5 Amazing Novels Set in Surrey

From Austen to Dickens, Surrey has inspired many authors throughout history. Surrey-based bookworms might recognise these familiar settings… By Tara Robinson.


A Room With A View – E.M Forster

E.M Forster’s most famous novel, A Room With A View alternates its setting between Italy and England. The England parts take place in Surrey, at the protagonist Lucy’s family home, Windy Corner. The fictional village, Summer Street, is generally considered to be based on Surrey’s Holmbury St Mary. Forster took great inspiration from Surrey’s landscape with his vivid descriptions of scenes in the book: the woods and ponds the characters find themselves traversing are based on real pieces of Surrey’s natural environment. The book itself is an excellent and romantic read, the story of a young woman navigating the restrained Edwardian culture of the early 20th century. Highly recommended.


Emma – Jane Austen

Many critics have written extensively about the role of Surrey in Austen’s Emma – describing the fictional Surrey town of Highbury as being almost a character in its own right within the novel. The Surrey settings mentioned in Emma include Box Hill, the River Mole, Richmond (when it was still a part of Surrey) and Cobham. The many descriptions of the gorgeous English countryside in the novel will be recognised by Surrey residents: verdant hills, beautiful meadows, farms and villages. The close-knit village setting reads like a love letter to Surrey towns, and the book is a great classic romance read for anyone who loves Austen.


The War of the Worlds – H.G Wells

One of the most infamous science fiction books in history, The War of the Worlds follows an alien invasion that takes place entirely in Surrey! Beginning with the crashing of a meteor on Horsell Common, this book features many areas that Surrey-based readers will instantly recognise. From Woking to Weybridge, the story details the complete transformation of Surrey’s landscape into an alien warzone – this one’s certainly a perfect read for any science fiction lover.


Atonement – Ian McEwan

This 2001 historical fiction novel takes us to a fictional country estate in Surrey for its first part, set in 1935. This is a sweeping and emotional novel, dealing with love, loss, regret, war and heartache. The Surrey estate in which the first part of the book makes its home is a sprawling and crumbling Gothic mansion, representing the slowly-dying landed gentry who find themselves at the centre of the novel. A brilliant read – and its film adaptation features Keira Knightley!


The Pickwick Papers – Charles Dickens

It’s said that Dickens wrote parts of The Pickwick Papers while staying at the White Horse Hotel in Dorking. Sure enough, the character Samuel Weller travels to Dorking during the novel. Surrey also features in Dickens’ Nicholas Nickelby – the author had strong ties to the area, including being a trustee of Woking’s Royal Dramatic College, and he and his wife would often stay at what was once the Star and Garter Hotel on Richmond Hill. He held a dinner there in June 1850 to celebrate the publication of David Copperfield and guests included W.M. Thackeray and Alfred Tennyson.


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