Six Degrees of Separation

Book series on my radar

This week’s Top Ten topic (as hosted by Broke and Bookish) is “Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning To Start But Haven’t.”  This could turn out to be a very short post in that case since I don’t tend to be a reader of series. Or at least I didn’t think I was until I took a look at my reading over the last few years and the list of books I own but have not yet read. It seems I am already part way through a few series. So let’s talk about those first.

Current Series Reading

L'AssommoirThe Rougon-Macquet cycle by Emile Zola: a sequence of 20 novels written by the French author between 1871 and 1893. Subtitled Histoire naturelle et sociale d’une famille sous le Second Empire (Natural and social history of a family under the Second Empire), the novels follow the lives of the members of two branches of a fictional family. Zola planned in this sequence to “study in a family the questions of blood and environments.” In other words, he wanted to advocate his theory of naturalism by demonstrating how people are heavily influenced by heredity and their environment.  So far I’ve read four of the 20 and each one has been excellent. I have another title on my 20booksofsummerreadinglist which will get me quarter of the way through the collection. That’s fine, I’m in no hurry. If you don’t know Zola’s work and want to get more familiar with it, take a look at the superb readingzola blog  created by Lisa and Dagny.

Dr Thorne by Anthony TrollopeChronicles of Barsetshire by Anthony Trollope: a sequence of six novels set in the fictitious English county of Barsetshire and its cathedral town of Barchester. The novels concern the political and social dealings of the clergy and the gentry but don’t imagine that means they are rather dull – the novels are full of power struggles, social class clashes, financial disasters and frustrated affairs of the heart. They also contain some of the most magnificently rendered characters I’ve come across in literature. I’m half way through the series – next up in my Anthony Trollope project is Framley Parsonage which was published in 1861 and features a young vicar whose aspirations to move up in the social circle make him vulnerable to the machinations of a Member of Parliament with a reputation for debt. More info about Trollope can be found at the Trollope Society website


Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny

We’re now at book twelve in a series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, Head of Homicide at the Sûreté du Québec.  Louise Penny’s protagonist is a man of great integrity, a man who refuses to shirk from uncomfortable truths or to turn a blind eye when he senses corruption and wrong-doing even at the heart of the police force. But he’s also thoughtful, gentle and warm – not only to his wife and son in law but to the inhabitants of a small community in the province of Quebec called Three Pines that he discovers during the course of one of his investigations. Three Pines is a superb created fictional place; it’s so small it doesn’t even show up on maps, yet it is home to Gabri who runs the bistro, the acerbic poet Ruth, Myrna who owns the bookstore and the artist Clara Morrow. Each book that takes us back to Three Pines means we get a chance to meet up with these old friends.  I’ve read six of the books published so far (a new title is due out this August) but I didn’t read them in sequence. Penny has said each novel is meant to be self-standing but to get the full effect of the character development they are indeed best read in order. So that’s what I’ve now started to do.  You can find more about Louise Penny at her website

Series I may not finish

LamentationsThe Shardlake novels by C. J Sansom. I’ve enjoyed a few of this historical crime series which feature a laywer called Shardlake who takes on the role of the ‘detective’. Sansom is a historian by training which enables him to bring the Tudor period to life with all its political machinations, religious upheaval, sounds and smells (he does smells rather well). There are six in the series starting with Dissolution which was the first I read. I’ve read four now – the last one being number 5 in the series; Lamentation (reviewed here) – and though I’ve enjoyed them, the level of enthusiasm has begin to wane. If I wasn’t so close to finishing I probably would give up now, but it seems as Macbeth said

I am in blood

Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more,

Returning were as tedious as go o’er. (Act 3, Scene 4)

Future Series to Read

Palliser Novels by Anthony Trollope: Once I finish the Chronicels of Barsestshire I’m planning to move onto the Palliser novels. This is a series of six novels written between 1864 and 1879 which feature a wealthy aristocrat and politician Plantagenet Palliser, and his wife, Lady Glencora (although they don’t play major roles in every title). The plots involve British and Irish politics in varying degrees, specifically in and around Parliament. There is a bit of a cross-over of characters with those in the Barchester Chronicles – Plantagent Palliser has a small role in The Small House at Allington for example and he has an unwise flirtation with the daughter of Dr Grantly and granddaughter of the Reverend Mr Harding, characters who appear in The Warden and Barchester Towers. The Victorian Web considers the Palliser novels to be superior to the Barchester Chronicles

strangers and brothers

Strangers and Brothers by C. P Snow: This series of 11 novels, published between 1940 and 1970, is one that has been on my radar screen for about 30 years. So keen was I to read them that I made my husband trek from bookshop to bookshop in Hay on Wye just so I could get all of them in the same Penguin livery.  All the novels are narrated by a character called Lewis Eliot whose life we follow from humble beginnings in an English provincial town, through to a reasonably successful career as a London lawyer. In future years he becomes a Cambridge don, and sees wartime service in Whitehall as a senior civil servant. They deal with – among other things – questions of political and personal integrity, and the mechanics of exercising power. This series may not be familiar to you but you’ll possibly have heard the expression Corridors of Power – this is the title of book number nine but was referred to in an earlier title in the series. The term went on to become a household phrase referring to the centres of government and power. Its still in use today though the name of its originator has faded from the public’s mind. What constituted ‘required reading’ in earlier decades is barely heard about now. I’m just hoping that when I do start reading the series, that trek around Hay will prove to have been worth the effort.






