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.