A large chunk of The English Wife takes place in the unique environment of the Hudson Valley, just about an hour or so out of Manhattan. Having spent a significant portion of my childhood there, I’d always been fascinated by how different upstate New York feels from New England, shaped as it was by the Dutch settlers who carved out vast estates in the seventeenth century and left a cultural mark that persisted even after the power of the patroons themselves had dwindled.
Unlike the other “if you likes”, where I’ve been trying to stick with the late 19th century, this If You Like looks at books set in the Hudson Valley more generally, from the eighteenth century to the present day.
So, if you like books set in the Hudson Valley, you’ll probably like…
— Donna Thorland’s American Revolution-set novel, The Dutch Girl, in which the daughter of a tenant farmer takes on both the Brits and the patroons– but finds none of it is quite so simple as she’d expected;
— and while we’re talking about patroons, Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck, in which a simple farmer’s daughter goes to live with her patroon cousin at his estate, Dragonwyck. But is it all luxury and romance, or are there dark secrets beneath the rich facade?
— moving away from the patroons, Sara Donati’s Into the Wilderness, which will make you think a great deal of The Last of the Mohicans. How much do I love the book? Let me count the ways– in hours of lost sleep. If you’re an Outlander fan, keep an eye out for a Claire Fraser mention;
— Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, which opens with the heroine at Grand Central on the way to a house party at a Hudson Valley estate, Bellomont (possibly based on Ruth Livingston Mills’s country house at Staatsburg);
— Isabelle Holland’s Tower Abbey, an Old School modern gothic (and by modern, think late 70s, with that whole 70s gothic vibe) set in a mansion on the Hudson (see also Holland’s Flight of Archangel, a murder mystery also partly set around a decaying mansion on the Hudson);
— Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Adirondack-based Claire Fergusson mysteries, about an Episcopalian priest and the local police chief, who find themselves thrown together in Book I, In the Bleak Midwinter, when a baby is left on the doorstep of the church. They then go on to solve many excellently crafted mysteries together.
What are your favorite novels set in the Hudson Valley?