What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

21 thoughts on “Book series on my radar

  • nice! Though if you don’t mind, it’s Rougon-Macquart. I suddenly wondered if they had changed the family name for the English translation, but apparently not.
    I enjoy a lot Penny’s as well. I have listened to most of them, but since the first audio narrator died, I want now to read them. I plan to read the last 2 before the new release in August.
    I have enjoyed Sanson’s in audio as well, I need to keep reading.
    I have enjoyed Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles, but got tired of that period after 8 of them. Though it’s superb histfic for sure.
    Other series I have so much loved: Brother Cadfael and Mrs Pollifax.
    And by SJ Parris

    • Spelling error fixed (thank you). I’ve listened to only one of the Penny’s in audio form – it was the Beautiful Silence and it was the one that got me hooked onto her books. So glad that she has a new one coming out though disappointed I got turned down for the ARC via netgalley

      I’ve never tried Bernard Cornwell though I hear he is superb at the historical accuracy and brining a period to life. Cadfael I’ve seen only as a tv series but it was good fun

  • Isn’t Septimus Harding simply wonderful? I am verrryyy slowly working my way through the series. And I’ve just read the first Forsyte Saga and the first Cazalet Chronicles books, so I’m set up with series for ages… and, in fact, my book group is reading The Masters next, though I believe that’s right in the middle of the CP Snow series.

    • He’s such a sweetie though my favourite character is Mrs Proudie.
      Masters is the fifth C.P Snow in order of the narration (though fourth in order of publication)

  • Great minds and all that. I finished the Zola series (well worth it even though the quality of the 20 novels is a bit spotty–the best of the series are some of the best novels I’ve ever read).
    I also need to finish Trollope (and not just the Barsetshire).
    I need to begin the Gamache novels at some point, and I’ve always been interested in the Snow novels .

    • the Zola’s i’ve read have certainly become some of my favourite novels of all time – I love Germinal in particular. Not surprising there are some which are not as good as the others – it was a hell of an undertaking

  • I confess to having the whole of the Snow set on my shelves in matching Penguins too – and I haven’t read a single one yet! I would love to get into Trollope too, but I have a big summer read and a big summer re-read coming up…

    • What’s holding you back from the Snow series Karen? Just the thought that its a long series or the style/topic no longer appeals?

      • It’s the length and committing to a long read like that. I still haven’t got to the end of the Dorothy Richardsons and I thought I could manage doing that at a pace of 1 a month, but I did struggle a bit with the Dance to the Music of Time sequence too. I’ll get to them one day I hope.

  • I’m not familiar with most of these, which is great. I love hearing about books I haven’t heard of before and I think I will keep some of these in mind for the future, but where to find the time to read them?

    • Where indeed. I’ve come to realise that I can’t possibly read everything I am interested in so if I’m reading something I don’t like, I shouldnt battle on until the end because that’s just taking me away from something more pleasurable

  • I’m not great with series… Don’t know why! (short attention span?!) The last series I read was the Ferrante novels. I do have the Jay McInerey novels in my TBR stack (I’ve read the first two but will need to reread since it’s been so long) but other than that, no plans to tackle a series.

    • if you read the Ferrante ones then your issue surely isn’t short attention span – those books look rather large to me (I have the first to read but not sure if I am that interested)

      • I read the first and didn’t love it. My library had the others as audiobooks and because I already owned them I felt guilty about not reading them, so listened to the audio. They were better to listen to than read.

        • I got the audio version also – but still haven’t ventured into Ferrante land. But we may be doing a very long holiday in January with multiple long haul flights so that might be the perfect time to become immersed

  • Thank you for the mention of our Zola blog, if I do say so myself it’s a fine example of a collaborative blog because there’s a variety of aspects to explore since the contributors all have slightly different interests. I was also pleased to see that the blog became a ‘home’ for a reader to come to as he worked his way through the novels… he’s not a blogger himself, but he liked having somewhere to share his thoughts with other people who’d read the book.
    I am intrigued by the CP Snow series. I’m sure I’ve read one of these, but so long ago (I think it was from my father’s shelves) that I haven’t recorded it in my reading journal (which starts in 1997) so I can’t remember what it was called. I remember liking it very much, so I’m interested to learn that it’s part of a series. Maybe I shall start a treasure hunt for the series too!

    • Looks like they are available but only as second hand editions from a certain on line seller. So if you are interested at least they are still in existence.

  • I adore the Inspector Gamache series. It’s one of my all-time favorite mystery series. I’ve read them in order, even though you don’t absolutely have to. That’s how I prefer to read all series, though. Glad you’re also a Penny fan!


    • Im very taken with that web project created by her publishers where she picks something that inspired her for each of the books – they explain the origin of the quotes Gamache is fond of using.

  • I know what you mean about Shardlake. Every novel seems bigger than the last, too! But I love Anthony Trollope (both series) and the Rougon-Marquet novels. I listened to some of the Radio 4 dramatisation of Strangers and Brothers and that was good, but if I’m honest, a bit of a whistle-stop tour through the plot. I imagine the full series will be much more satisfying.

    • They are fat books indeed – fortunately they read quickly.. I wish the BBC would make available on audio the dramatisation they did of Rougon-Marquet with Glenda Jackson. The episodes I heard were simply stunning….


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