Better than fiction! Cornwall-based books for an escapist read

Craving a little Cornish escapism? Discover our pick of Cornwall-based books; beautifully-written, gripping novels full of mystery, drama, crime and romance with a glorious Cornish backdrop thrown in!

There has never been a better time to escape into the pages of a good book. The experience of the pandemic and successive lockdowns has reminded us of the value of reading for our mental health and wellbeing. 

Cornwall has a strong literary heritage, with the likes of Winston Graham (who wrote the Poldark novels), Daphne Du Maurier and Rosamunde Pilcher all basing stories within the wild and beautiful landscape they knew and loved. 

However, Cornwall has become a popular setting for contemporary fiction in recent years, with everyone from JK Rowling (as Robert Galbraith) and KJ Whittaker setting stories against the moors, beaches and harbour villages of capitvating Kernow.     

So, here’s our pick of some of the novels set, or partly set, in Cornwall in recent years. Many of these can be sourced from Cornwall’s independent bookshops – just follow the link and do your bit to support small bookstores! 

False Lights by K.J. Whittaker begins when a half-drowned girl washes up on a Cornish beach

KJ Whittaker, False Lights

This is a fictionalised retelling of the fallout from the Battle of Waterloo, which in this novel Napoleon has won! It centres on the romantic tale of the daughter of a murdered sea captain and an aristocratic soldier-spy, who are thrown together in a intriguing mission which takes them from the Isles of Scilly to London. 

Buy it from The Falmouth Bookseller. 

An un-put-downable read. Who wouldn’t want to inherit a Cornish estate? 

Ruth Ware, The Death of Mrs Westaway

This thrilling family drama has hints of both Daphne Du Maurier and Agatha Christie. Harriet Westaway receives a letter telling her of an inheritance which at first it seems she has no right to, but as the story unfolds it turns out she has not only a claim on a Cornish estate, but also a mystery to solve…Buy it from The Falmouth Bookseller

The Path To The Sea is just one of many novels by Liz Fenwick set in Cornwall

Liz Fenwick, Under A Cornish Sky and other stories

Originally from America, Liz Fenwick describes herself as a global nomad, but Cornwall has been both her subject and her home for many years now. She has written several moving and atmospheric stories based in Cornwall, including A Cornish Stranger and A Cornish Affair. Her latest book, The Path To The Sea, is about three generations of women finding comfort, solace and answers during their last Cornish summer together. Buy it from The St Ives Bookseller.

Troubled Blood is the latest Cormoran Strike novel, as featured on BBC 1 

Robert Galbraith, Troubled Blood

JK Rowling’s latest outing as Robert Galbraith sees her bring character Cormoran Strike back to his Cornish roots. Although only partly set in St Mawes (the rest of the novel plays out in the usual London streets) Troubled Blood conjures up a strong image of a Cornwall almost entirely cut-off from the rest of the UK by extreme winter weather – an only partly-exagerated storytelling device! Buy it from Shrew Books of Fowey.

A classic Goddard novel set in Cornwall

Robert Goddard, Name To A Face

Robert Goddard is known for his page-turning mystery novels and Name To A Face is no exception. It centres on the story of an antique ring which is bought at auction and then lost, taking the protaganist on a journey back 300 years into the shipwrecked past of the Isles of Scilly, and a string of murders designed to cover up a dark secret.Buy from Waterstones. 

David John Wiles, Billy and the Applegates

A wonderful story of two brothers who were evacuated to the Cornish countryside at the start of World War Two. This is a gentle yet mesmerising work of fiction exploring companionship in wartime, the trials of adjusting to a different way of life, tales of childhood adventures and a blossoming love story. Buy it here.


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