Browsing through the Backlist

Guilty as charged. I read a book. I thoroughly enjoy it. ‘That was great’. I think. ‘I must read more by her/him’. But then another enticing book by somebody else entirely comes along, and … I don’t.

Cathy of What Cathy Read Next fame has a challenge to help put this right, and she’s called it Backlist Burrow. Choose six authors whom you’ve enjoyed, find two books from their backlist … read them … and report back. I don’t undertake to read two, though I might. But one for sure. And here are my chosen authors.

I read Edith Wharton‘s novella Ethan Frome for Six Degrees of Separation back in December 2021, and immediately vowed to read more from this upper-class New Yorker who, during the last years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth was able to portray so incisively the characters she created. I still haven’t. Now I have to…

I wonder if this resembles the Massachussetts that Ethan Frome knew? (Ilse Orsel, Unsplash)

Another unforgettable character was Berta Isla. Javier Marías describes her life thoughtfully, discursively. Her husband, working for the secret service is almost constantly absent and unable in any way meaningfully to communicate with her and participate in the marriage. I want to read more from Marías.

Berta and her husband Tomás grew up together in Spain (though not in Zaragoza where this photo of the Basilica of Pilar was taken). After University in Oxford, his career took him to the mists of she-knew-not-where. (Oxford: Lina Kivaka, Pexels)

I read Mary Lawson‘s A Town called Solace when it was chosen for our local bookgroup. I immediately fell for the complex web of characters she created, and the interest she brought to the life of a small and humdrum Canadian town. So – more please!

I wonder if this is a track near Solace? (Ember Navarro, Unsplash)

When I chose Roy Jacobsen‘s Eyes of the Rigel from the library, I was unaware that this Norwegian tale, set on a small island after WWII was the last book in a trilogy: an immersive story of memory, belonging and guilt. I need to catch up with the first two: The Unseen, and White Shadow.

Northern Lights in northern Norway (Dee: Unsplash)

Nicola Upson‘s Stanley and Elsie, a fictionalised telling of the story of the painter Stanley Spencer was a compulsive read. Having a look at her crime novels centred on the life of Josephine Tey seems like a good move to me.

Shipbuilding on the Clyde: Stanley Spencer

Georgina Harding. Here’s another author I want more of, and here’s another instance of my inadvertently starting off with the third book in a trilogy: Harvest. This is a thoughtful picture of a family accommodating itself to an earlier tragedy. I’d like to read the back stories in The Gun Room and Land of the Living.

Harvest, not in Norfolk where Harding’s Harvest is set, but here in North Yorkshire.

This of course is in addition to tackling the (largely virtual) tottering pile of books recommended by friends, book bloggers, newspaper reviews. Really, it’s all quite impossible.

Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

42 thoughts on “Browsing through the Backlist”

  1. This seems a big undertaking to me who hasn’t finished a b9ok since having covid in the fall of 2020. Currently attempting to read Dinners with Ruth, about the friendship of Nina Torenberg, the author, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg. It’s good but it’s taken me days to get even a quarter of it read.


    1. Oh, Dawn, I do sympathise. During Lockdown, the perfect time to read, I could hardly read a book, though I wasn’t ill. Luckily, when I DID get covid – which left a long shadow and has only now fully lifted – reading was my salvation. Good luck with shaking off all those unwanted and long=lasting side effects.

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  2. Good luck with this. I should probably do something similar as there are so many authors whose backlists I’ve been meaning to explore. Of Edith Wharton’s work, I’ve only read Ethan Frome and a few short stories, and I’ve read nothing at all by your other five authors!

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  3. Ah I notice one of your selection is the last part of a trilogy. I don’t know about you, but I do check these days if a book is part of series, as, in quite a childish way, I get very annoyed to find I didn’t start at the beginning. I know that a clever author writing an engaging book can make any book in a series be a good stand-alone read, but there’s always little hints for those in the know that have read the earlier novels.

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    1. The thing is, I’m so very glad to have read both those books. And If I’d waited to read numbers one and two, it wouldn’t have happened .. because they’re not available in my library, very oddly. Serendipity rules, sometimes!

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  4. I love the way you knit your reviews together with images, Margaret. I’m completely lost if I don’t have a book by my side but I do take forever to read one. I know you’re a sleepless nighter but I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re far better organised than I’ll ever be. Though come to think of it, that’s no compliment 🤣💕


    1. Organised is not my middle name, not by a long way. But yes, I’m lucky to be a fast reader (though this means I don’t retain much) and of course my years in France taught me you’ve got to be a lot more ‘organised’ there to source a ready supply of English language reading matter.


  5. Great challenge! I tend to read the back catalogue from my favourite writers, but otherwise I prefer to discover new names. For crime fiction I enjoy following a series and getting to know the characters properly, but sooner or later I’ve had enough. It’s rare for me to follow a series to the bitter end…

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  6. You have marvelous reading choices, Margaret. Books are my “shiny things” that call to me. I start one book and then see another and start that one before I finish the first book, and then I see another. YIKES! Your 6 degrees feeds my need for “shiny things.”

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  7. Ooh, there look to be some interesting reads here…And Georgina Harding rang a bell, checked her out, and yes, she did write ‘In another Europe’, an excellent book. So I need to check out her fiction

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  8. What an interesting idea. I’m so focused on discovering new authors that I forget about all the ones I have already read and loved. Silly really to go chasing the new when they are unknown quantity and could be disappointing yet ignoring the tried and tested.

    In another year I would have been tempted to join you but as you know, this year is the year of no plans

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