Brighton is a city on the South Coast of England:

The town has an exciting heritage and for my dissertation I am looking at how history can use fiction, with Brighton as my example. I have read many novels that have featured Brighton – some good, some very bad, and I’ve read a lot of non-fiction books. Below are the ones I have read recently:

Jim Beavis: The Brighton Races

This was a useful little book that looked predominantly at the race course up at the north of Brighton. Mixed in with some interesting facts about the town, this book gave a clear and concise explanation to the history of the races in Sussex and how the interest grew at certain times in Brighton’s history, such as when royalty visited. I found this a quick and easy read, and very informative and helpful.

Iain McGowan: The Spirit of Brighton and Hove

This was a very small book – pocket-sized in fact and was full of colour photographs showing different areas of the city. There was a little bit of information, but not enough detail for my dissertation. However, if you just want to get a taste of life in Brighton, this is a great book for that. The colours and images will whet you appetite for this city. A great book for tourists.

John Huddlestone: The Brighton Story

This book is a reproduction of the cartoon strip Huddlestone had at The Brighton Herald newspaper. I actually found this quite hard to read although there is no denying Huddlestone’s talent. This cartoon strip told the history of the town in a unique and different way. I have never been a fan of those forms of entertainment but this book did give some useful information. Some pictures did have me chuckling but for the most part I found the pages too busy.

James S. Gray: Brighton Between the Wars

This is another book full of photographs but I actually found it very useful. As I live in Brighton I have a good idea of what most of the town looks like now in 2010 and to see some of the areas back in the 1930s was a bit of shock. There are many things that weren’t there back then, such as the shopping centre and the roads were so narrow. This book gives an insight into the life people lived and Brighton really was a place of two halves: the very rich and the very poor. The poverty of the town is shocking and the slums people lived in where a disgrace – thankfully they have been removed now. This book was really useful and gives a somewhat darked look at the town. I wouldn’t class this as a tourist book but if you are interested in Brighton and its history this is a good book to read.

Below is a selection of images from the city, an amazing place to live!

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Synopsis:

As teenagers Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe were the only witnesses to a tragic event. Amid heated public debate, the two seemingly glamorous teens were dubbed ‘The Ice Cream Girls’ by the press and were dealt with by the courts.

Years later, having led very different lives, Poppy is keen to set the record straight about what really happened, while married mother-of-two Serena wants no one in her present to find out about her past. But some secrets will not stay buried – and if theirs is revealed, everything will become a living hell all over again . . .

This story is narrated by Poppy and Serena, who had their lives changed by a man called Marcus. He is a teacher who lets them fall in love with him, and then abuses them. And then he is murdered. Poppy is jailed but is adamant she was not his killer. When she is realised she is determined to make Serena confess, but Serena is trying to keep her past hidden. She is now married with two children – although her husband does not about who she is – one of the “Ice Cream Girls” as the media dubbed them. She is terrified her past, and Poppy will catch up with her and ruin her life.

Well I did not like Marcus! As I reflect on this novel that is the first thing that comes to mind. The girls were only 16, and in Poppy’s case, in a very vulnerable place, and he took advantage of them, and then kept them trapped in an abusive relationship. To be honest, he had it coming! As for Poppy and Serena, I just felt so sorry for them. Poppy because she was jailed and because when she was out she struggled to connect with other people; and Serena because she lived in fear and had everything to lose.

I love Dorothy Koomson. She writes really engaging and entertaining novels. I loved this book because of the crime twist in – the murderer wasn’t hard to guess but I loved how Koomson wrote it. I felt many emotions reading this, which I think is important when reading. I was hooked to the story and it didn’t take long to read. This is chick-lit with a twist and I loved it!

Can I just add, this book is set in Brighton, and Poppy often speaks about her beach hut. Now I live in Brighton and loved this, so thought I would add a photo of myself outside of one! This is on my hen day, with my mum, my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law 🙂

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Synopsis:

Robertson Blossom welcomes Caroline Woolfit, a non-smoking vegetarian and wannabe new age traveller into his smoking and meat eating Brighton household. Her new housemates – drum roadies and gay pensioners – have stories of flying babies, reefer madness and Antarctica to tell.

I only got as far as page 30 of this book. Story-wise: it is crazy, eccentric even, and not that believable. That said, that was not the problem. The story follows Caroline, a sensible second year student at Sussex University as she moves into a shared flat, where they are most interested in her stereo. Her house mates are bizarre. They like drinking and taking drugs and gambling. My impression of them was just that they were crazy.

