Missing Cambridge? Read these

The Tab’s recommendations of books that remind us of Cambridge


Maurice by E.M. Forster

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Maurice ❣️ (1971, written 1914) ~ I finished this book today and wow! I was so surprised to find that such a tender and apparently unashamed gay love story had been written in 1914. What was less surprising, perhaps, was that the novel wasn’t published for another 57 years – after E. M. Forster’s death. The story follows Maurice (who’d have guessed?), a Cambridge student as he enters adulthood and realises his feelings for his close friend, Clive. As a modern reader, I found the story uncomplicated and brilliant; Forster’s style fitted the novel well – an easy-to-follow narration punctuated by bursts of poetry at the perfect moments. And, thank god for Forster’s teeny-tiny chapter lengths! So much easier to read than committing to the dirge of a thirty page chapter (Bram Stoker, I’m looking at you 👀). I really enjoyed this one and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a feel-good love story. 🍂🛶🌸 ~ “After all, is not a real Hell better than a manufactured Heaven?” • • • • • • • • • • • • #bookstagram #literature #studygram #study #litmemes #literary #bookish #reading #quarantine #booksandcoffee #booksofinstagram #booksofig #bibliophile #writer #bookphotography #bookaesthetic #classics #classicnovels #classicliterature #modernclassics #penguinclassics #bookblogger #bookaddict #bookaholic #cozy #hygge #aesthetic #emforster #maurice #booksandflowers

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This book is an interesting and important portrayal of homosexuality in the early 20th Century and has some great Cambridge scenes.  Worth reading just for the bit where (spoiler alert) Maurice gets sent down for skipping lectures. Who among us would not have suffered the same fate if we had been at Cambridge in the 1910s?  The book is sad at times but ultimately quite romantic given the context.

The Humans by Matt Haig

Honestly anything by Matt Haig is a good shout.  All of his books are very witty and come with wholesome messages for humanity.  This one is about an alien who takes on the life of a Cambridge Professor.  I promise it is actually good and not just bizarre and you don’t need to be a sci-fi fan to enjoy it.  Also, Cambridge fellows can seem like aliens at the best of times so you can have a good giggle at what happens when one actually is.

Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe

Honestly if you go to Cambridge and haven’t read Porterhouse Blue yet, what are you doing?  It’s a satire of university life, based loosely on Pembroke.  Only one scene actually made me laugh out loud, as the racy humour feels a dated.  However, it’s such a classic that you should definitely read it.

A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

This one might seem a bit odd to include because Cambridge is very much not the point of this book.  In fact, the main character, Harriet, dreams only of escaping Cambridge.  She runs away to Brazil to join a ballet where she falls in love with a proper Casanova.  But the drippy fiancée and the sour father, who are in Cambridge, are very funny as villains.  Frankly, I just really like Eva Ibbotson’s historical romances.  Are they ever going to be classics?  No, but they are just very sweet and lovely, escapist stories to curl up with.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

This is an unusual romance, wherein multiple versions of Eva and Jim’s love story, which begins while they are students at Cambridge, play out.  Honestly I thought it was only okay, but my librarian loved it to pieces so don’t write it off based on my opinion.  Perhaps a good choice for those of you who are missing your admirers in Cambridge?  Idk why I’m saying admirers like it’s 1947.

Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes

Yes, this book is set in Oxford but it’s pure frothy fun.  It’s set in freshers week so the plot centres on first essays, first parties and also murder.  Plum Sykes is a Vogue editor so the descriptions of the fashion from the 1980s setting are particularly detailed.  Oh, and the main character is a journo so maybe it resonates with me as a writer for the Tab?  Trust me, this book is very funny and it’s a good light read.

I will finish off with some books set in Cambridge which I can’t recommend, because I haven’t read them yet, but which I am thinking of reading soon: May Week was in June by Clive James (supposedly witty autobiography) and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (I just like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

Cover image is author’s own