Tenby Tales – Summer reading

If you are looking for a book to while away the warm summer evenings why not select one featuring Tenby as the setting.

There are several to choose from. Probably one of the best is The Hourglass by Tracy Rees published TENBY STORIESby Quercus books, part of Hachette UK, in 2017. The paperback features a photo of a very attractive young lady in a red dress against a photo-shopped picture of Tenby on the cover. Without giving away to much of the plot the story is set in two different time periods, 1950’s Tenby and 2014 Tenby. The historical detail is fairly accurate with one major change to fit in with the plot. At 527 pages it may be a bit long for a short break but is perfect for that two week break in the sun. The author, Tracey Rees, a Cambridge graduate who lives in Wales has been writing non-fiction since 2009 to excellent reviews. She has been called the ‘most outstanding new voice in historical fiction’.

Tenby has featured in several novels over the years. Sage Peveril by Margaret Mackinlay, the pen name of Audrey Philpin, is worth looking for in secondhand bookshops. Published by Robert Hale in 1982 the story is set in the area overlooking Tenby harbour in the sixteenth century. Sage Peveril lives in what we know as the Tudor Merchant’s House and much of the action takes place in Bridge Street and Quay Hill. The book is firmly based in Tenby’s history with the two mayors mentioned in the book, John Howell and Howell Howell, both being actual mayors of Tenby. Audrey spent several months researching the period before writing the book and was so grateful for the help she received from Tenby Museum that the book is dedicated to ‘The Curator and Friends of Tenby Museum, particularly Hector Lee’. Sage Peveril was Audrey Philpin’s second book her first being The Pawn of Kings set in Pembroke Castle during the Norman period. Love Lives by Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees (Arrow books, 2004) is another book with a local setting. Although the town featured in the novel is called Shoresby it is clearly a slightly disguised version of Tenby with plenty of references to Tenby including the Croft, Crackwell Street and the North Beach as well as local businesses including Equinox although strangely it is relocated to Southcliffe Street. The story concerns an architect obsessed with restoring an old house, a documentary film maker and two local teenagers. The lives of the four lead characters converge in this popular romance. The husband and wife writing partnership have received significant praise in the national press including ‘brilliantly written and wittily observed’ (Daily Express), ‘vivid and funny’ (The Times) and ‘A moving story of childhood friendship and grown up love’ (She).

One of the oldest novels I have come across featuring Tenby is The Mystery of Hoyles Mouth by M.E. Ropes. The book is not dated but a sticker in the copy at Tenby Museum library reveals it was published before 1919. The book is a boys own type adventure featuring the adventures of two runaway boys (Tom and Davey) who stowaway on a schooner at Bristol bound for Tenby. The boys’ adventures in Tenby and surrounding area include the uncovering of a smuggling operation based at Hoyles Mouth cave.

Enjoy your summer reading. If you know of any other books set in or around Tenby please share the details with us. Thanks.