CJ Flood is the award-winning author of the gorgeous ‘Infinite Sky’ and she’s back with a new book, ‘Nightwanderers’, which is out in June! CJ lives and writes in Bristol and kindly agreed to give us a literary tour of her city!
Bristol has a long history of attracting artists, musicians and writers, with many choosing to live in this vibrant and relaxed south-western city, surrounded by rolling countryside. While Banksy and trip-hop are its most famous recent exports, it has been the inspiration for many other artists over the years, including some of the UK’s best authors.
Books Set in Bristol
‘Junk’ by Melvin Burgess
The controversial story about two runaway teenagers Gemma and Tar and their love for each other, and more problematically, for heroin. Set in the squalid squats of Bristol, this book made Burgess’s name, and is still his most popular novel. It recently had its twentieth anniversary, but is still extremely fresh and relevant. Highly recommended.
‘The Shock of the Fall’ by Nathan Filer
This critically acclaimed, multi-award winning story is about a damaged young man called Matthew and his battle to live a contented life in the shadow of his older brother’s death, a tragedy exacerbated by his guilt about his own part in it, and his struggle with mental health issues.
‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes
The Booker Prize winning novel about the mutability of memory and loss, and how we attempt to make sense of the complexity and chaos of our lives. It’s a beautiful and haunting read.
Authors That Live in Bristol
Nathan Filer, author of ‘The Shock of the Fall’.
Nikesh Shukla, author of ‘Coconut Unlimited and Meatspace’.
Anna Freeman, author of ‘Fair Fight’.
Amazing Bristol Bookshops
Bloom and Curll
This is a small and beautifully organised shop on Colston Street, run by Simon, lover of chess and red wine. It is a wonderfully peaceful place to search for something new or second-hand to read, and there are often sweets or biscuits on the counter. Bloom and Curll sometimes has book events too, so check out the signs in the window when you visit.
The Bristol branch in the Galleries is the largest bookstore in the city, and has just been refurnished, so now boasts a café as well as an even-more-glorious children’s and YA section. The staff are always helpful, and there are lots of deals on new books too. Waterstones host book launches and author talks, so check out their website.
Set in the middle of the glitzy part of Cabot Circus, this Foyles branch is bright and airy, with huge glass windows that flood the shop with light. A fine collection of new and classic books is to be found here, as well as a café! They also have a busy calendar of fascinating events (many of which are free). Bristol Festival of Ideas often have their talks here, so keep a look out on their website.
This is a travel book shop, and has an incredible array of ordnance survey maps and travel guides and the like, but it also has an expansive YA section that is well worth a visit. The book launch for ‘Nightwanderers’ will be held here on 8th June (link), it’s free and open to the public! Stanfords as a chain run brilliant literary events, so keep an eye out on their calendar to see what’s coming up in your area.
Gorgeous Places to Read in Bristol
At the centre of some of the most beautiful architecture on Bristol (including Central Library) this huge lawn is a fantastic place to people watch, have a picnic and read. Just choose a book, select a tree, and settle down for the afternoon.
Upstairs in Bristol Central Library you will find rows and rows of old fashioned wooden desks beneath a round-arched vaulted ceiling, with glass sections that allow sunlight to pour in. Built in 1906, this is one of my favourite places in the world to write. The smell of old books, and the feeling of human endeavour that comes from the scribbling thinkers at the desks around you is inspiring and comforting at the same time, and I have written many pages there.
Watch the Cliftonites swim up and down in this Victorian lido, while you read a classic novel of the period and wish/imagine that you live in the era of Mr Darcy and the Bennets. If you are feeling exercise-y (and fairly rich), you could even have a swim yourself. Make sure you try the Jacuzzi and sauna too. Maybe don’t take your book in there though.
Fun Literary Facts
- Jane Austen is said to have visited Bristol with her mother, and is thought to have stayed in Clifton. She mentions the folly from Blaise Castle Estate in her famous novel ‘Northanger Abbey’.
- The Llandoger Trow on King Street is arguably the most literary pub in Bristol, with both Daniel Defoe and Robert Lewis Stevenson finding inspiration here. Defoe is said to have met Alexander Selkirk here, the man whose story inspired ‘Robinson Crusoe’, while Stevenson used it to create the Admiral Benbow of ‘Treasure Island’.
‘Nightwanderers’ is about Rosie and Titania who are as close as sisters – closer, in fact. Creeping out at night, the girls love to secretly wander through their coastal town, exploring empty streets and sharing their frustrations about school and their different, but equally difficult, families.
What are the best bookish bits of your city? Let us know at @maximumpopbooks!
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