What a joy this book is. In the 250-odd pages of the body of the book, there is a vast amount of information, some well known and some that shows what a huge amount of research must have gone into it.
The book is divided into geographical areas. In each section, with the aid of a map at the section's beginning and a liberal smattering of pictures, is a huge amount of information about authors who lived there, or were influenced by a place, or whose fictional characters lived or travelled there. So we get Thomas Hardy's Wessex, Charles Dickens' London, Rupert Brooke's Grantchester, Colin Dexter's Oxford and countless others. Just about every British author you can think of (and a few you can't) is here and the book covers the whole range of literature across many centuries- so the Venerable Bede lives happily alongside Catherine Cookson in the section on Northumbria.
All this makes an excellent practical guide book for people who would consider going miles out of their way to wander the same streets and countryside as their favourite characters a kind of pilgrimage. As I confess that I did, wandering bleak, windswept Dartmoor just to visit the ancient settlement of Grimspound (known to Sherlock Holmes fans as Grimpen Mire, one of the settings of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles') and yes, it's in this book too! But, although the title suggests a niche market anyone interested in historical Britain, either resident or visitor, would find something of interest here.
There's perhaps a little bit of a bias towards 'classics' but I suspect that is because there is more information about those authors in the form of surviving letters and so on. Modern authors are just about included too- JK Rowling gets a mention or two, but Iain Banks and Irvine Welsh have to share one single mention.. perhaps a revision in a hundred years' time will expand on their careers more fully! This is not a criticism, as a book like this (as is the case with most guidebooks) is inevitably out of date almost as soon as it is published, and the majority of the information here will never date- to paraphrase Jasper Fforde, some things come and go, but Jane Eyre is forever. JF's another one who might be included in future editions.. I look forward to a tour of his surreal, parallel-universe Swindon.
To summarise, this is a fine, well-indexed reference work- I'm thinking of buying a second copy, one for home and one to keep in my car- and it also serves to remind us of what an unparalleled cultural heritage we have in this country, which we should be rightly proud of, and which in a way this book helps to keep alive.