My problem with this book was the language. While I don’t like reading about drugs and sex, I can deal with it. What I didn’t like was the swearing, and the frequent use of the c-word. Maybe I’m just an old-fashion prude but I didn’t like it so I have stopped reading this book.

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Waterstone’s Synopsis:

A simple trip to Brighton turns into a summer of adventure for Cassandra Paxton when she encounters the enigmatic Lord Deverill. She believes him to be a friend of her dead brother, but she soon finds that there is more to him than meets the eye. Lord Deverill is hiding a secret, and, when Cassandra discovers its significance, the accidents that have befallen her appear in a new and deadly light. With danger looming on every side Cassandra reluctantly knows she must join forces with Lord Deverill if she is to survive. After searching her heart, can Cassandra admit that she loves him? And will Lord Deverill Manage to save her life.

To be honest, I was a bit reluctant to start reading this book. I chose it for my dissertation reading as it is set in Brighton, and I was worried it was going to be a boring, historically inaccurate Regency romance. To my pleasant surprise, I actually enjoyed the book.

The main character is Cassandra, who is determined, strong-willed and sensible. She is Brighton for one reason: to sell the family home. There she meets Lord Deverill, who knew her brother, and the real way he died. Yes there is a romance in the book but it does not overshadow the rest of the story. I liked Cassandra. She stuck to her guns and faced the truth and reality head on.

The history in the book didn’t seem too bad. The book is set in Regency Brighton and featured swimming in the sea, the horse races and evenings out at different parties – including one hosted by the Prince Regent at the Royal Pavilion. All of these things did occur during the late 1700s, early 1800s.

The plot was good. There was more going on than just falling in love. Cassandra had a little sister to look after, a house to sell and a suitor to chase away, as well as finding out the truth about her brother. Most of the story did not surprise me, but there was one twist that I missed. I thought the ending was a bit soft, but overall I enjoyed this book.

3/5

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This novel sees Val Andrews writing a Sherlock Holmes mystery. In this book Holmes comes out of retirement and solves a murder in Brighton. A woman has gone missing and a man has mysterious turned up at the Royal Pavilion but there are no signs of forced entry. The police are clueless and as a bet Watson agrees Holmes could solve the investigation.

I think Andrews was very brave for writing a Sherlock Holmes novel. They are very famous and Conan Doyle was an excellent writer. Although this is not up to Doyle’s standard, it was not a bad book. It was a good storyline with twists and surprises and I liked how Andrews wrote the characters. It didn’t have the subtle humour I have found in the original books but as far as he could Andrews has been true to the characters.

I think I will probably stick to the original Sherlock Holmes novels this was not a bad read and not a bad attempt at another Holmes sequel.

3/5

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Waterstone’s Synopsis:

Cass Bainbridge is being stalked. New job, new home, new life. Cass has moved to Brighton to start over as a lecturer at the university. But she’s already acquired some unwanted baggage. Someone’s watching her & they’ve even taken photos. She’s being followed, too. And then there are the anonymous and threatening emails she’s receiving. With an unknown assailant attacking students on campus, Cass fears for her life. Is she to be the next random victim? Or is there a more sinister reason she’s been targeted?

I didn’t know what to expect when I started this book, but I really enjoyed it. Throughout the book you learn about Cass and Beth, a needy student looking for comfort in Cass. Beth seems to be everywhere, but with life changing and getting out of control she offers a distraction for Cass. But there is something sinister going on; and Alec the difficult student seems to be making Cass’ life even more difficult.

I would categorise this as a psychological thriller. There was suspense, twists and revelations. I enjoyed the book right from the beginning and was hooked right up until the ending. I was quite surprised with the outcome – I had jumped to a different outcome altogether. The twist at the end and the revelation made the book very good.

I liked Cass. I felt empathy for her and got freaked out when she did. Gardner wrote great characters. Some bugged me, some weirded me out, but all of them provoked a reaction. She also wrote a good story. I felt tense when I was suppose to and found myself guessing the ending.

This was not a hard read, it didn’t take me long to get through it, and I really enjoyed it. I decided to read this for my dissertation and I am pleased with that decision. If you are into thrillers and mysteries, this book is for you.

