Glastonbury in Fiction

Glastonbury has inspired many works of fiction. I thought I’d do my best to list them all for you. They are of varying quality, appearance in this list is not necessarily a recommendation! I’ve put my personal favourites towards the top, but obviously it’s a question of taste.

Where to buy books set in Glastonbury

If you are thinking of buying any of these titles I’d suggest you try one of Glastonbury’s booksellers first – support local business! You can find them all in the High Street or online.

Labyrinth Books – new and secondhand books
The Speaking Tree – new and remaindered titles
Courtyard Books – secondhand books

Other Glastonbury shops sell books too, in their own specialist areas. Or you could join the wonderful Library of Avalon in the Glastonbury Experience Courtyard, I bet they’ve got a fair few of these titles on their shelves.

I’m not fond of Amazon, but must confess I find their Kindle titles convenient if I want to download a book to read immediately. I’ve put in Amazon affiliate links, so if you click on the pictures you’ll be taken to Amazon’s site where you can find out more about the titles. if you order the book from the link I might make a small commission.

Phil Rickman

The author who has best captured Glastonbury for me is the supernatural thriller writer Phil Rickman. The Chalice was a well observed and sometimes amusing novel set in contemporary Glastonbury, while The Bones of Avalon was a fictionalised account of the life of Medieval alchemist John Dee

Phil Rickman has also written two entertaining works of teenage fiction set in Glastonbury, originally published under the pen name Thom Madley.

Fay Weldon

I’m a massive fan of Fay Weldon’s pithy feminist fiction, and loved both of these. The events in Heart of the Country take place in the town itself, at the time of the yearly Glastonbury Carnival, while Puffball is set on the Somerset Levels in view of the Tor.

Nell Leyshon

Nell Leyshon was born in Glastonbury (her family still live locally) and this dark and brooding novel perfectly captures a darker side of life on the Somerset Levels.

Phillipa Bowers

Phillipa Bowers is well known as the sculptor of the iconic Glastonbury Goddess figurines that are to be found  in her High Street gallery and shop. She is also a prolific author, her most recent novel ‘The Dark Well of Glastonbury’ is the story of the Guardians of Glastonbury’s three sacred wells throughout thousands of years of Glastonbury’s history.

Isabella May

Isabella May was brought up in Glastonbury but now lives in Spain, her love for her home town shines through in the two contemporary novels she has set here, they make entertaining light reading. You can read more about her here in my post How a Glastonbury Childhood Inspired Author Isabella May

Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Mists of Avalon is the Glastonbury classic, the re-imagined tale of Arthur and his Knights. I read it when I first moved to Glastonbury, sat in my tent in a campsite at the foot of the Tor. Like many thousands of others I was utterly absorbed in this thrilling and romantic story. Sadly, the follow-ups were, for me at least, horribly disappointing, then Zimmer-Bradley’s abusive relationship with her daughter was revealed, so her work has fallen out of favour.

John Cowper Powys

This novel, the classic work of Glastonbury fiction, should arguably go at the top of this list, except that it’s my list and I’ve never got past the first few pages without falling asleep. Those who have assure me it is a transformative read!

Normal Fro Glastonbury Paperback Front Cover

Normal For Glastonbury – the Book

I’ve published a book (available in paperback or as a Kindle eBook) of my best writing from Normal For Glastonbury, it’s mostly non-fiction, but includes ‘Glastonbury’s Stone Circle’ an amusing short story set way back in Glastonbury’s dim and distant past.

Click here to find out more

Other Authors

The following, according to my research, are set in Glastonbury. I’ve either not read them at all, or read them so long ago I can’t remember whether they are any good or not.

If you are a competitive type you might like to look at my list of Glastonbury Fiction on Listmania and tick off how many you’ve read! Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any titles, or post up your own reviews.

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Header image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay 

13 thoughts on “Glastonbury in Fiction”

  1. Yeah, great list; and I still agree with you about Rickman’s “The Chalice”. And though I know we’ve also been here before, I must reiterate that “A Glastonbury Romance” is seriously worth the persevering – just take it slow but steady and it’ll reveal its huge beating heart to you. The Weldon “Heart of the Country” might have to go on my list, I like her anyway so it does look promising. Cheers!

  2. I’ve got the references to a few other pieces of Glastonbury fiction here.

    Geoffrey of Monmouth – Historia Regum Britanniae – published in 1136 and is a story about a chap called King Arthur.

    William of Malmesbury – De Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae (later editions) published circa 1125 and in this it is the later editions which have been edited by the Glastonbury monks, so part written in Glastonbury for this one. It speaks of Glastonbury church being built by Jesus’ disciples. (Good plot that one)

    Robert de Boron – Joseph d’Arimathe is the poem about Joseph d’Arimathe (after 1191 – date not exactly known) who, so the story goes came to Glastonbury and made a tree on Wearyall Hill. Well the hill was named after him in fact, so before he got there it was just like any other hill. He had the Holly Grail with him as well.

    So fiction has been Normal for Glastonbury since the 12th century.

    The monks were bearing false witness for gold from the profits of tourism. It made them one of the richest abbeys in the country until Henry 8 thought, I’m having that.

  3. Bernard Cornwell (Sharpe) In his Arthur trilogy has Merlin living in a structure on the Tor.

    My new play Floods in Somerset has the whole of the first act and scenes in act two in Glastonbury.

  4. The comment about the John Cowper Powys book made me laugh – I thought it was just me!! I think I’ve started it 3 times and never got past the first 10 pages.

    …and Phil Rickman is very good. I’d recommend all the Merrily Watkins books. All with a sort of Pagan/religious/weird-goings-on sort of theme.

    • I was looking forward to reading Phil Rickman’s newest book over Christmas (as I have done most year’s) but i just discovered it’s not out until November 2021! Perhaps I should make the Powys book my Christmas read. Not convinced I will ever find it as entertaining and absorbing though….

  5. Surprised you haven’t mentioned Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. Tom’s putative father, Squire Allworthy, is supposed to be from Glastonbury. According to the notes in my Penguin edition, “The view from Allworthy’s seat is said to be based on that from Glastonbury Tor, near Fielding’s birthplace [Sharpham]. The ruined abbey is Glastonbury; the hills the Mendips ….” I’m currently reading it for the first time, and it’s a cracking story, though the 18th-century prose style can be a bit confusing at times. There are lots of references to West Country locations.

  6. Thanks for the updates, Vicki. Just caught up with Bernard Pearson’s “A Glastonbury Tale”; it’s good fun in a “Terry Pratchett meets Tom Sharpe in Glastonbury” kind of way, and Conn Iggulden’s “Dunstan”, which is rather well written and also recommended. .


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