1 August 2022 Susannah

My travels and Florence

Susannah and family in France

I have had a busy and exciting couple of months. July brought me a gorgeous new granddaughter whose name is Florence. Of course, that got me thinking about ‘Florences’ in literature, but apart from Florence Dombey in Dickens’s Dombey and Son (not one of my greatest favourites amongst his novels), I am struggling to come up with others. Do send me other examples if you can think of any? I like to give my grandchildren a book that connects with their name, so I think the beautiful new arrival might be getting a copy of A Room with a View, which is set in the magnificent city of Florence (my Reader’s Guide is here). And perhaps a children’s book about the great Florence Nightingale would also be appropriate (did you know that Florence Nightingale was also an essayist? She wrote a work called Cassandra in which she railed against the pointless lives Victorian women were expected to lead).

June and July took me travelling. It was sheer bliss to be back in England and to have time with family whom I had not seen for far too long. Then it was off to France, staying in a chateau with extended family and enjoying the fields of sunflowers and the glories of the French countryside. After three years of no overseas travel, it was so wonderful to be back in Europe. The photo above is me with my dad (far left) and just a few members of my family in France.

Of course, I sought out lots of literary places on my travels – the lovely home of George Sand (featured as one of my Top Ten places in Literary France – (you may like to watch the illustrated video talk in which it features), seeing the statues of Cyrano de Bergerac in Bergerac, finally making the pilgrimage to Dylan Thomas’s Laugharne, and much more.

A holiday read was the excellent Native: Life in a Vanishing Landscape by Patrick Laurie, about life on a Scottish Borders farm breeding Galloway cattle.

Next year I’ll be leading a literary tour to Scotland, one of my favourite countries, and we’ll spend time in the Borders. To learn more about that tour, you might like to watch this short talk or this one about my 2023 literary tour in Scandinavia.

And there has been a Jane Austen Society conference, the first one in some years. It was so good to feel that life is returning to normal again and to be able to enjoy a literary event that was booked out.

I have more travels to look forward to throughout the year, and of course a vast pile of books I’d love to get through. I hope you too are able to travel overseas again and are settling into a more normal way of life after the horrors of the Covid years.

Have you read this book? Tell me your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- Susannah Fullerton
Body image credit- Native: Life in a Vanishing Landscape by Patrick Laurie, https://www.amazon.com.au/Native-Vanishing-Landscape-Patrick-Laurie/dp/1780277075/

Comments (8)

  1. Heather Grant

    I loved Room with a View and the movie was also excellent in my view with a wonderful cast – particularly Maggie Smith and Daniel Day-Lewis as Cecil.

    I visited Florence years ago and thought it was a magical city.

    Thank you Susannah for all your recommendations. They been added to the every-growing list.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      It’s possibly my favourite movie of all time. I adore it and on my Italian tour I visited some of the places where it was filmed.

  2. Margi Abraham

    Ah Florence …… I’d love to return there. Florence was my mother’s middle name, but I doubt she was named after this city, having grown up in rural NSW. Her first was Lorna, named after Lorna Doone. I still have her copy of this book.I come from a family of book lovers.
    I hope you don’t give your granddaughter a recording of the singing of Florence Foster Jenkins, my favourite Florence.
    It will definitely not help to get her to sleep!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Good advice, Margi, about Florence Foster Jenkins.
      I love that your Mum was named for Lorne Doone – such a fabulous book!

  3. Margaret Debenham

    I’m so glad you enjoyed “Native”, Susannah – I think belted galloways must be delightful animals. In a similar rural vein, my enjoyment of James Rebanks’ stories of Lakeland sheep farming led me to Sally Coulthard and her book “The Barn”, about her family’s old North Yorkshire farm (unlike Rebanks she is a relative newcomer to the area), which has lots of delightful anecdotes about the area in general, its history and its earlier residents. This in turn led me to another Sally Coulthard book, “A Short History of the World According to Sheep”, which tells the history and historical significance of sheep “from the plains of ancient Mesopotamia to the vast sheep farms of modern-day Australia”. That sounds a bit dry, but in fact it’s a delightful (and quick) read – the book has done the rounds of my friends, who were also intrigued by the title, and they have all thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Can’t think of any other major literary Florences, I’m afraid – but having the (anglicised) name of one of the most beautiful cities in the world is pretty good!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I loved Native, so thanks again for the recommendation. I do love the title of the sheep book, so will look out for that. I’ve just got my Dad reading James Rebanks and he loved The Shepherd’s Life.

  4. Robyn Alexander

    I had a look at my small children’s book collection and could not find a Florence character.
    There appear to be two books recently published which may be of interest:
    “Florence and fox” by Zanni Louise about friendship and sharing and
    “Florence and the mischievous kitten” by Megan Rix about Florence Nightingale, who was apparently a cat lover.
    On Florence, the city, no doubt you will find plenty of children’s books but I would suggest “Finse explores Italy” by Karine Hagen. It is one in a delightful and amazingly detailed series of “The World of Finse” about a yellow labrador travelling through countries, there is one on Scandinavia also, thinking of next year and your travels.
    Will email you a sample page separately.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Oh Robin, thanks so much for those great suggestions. I will look especially for the one about Florence and her cat. The travel series with the Labrador sounds delightful, so many thanks for letting me know.

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