1 The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings
J R R Tolkien, 1954-55
One of the best-known fantasy worlds in all English literature has its roots in Warwickshire. In a letter to his publishers, Tolkien wrote that The Shire - home to the Hobbits - was "more or less a Warwickshire village" of the late 19th century. The Warwickshire of Tolkien's youth included parts of Birmingham, in and around which Tolkien lived from the age of four after moving from South Africa. And according to Tolkien Tour of England, Warwick Castle is believed to be an inspiration for the "Nordic style of Edoras, the capital of the land of Rohan in the second volume of the Lord of the Rings". Tolkein married Edith Bratt at St Mary Immaculate church in Warwick in 1916, when he was 21.
George Eliot, 1871-72
Eliot's 'study of provincial life' - widely regarded as one of the great English novels - is set in a fictional town thought to be based on Coventry, where she had lived before moving to London, having been born Mary Anne Evans in Nuneaton. The book follows distinct, intersecting stories with various characters, its themes including the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy, political reform and education. The novel was ranked at number one in a BBC poll of book critics outside the UK to judge the 100 greatest British novels.
3 The Little Stranger
Sarah Waters, 2009
The celebrated ghost story is set in the 1940s in Hundreds Hall, a fictional, crumbling mansion in Warwickshire. “Warwickshire seemed the ideal setting for The Little Stranger,” said Sarah Waters in 2018, around the time of the release of the hit film adaptation. “Home to some of the nation's most impressive stately homes, it has also lost its fair share of grand country houses to ruin and demolition. I liked the idea of it as a rather 'haunted' county - a county with a long, fascinating history, right at the centre of England, a place with thriving urban centres but also - especially in the 1940s - with pockets of seclusion, eccentricity and decay.” The Little Stranger was Waters' third novel to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
4 Dombey and Son
Charles Dickens, 1846-48
Leamington plays a major role in this, Dickens' seventh novel, originally published in monthly instalments. Arranged marriages, child cruelty, betrayal, deceit and tensions between classes are among the themes explored in the story, which follows the tale of a shipping firm whose owner has no son to follow him in his role, straining his relationship with his daughter. Various scenes are set in Leamington, a town with which Dickens was familiar; his name would later appear in the guestbook of the Regent Hotel.
Publisher: Wordsworth Classics
Sir Walter Scott, 1821
Selfishness versus selflessness, ambition versus love - Sir Walter Scott's novel may be set in Elizabethan era but the private agonies of its aristocratic characters will be relatable to many readers today. The plot follows the secret marriage of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and Amy Robsart, daughter of Sir Hugh Robsart. Amy passionately loves her husband, and the Earl loves her in return, but he is driven by ambition. Scott contrasts the splendid revels at Kenilworth Castle with the inner turmoil at play.