Dracula’s Domain: A Visit to Whitby

Whitby

My recent trip to Manchester was followed by a few days in the sweet seaside town of Whitby. On the surface, Whitby seems like a strange place for a random visit: it’s a small seaside village on the east coast of Britain, and it’s not exactly the easiest place to get to. But Whitby did have one very attractive claim to fame that drew me there, despite a Megabus journey from Manchester and a two-hour, bumpy local bus ride: it’s reputed to be the birthplace of Bram Stoker’s late-Victorian ode to typewriters and phonographs (also it has a few vampires in it). I’m talking, of course, about Dracula. Continue reading

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Two Days in Manchester: Plus, Mr Darcy Fangirling

Manchester Night

Welcome back to Lit Major Abroad, everybody, the segment where I post stories from my literature-inspired travels, usually about seven to thirteen months after said travels actually took place! Up next: an extremely belated description of a trip through Northern England. Warning: I will not divulge exactly when this trip took place. Suffice it to say that several seasons (as in, leaves falling to the ground, turning brown, and then growing on the trees all over again like those sped-up montages from the movies) have passed since this trip took place.

Like many readers of North and South, I had an idea of what Manchester would be like. Dirty and smoky, full of cramped streets and ugly factories that attested to a cruel age of economic power and social irresponsibility. I was influenced by things like the TV adaptation of Gaskell’s novel, and the experiences of family members who had been to the north of England (admittedly, several decades ago, when the English were considerably less on top of things as far as the aesthetic appeal of their cities goes). So when I decided to take a Gaskell-inspired detour through the north of England last year, I was sure I was heading towards a dirty, depressing industrial city. Continue reading

In the Mood for a Little Victorian?: Lark Rise To Candleford (1939-1943), by Flora Thompson

Lark RiseThis book is #87 on my Classics Club list.

A couple of years ago I began watching a hugely enjoyable BBC series. And then, one season in, I discovered that it had in fact been based on a series of books.

As a person who hates watching the movie before reading the book, you can imagine how much this irked me. So although I’d been given a box set of the series for a recent birthday, I resolved not to watch any further until I had read the source material for myself.

Two years later, and I have finally finished Lark Rise to Candleford. It’s taken me a while and one abortive attempt, but I’m pleased to say that I’ve read this trio of novels about the Oxfordshire countryside. Whether it was worth the two-year wait will probably become apparent when I finally finish watching the BBC adaptation next year. Continue reading

‘Members Of One Another’: South Riding (1936), by Winifred Holtby

South RidingSamantha Ellis’ How To Be A Heroine has certainly opened up doors for me when it comes to 1930s and 40s English literature. The literature of the twentieth century has always eluded me before now, mostly because I was convinced that it would be, based on my limited experience with it, either a) depressing, or b) mad, confusing, and experimental. Or possibly both.

But one thing I’ve found, reading Cold Comfort Farm and re-reading I Capture The Castle, is how contemporary these texts can feel. And they’re so easy to read, flowing like Victorian novels – only with telephones and cars thrown in. The same can be said of South Riding, another of the books that Ellis discusses in How To Be A Heroine.

South Riding is set in the fictional South Riding of Yorkshire, and its main character is a forty-year old spinster called Sarah Burton, who comes up from London to become the headmistress of the girls’ high school. She brings with her boundless energy and a desire for reform. She’s a character who believes that “The proper technique of headmistress-ship was to break all rules of decorum and justify the breach” (Book I, Chapter V).

Continue reading