This week, The Broke and the Bookish have challenged us to come up with a top ten based on a single setting of our choice. I chose a place close my heart: the glorious city of Brighton and Hove, in which I attended university, met my partner and generally had a rather lovely time.
Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, ‘“People change,” she said.
“Oh, no they don’t. Look at me. I’ve never changed. It’s like those sticks of rock: bite it all the way down, you’ll still read Brighton. That’s human nature.”’
Sugar Rush is a fun novel by Julie Burchill, who says:“When I came to live in Brighton & Hove, as we’re meant to call it, 16 years ago, it was like all my Christmases had come at once – even if they were covered in seagull muck.”
Robert Goddard’s Play to the End involves the character living a few doors down from my boyfriend’s old house. All the cool people live in Viaduct Road. Another fun fact: my dad went to school with Robert Goddard, then known to all as ‘Bob’.
In Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, one of the protagonists works in the English department at my alma mater, the University of Sussex.
Much of the action in William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair takes place in Brighton: ‘then [they] fell to talking about Brighton, and the sea-air, and the gaieties of the place.’
The Death of Bunny Monroe by Nick Cave (of and the Bad Seeds musical fame) is a sort of violent, 1990s Death of a Salesman. Nick Cave lives in Brighton and seems to like it now, despite past associations: ‘”Brighton,” he notes drily, “was where I used to come to try to get clean. So all I knew about the place was sweating it out in a hotel room for three days.”‘
I love this anecdote from one of Nick Cave’s book readings that his friend Will Self also attended: ‘There was a rather detailed question from the audience noting the similarities with Self’s 1993 novel My Idea of Fun (which also features a sex killer in Brighton, Self realises – seemingly for the first time), but Cave admitted that he hadn’t read this particular novel of Self’s and said to him in mock exasperation, “You could have told me!”’
Here’s the blurb of Robert Rankin’s The Brightonomicon: ‘Were you aware that there are, hidden in the streets of Brighton, twelve ancient constellations, like the Hangleton Hound and the Bevendean Bat? Well, there are, and on each one hangs a tale, a tale so strange that only The Lad Himself, that inveterate spinner of tales and talker of the toot, Hugo Rune, can get to the bottom of them.’
In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia longs to visit Brighton, though Jane Austen had a pretty low opinion of it. She wrote to a friend, ‘I assure you that I dread the idea of going to Brighton as much as you do, but I am not without hopes that something may happen to prevent it.’ In the Regency era, it was where everyone went for a bit of scandal and debauchery.
Charles Dickens often stayed in Brighton. In Dombey and Son, the protagonist goes to stay ‘in a steep bye-street at Brighton’, thought to be based on a house in Upper Rock Gardens.
I love being able to imagine the characters walking down the same streets that I have. Is there a location that’s special to you that you enjoy seeing in literature?