St George’s Day and some quintessential English novels

Middle England

Did you know it’s St George’s Day tomorrow? As we won’t be downing pints of Guinness or munching on haggis, what better way to celebrate it than with books? We take a look at novels that are quintessentially English.

Non fiction

The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks is one we have often shouted about at Book Social. Rebanks describes the traditional way of life of shepherds on the Cumbrian fells, and his determination to continue to farm where generations of his forebears had done. A brilliant insight into the farming community, the Lake District and a man at one with the land of his birth.

The Shepherd's Life

Children’s novel

Swallows and Amazons by Authur Ransome positively brims with adventure. Set on a fictionalised version of Lake Windermere, the Walker children sail their boat to an island they claim as their own. But somebody has other ideas! It’s a delight to read. After all, who doesn’t want a childhood filled with ginger beer, campfires and pirate treasure?

Swallows and Amazons


Village Christmas and Other Notes on an English Year by Laurie Lee is the perfect trip down memory lane. Lee (Cider With Rosie) paints a moving and lyrical picture of England through the changing seasons, and years. There is even a chapter dedicated to the good old English pub!

Village Christmas


Can we possibly celebrate the quintessential English novels without mentioning Austen, Shakespeare or Dickens? It would appear not. However we can’t narrow them down to just one recommendation, and we only have so many allotted words per article. Moving on!

Foodie delight

The Belle Hotel by Craig Melvin takes in La Gavaroche, The Ivy, The Savoy and three decades of culinary trends in England. Yep, The Belle Hotel is the kind of place you know would celebrate St George’s Day in style.

The Belle Hotel


Can we get away without mentioning Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie or Ruth Rendal? Almost!


Middle England by Jonathan Coe has it’s finger on the pulse of the nation:

‘It was tempting to think, at times like this, that some bizarre hysteria had gripped the British people’

Beginning eight years ago on the outskirts of Birmingham, where car factories have been replaced by Poundland, and London, where frenzied riots give way to Olympic fever, Middle England follows a brilliantly vivid cast of characters through a time of immense change.

There are newlyweds Ian and Sophie, who disagree about the future of the country and, possibly, the future of their relationship; Doug, the political commentator who writes impassioned columns about austerity from his Chelsea townhouse, and his radical teenage daughter who will stop at nothing in her quest for social justice; Benjamin Trotter, who embarks on an apparently doomed new career in middle age, and his father Colin, whose last wish is to vote in the European referendum. And within all these lives is the story of modern England: a story of nostalgia and delusion; of bewilderment and barely-suppressed rage.”

Middle England by Jonathan Coe

Guilty pleasure

Riders by Jilly Cooper is the first in the Rutshire Chronicles and possibly the best. It is here we first meet Rupert Campbell-Black in all his bonk related glory. Slip into your finest silk, drown yourself in scent, quaff large amounts of plonk and immerse yourself in the world of English show jumping. It’s fabulous dah-ling!

Riders by Jilly Cooper


What an American? In an article about St George’s Day? Well yes but in a National Poll his book was voted ‘the book that best represents Britain’. The book would be Notes from a Small Island. The Amerian, Bill Bryson.

Notes From A Small Island

Historical fiction

multiple wives, madness, gunpowder plots. It would be treason to not include a nod to the wealth of historical subject matter our monarchy has provided us. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory is one of our favourites. Set around the War of The Roses, the princes who were sent to the tower, Richard the third being killed in a parking lot and of course, Henry VIII, followed.

The White Queen

Don’t see your favourite English book? Let us know about it below.