4/5

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Synopsis from Waterstones:

1995, and at a party in Bedford, Mary meets Jack and Neal, a pair of hipsters and self-confessed Beats’ stuck (un)squarely in the sixties. After a Beat (not-quite) Happening’ at the local library, the three of them (and Neal’s cat Koko) set off in Mary’s Vauxhall on a road trip to Brighton in search of literary fame and fortune. But, this is neither the time nor the place for free love, uncomplicated sex and unrestrained cool this is 1990s Britain and everything comes with a price

When asked what category I would place this book in, I struggled to think of an answer. I think it would just sit in fiction as the book just follows a group of twenty-somethings as they live life as though they are stuck in the 1960s – the era before Dylan had his motorcycle accident. This is not horror or a even a psychological thriller, it is just Mary, Neal and Jack looking for a “hip” time.
This wasn’t a bad book, but I’m not sure I’ll be jumping at a chance to read Litt again. This book did seem a bit random to me. Can people really live their lives as though they are stuck in a decade that they weren’t even born in? There were definitely elements of the book I found unbelieveable – like Mary and Jack’s trip to America. There were areas of the book that made me uncomfortable. In Brighton Mary loses all inhibitions and partakes in a threesome that is watched. I didn’t like reading that at all.

I think this could be used as a social study however. One could use this to look at behaviour, what influences people and how beliefs can shape someone’s life.

I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I found they all bugged me. Mary was desperate to fit in, Jack was trying to be “cool” and “hip” and Neal I felt just needed to grow a backbone. If I’m going to be honest, although this wasn’t an awful book and I did read it in a day, I only finished it because I was reading it for my dissertation. As I sit and think about this book I’m not overly excited by the memory of it. It will be a book I will probably have forgotten about in a few months.

2/5

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holidays at brighton

This is not a long book, only 160 pages, but it is full of information. The book is presented as a fiction book for children, but every conversation is full of facts. Oliver and Edward have arrived in Brighton on a holiday, and are later joined by their cousin Helen. They go exploring the town and its surroundings and as they embark on their adventure they are full of questions, which conveniently their parents are able to answer. The questions are historical and scientific, and the answers are very detailed.

To be honest, this was not an exciting book. I felt that it was a book for older children but it was so full of facts that I just couldn’t get into the story. I found the children pompous and was mildly annoyed by their parents, who knew everything. It wasn’t realistic, it was just frustrating. However, it will be useful for my dissertation. Aside from that, I didn’t enjoy this book too much.

4/10

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murders and misdemeandours

Amazon synopsis:

A look at the dark side of life, Victorian-style, when nothing was quite as it seemed and a public execution could be an entertaining family day out. Murderers, poachers, thieves, pickpockets and vagabonds all went about their business with impunity. Crime took place on the streets, on public transport, in homes, pubs, prisons, asylums, workhouses and brothels – it was all part of everyday life in Brighton and Hove in the late 1800s. Read about the notorious railway murderer, Percy Lefroy, who appeared at his trial in full evening dress and went to the gallows in an old brown suit. Gasp at the audacity of a temptress who fell in love with a doctor and tried to poison his wife, with strychnine laced chocolate. Then there’s little Emily, a girl who received imprisonment with hard labour for stealing a few tempting pieces of gingerbread while a gaggle of disruptive young women loved causing a riot, flirting with men and smashing windows. It was madness and mayhem in those weird and wonderful times – and it’s brought vividly to life by Janet Cameron in Brighton and Hove – Murder and Misdemeanours.

This book focusses on Victorian Brighton and the crimes that took place in that 100 years. This book is full of stories – some serious, others bordering on comical. It seems Cameron really has done her homework – the book was detailed and although not very long, it contained some interesting and useful facts.

However, I did not find this an easy read. I found myself having to force myself to read the chapters – even though some were very short, only a page or two long. I thought the use of pictures was interesting as well. She wanted to show an area but used a modern photograph instead of a picture that revealed Brighton back in the 1800s. Although this book will be useful to my dissertation I felt a bit let down. I thought the book would be more interesting than it was and I’m afraid I won’t be actively seeking out books by Cameron.

5/10

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This is not a long book that explores Brighton’s history of alcohol and pubs. The history dates back to the first ale-houses and Collis informs us about all aspects of life that links back to alcohol. The book is full of facts and figures, and some stats did take me by surprise.

I found this book useful and easy to read. It has given a clear insight into the pub history of Brighton and will be a great help in my dissertation writing. I smirked in places and actually quite enjoyed this read.

7/10

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