the famous Swallows and Amazons series of children's books, Arthur Ransome, moved to Suffolk in order to be nearer the sea, where he could more easily indulge his love of sailing, and he moored his beloved yacht the Nancy Blackett at Pin Mill on the Shotley Peninsula. It was in this peaceful place “down the deep green lane that ended in the river itself…this happy place where almost everybody wore seaboots, and land, in comparison with water, seemed hardly to matter at all” that he set the opening of his book We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea (1937). Read the fascinating story of the restoration of the Nancy Blackett here.
Many writers have childhood memories of Suffolk, having visited during family holidays or attended school here. Eric Arthur Blair (aka George Orwell), best known for his works Nineteen Eighty Four (published in 1949) and Animal Farm (1945), went to school near Southwold and later returned to live in the town in his family home. He adopted the nom de plume George Orwell, inspired by the River Orwell, which flows through the county, because he thought "it is a good round English name."
There are many more writers who have links with Suffolk who we don't have space to elaborate on here: Charles Dickens, Beatrix Potter, Hammond Innes, Enid Blyton and Dodi Smith to name a few.Sunrise over Southwold Pier in Suffolk (c) Martin Pettitt
Upcoming Literary Festivals in Suffolk
Lavenham Children's Festival
Medieval Lavenham hosts a literary festival every two years and this year has introduced a children’s festival, a two day event taking place on Friday, 28th and Saturday, 29th October 2016. There will be reading, writing and other creative workshops; story telling sessions and Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell will be in attendance, taking questions and providing his answers in the form of a doodle (not quite literature, but entertaining and creative nonetheless!). See the programme: www.lavenhamliteraryfestival.co.uk
Poetry in Aldeburgh
The poetry festival in the lovely seaside town of Aldeburgh takes place on Friday, 4th to Sunday, 6th November 2016 with over 100 poets, groups and other artists providing a weekend of readings, creative workshops and art. See the programme: www.poetryinaldeburgh.org/festival-2016
Way With Words
The annual literary festival takes place in the coastal town of Southwold from Thursday 10th to Monday, 14th November 2016. Speakers include artist Maggi Hambling, who will be talking to author James Cahill about her new book, Touch; former Foreign Secretary, Lord Owen will discuss Churchill's war-time cabinet, looking at the minutes of some of the crucially important meetings which took place during the war; and writer, TV presenter and adventurer Ben Fogle will talk about his new book Land Rover, his journeys and the nation's love affair with this iconic vehicle. The full festival programme can be seen here. See the programme: www.wayswithwords.co.uk
Bookshops worth browsing...
The Aldeburgh Bookshop is the winner of the Independent Bookshop of the Year award and plays host to book signings, launches and other events and have a regular book club.
Browsers Bookshop in Woodbridge offers regular talks by authors, book launches and a book club.
Westleton Chapel Books in the village of Westleton, is a secondhand bookshop oozing with character. Definately a place to spend an hour or two browsing its eclectic collection.
Landers Bookshop in the elegant village of Long Melford, sells new and secondhand books.
Gainsborough's House (birthplace of artist Thomas Gainsborough and now a museum, gift shop and print workshop) in the market town of Sudbury has a gift shop with an extensive selection of art books (in particular on Thomas Gainsborough).
Waterstone's in Bury St Edmunds extends over two floors in the heart of the town. Selling new books, there is also a cafe and events take place during half term and at other times.
The Harris & Harris Bookshop in the pretty village of Clare, sells new and old books and is a “one-stop literary haven for readers of all ages”.