Personal likes and interests


About series of books

I have always liked to read a series of novels. The first series I remember reading was about child detective  ‘Bunkle’ by Margaret Pardoe with Robin his brother and Jill. This was followed by many of the Baroness Orczy ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ books about Sir Percy and Lady Marguerite Blakeney and their associates against the French revolutionary villain Chauvelin.

I then read  more than once over my lifetime the  6 ‘Barchester’ novels by Anthony Trollope with memorable characters gentle Rev Harding, the boisterous Archdeacon Grantly, the unctuous Dr Slope and uxorious Mrs Proudie and her husband. This lead me via TV series to read and re-read the ‘Palliser’ books with another set of characters that remain in the memory, Planty Pal, the Duke of Omnium, Lady Glencora and Phineas Finn.

In a later similar vein was the 6 books of the  ‘Forsyte Saga’‘. Again TV took me to the books and I became acquainted with  the exploits of Soames, his brother and sisters, and Fleur his daughter, leading me to the last 3 books on the Cherwell family.

TV more recently helped me  to  read  the ‘Poldark‘ series. I had wondered what they would be like. After reading book 1, I acquired the remaining  11 and read them during 2016. They were very enjoyable  – sufficient for me  sometime to read the series again

The Peter Law series on Lewis and  Enzo Macleod have been enjoyable with their emphasis on background as well as plot as well his other novels

Hilary Mantel on Thomas Cromwell is a gripping read- looking forward to last in trilogy.However, the last novel Mirrors and Lights recently published is quite disappointing, it is very meanderingly discursive and full of repetition – not a good ending for such a heralded seriesWhen compared with  Sansom’s series on Shaldrake and his life from 1536 to 1549 in the 7 books to date,  this series  reveals his superior skill in providing are an exceptionally vivid view of Tudor England at the time and into Edward VI’s reign. It was disappointing 

I have recently read a biography of Mary Tudor. I hope Sansom  continues his  series. I would love to know what he would put  about Mary Tudor and her reign.Cureently I have read Max Adams Aelfred’s World for the second time .  It is outstandingly well researched and detailed, but it does not make for very easy reading, even the second time round.

Robert Harris is a particular author, whose range is wide. I have finished the third of Cicero series. This was for me the easiest to follow, dealing with Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony , familiar from Shakespeare, but somehow more pointed in th build -up to their deaths.  The main difficulty was in knowing where buildings and places actually were in Rome and why they were significant to Cicero. This bewildered me somewhat. The device of having Tiro writing the biography worked well, howeverThe Fear Index  i found rather unconvincing and for me below his usual clarity of exposition.  Munich was much better  in this respect., and Conclave  showed  the machinations in the Vatican all too well, Second Sleep is a post apocalyptic noval. totally convincing, if a little medodramatic, save for the ending is very abrupt as if he did know to  finish it convingly. I look forward nevertheless to reading his next novel –V2. I feel he is so good at portraying the background to his narrative. The more strictly historical  books help to conclude the tale he writes with a believable outcome.

For lighter side, I have enjoyed a number of the Hamish Macbeth books based in Sutherland. Easy to recognise characters and easy to follow plots told with ease and charm. I have tried one of the Agatha Raisin series which are mundane in comparison to Hamish.

A book on Rome called A History of Rome in Seven Sackings by  is an interestingly comprehensive historical survey about Rome, from its foundation. It proved helpful in understanding the layers of the city as we are going there in October. I enjoyed the breadth of learning displayed, but it was marred by some inaccuracies about Roman Catholic belief and some  certain anti-papalist perceptions.

i have been reading Stephen Booth series set in the Peak District;  they are well paced , more than  his book on the Staffordshire canal whihc needs to more concise. Ann Cleeves’ thrillers  set in Shetlands and in North Devon and Ellie Griffiths ser in Norwich. I found very similar approach, full of local colour and quite meemrable characters to help quite complicated unwinding ot theer plots along. Like Booth, some concision would not come amiss.

All these have been my companions during ‘Lockdown’ . I re-read  Dickens (Dombey and Son) – rather long-winded, but parts very very vivid about the clash between  Dombey and his second wife. I read also George Eliot (The Mill on the Floss) – with its rather claustrophobic rural relations and Blackmore ( Lorna Doone) long winded, but ultimately good portrait of the time.

I’ve been watching the ‘Father Brown’ series on afternoon TV. It is curious. Half a period drama detective series in quite lovely locations, it reveals little about a 1930”s Catholic priests life, except for some religious platitudes. In the original books, which the TV series has prompted me to read (it is nearly 70 years since I read them at school) I was slightly mystified then by what Chesterton was aiming for.

Father Brown ( ? a symbol of his newly found Catholicism) is rather like Sherlock Holmes, but on a more moral quest. The only other character repeated through the original books is Flambeau, a reformed thief-now-detective. (The TV show has two additional characters – an Irish housekeeper ( well played) and – an inept Detective who overacts.) The original novels have a query to be solved (usually who -did-it, why and how?) which are set in different places each chapter – Scarborough, London, France, Scotland etc. not in leafy Home Counties as in TV. Once finished the originals, I intend to read his biographies.

Biographies,( apart from writing them for which see elsewhere on this website) I dip into occasionally. The three recent ones have been one on Andrew Lloyd Webber (autobiography), I found the detail on what he had written interesting , but I am not very enamoured about him as a person, although I generally enjoy his musicals. I found a recent biography of benjamin Birtten similar. I did not warm to him as a man, I have mixed feeling about his music, it is ofetne sumptously orchestrated and structured, but ultimately I find his a cold personality. He craved love, but his music doesn’t often show this. He didn’t like Vaughan Williams, who as far as I am concerned was the great successor to Elgar. His symphonies are such an vivid explorarion of their subject and of the times we lived during the 20th century.

On a different theme is Osama Barek biography, which I read in conjunction with Trumps niece’s book on the recently defeeated president. ~Trump. Despite hios bumptiousness an crude appeal, he was a lot more colourful and warm than Obama who was such a calculating go-getter. His autobiography is hugely overwritten cmpoared with Trump’s niece and portrays much of his almost ruthlessness.