Decision Time on Jane Gardam, Elizabeth Gaskell and Amitav Ghosh

Unread Novels by Jane Gardam, Elizabeth Gaskell and Amitav Ghosh that are sitting in my bookshelves

In this episode of Sample Sunday I’m moving to the letter G on my bookshelves, picking out three book written by authors whose names all begin with that letter, and trying to decide which books to keep and which to let go.

Last Friends by Jane Gardam

I don’t understand how I came to have this book because it’s the final instalment in a trilogy and I haven’t read, nor do I own, parts one and two. Seems an odd purchase. Anyway, this is a sequence of novels about a marriage between Edward, a successful barrister who spent most of his career in South East Asia and Betty, the woman he married after she was released from an internment camp. Book one tells the story of their life together from his perspective, Betty gets her turn in book 2 and then Last Friends shows the marriage from a third person – Betty’s on-off lover and Edward’s nemsis.

The Verdict: Let go. It’s pointless holding on to this when the story line doesn’t sound that interesting, certainly not enough to want to read books 1 and 2 before I could even tackle this one.

Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell

This is much more to my taste. The main character is an orphaned young seamstress who catches the eye of a gentleman. He abandons her but not before getting her pregnant. She gets a chance to make a new life but when her former lover turns up again she has to choose whether to save her reputation or her pride..

The Verdict: Keep. The Gaskell novels I’ve enjoyed most are those that deal with gritty social issues so the theme of the fallen woman in this novel has a strong appeal.

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

Ghosh’s sixth novel is set in mangrove-covered islands in the estuary of the Ganges River where settlers live in fear of drowning tides and man-eating tigers. A young American marine biologist of Indian descent, arrives in this lush, treacherous landscape in search of a rare species of river dolphin and enlists the aid of a local fisherman and a translator. Together the three of them launch into the elaborate backwaters, drawn unawares into the powerful political undercurrents of this part of the world.

The setting is appealing but I’ve seen a few comments along the lines that this is a rambling story that tries to cover too much ground – love, class-difference, political conflict, natural and man-made catastrophes.

The Verdict: I’m tempted to keep. I’ve read one other novel by Ghosh – The Glass Palace – and it was the setting and evocation of a culture that I enjoyed most. So if those two elements are evident in The Hungry Tide I think I’m on to a winner.

Sample Sunday is when I take a look at all the unread books on my shelves and decide which to keep and which to let free. The goal isn’t to shrink the TBR as such, but rather it’s about making sure my shelves have only books I do want to read. What do you think of the decisions I’ve reached? If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear from you.

BookerTalk

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

42 thoughts on “Decision Time on Jane Gardam, Elizabeth Gaskell and Amitav Ghosh

  • June 19, 2021 at 4:59 pm
    Permalink

    I’ve had The Glass Palace for ages, but haven’t got round to it yet – not read any of Ghosh’s other books.

    Reply
    • June 19, 2021 at 5:18 pm
      Permalink

      They tend to be very long which I think is what puts me off – I have to be really invested in a narrative to want to read 500+ pages

      Reply
  • June 14, 2021 at 9:56 pm
    Permalink

    I love love love Gardam but have never fancied the Old Filth trilogy for some reason, so I’m on your side there!

    Reply
  • June 14, 2021 at 8:21 pm
    Permalink

    Sorry to see you discarding Last Friends. I think it’s a wonderful trilogy, but please start with No I, Old Filth. Interesting era, crusty English barristers out in Hong Kong, love affairs, jealousies, covers many years of relationships and many miles, Superb observations of human relationships and social class. Keep No 3 and seek out 1 and 2.

    Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 9:26 pm
      Permalink

      I can see that this series has a lot of fans so I’m persuaded to give it a reprieve. Thanks for the recommendation Robin

      Reply
  • June 14, 2021 at 4:44 pm
    Permalink

    I’ve read Ruth. It is a very sad story. I’ve read several classic stories, and this one is at the top of being sad and tragic.

    Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 9:27 pm
      Permalink

      Sounds good to me. Of all the Gaskell books I’ve read, the only one I didn’t like was Cranford. It was a bit too frothy for me

      Reply
  • June 14, 2021 at 10:10 am
    Permalink

    The Hungry Tide is rambling, but still worth it, I think. I loved the book!

    Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 9:28 pm
      Permalink

      Rambling is how I’ve seen it described in some reviews. I’m going to give it a go because he writes so well

      Reply
      • June 15, 2021 at 4:54 am
        Permalink

        After reading your post, I placed a hold on The Hungry Tide at my local library. It will have to be sent from another library in the state. Hopefully, I will start reading it next week.

        Reply
  • June 14, 2021 at 9:39 am
    Permalink

    I think I’d keep all three.

    I love Old Filth – the first one in Gardam’s trilogy. Maybe Old Filth is the outstanding book, but maybe that is because I read it first and loved it so much, that the others don’t quite live up to it. As Harriet said maybe read Old Filth and then decide.

    Reply
  • June 14, 2021 at 8:24 am
    Permalink

    As others have said, the Gardam trilogy is brilliant. Why not hang onto the third one and start at the beginning with Old Filth. I loved these novels more than I can say.

    Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 9:29 pm
      Permalink

      That sounds like a good plan. I shall see if I can get it from the library

      Reply
  • June 14, 2021 at 5:05 am
    Permalink

    I loved the Gardam trilogy, and even though they work as standalone novels, I think it helps to read them in order so perhaps put Last Friends aside until you have read the first two: Old Filth and The Man in the Wooden Hat.

    Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 9:32 pm
      Permalink

      It does seem as if each one builds on the earlier title. The consensus seems to be strongly in favour of Gardam so I shall keep it. It will be the first time I’ve done one of these Sample Sunday posts where I’ve ended up changing my opinion.

      Reply
  • June 13, 2021 at 10:57 pm
    Permalink

    If only we were neighbours…you nearly always keep the books I would pass along and pass on the ones that I would keep. *crying, laughing emoji*

    Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 9:36 pm
      Permalink

      I’d love nothing more than to be in Toronto but only in summer. I had enough of winters on trips to Northern Michigan which isn’t too far away, and don’t really fancy repeating them!

      Reply
      • June 21, 2021 at 2:43 pm
        Permalink

        I’ll take you shopping: the trick is in the gear, so you don’t even notice the freezing temperatures. 😂

        Reply
        • June 21, 2021 at 9:43 pm
          Permalink

          I also know that Toronto malls have excellent underground walkways so you can get from one to another without having to go up into the cold winds….

    • June 14, 2021 at 9:37 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks for the confirmation of my decision. I prefer her social realism novels far more than I did Cranford

      Reply
  • June 13, 2021 at 8:21 pm
    Permalink

    I loved the first two novels in the Old Filth trilogy, the last one did not live up to expectations. I’d read the other ones and skip this one!

    Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 9:38 pm
      Permalink

      Interesting to hear that. Most of the people commenting here seem to be fans of this series

      Reply
  • June 13, 2021 at 7:17 pm
    Permalink

    How can you let go on the Jane Gardam trilogy? It’s excellent, an extremely good read.

    Reply
    • June 13, 2021 at 8:08 pm
      Permalink

      I love Jane Gardam, but of this trilogy I preferred Old Filth to the other two. I think it’s better to read in order if at all.

      Reply
      • June 14, 2021 at 9:39 pm
        Permalink

        I think it would be too confusing to read them any other way so it seems like I’m going to have to go back to the beginning

        Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 9:40 pm
      Permalink

      The jury of book bloggers is for once in agreement – so I shall keep it!

      Reply
  • June 13, 2021 at 5:50 pm
    Permalink

    I haven’t read Ruth, but I’ve enjoyed all of the other Elizabeth Gaskell books I’ve read so I would definitely keep that one. I’m not sure about the Amitav Ghosh as I loved his Ibis trilogy but was disappointed in Gun Island. His settings always do sound appealing, though.

    Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 9:42 pm
      Permalink

      Did you enjoy Cranford too Helen? It was my first experience of Gaskell and I didn’t really find it all that interesting. It was when we got to the gritty content of North and South that my opinion changed about Gaskell

      Reply
      • June 15, 2021 at 4:30 pm
        Permalink

        I did like Cranford, but not as much as some of her others. My favourites so far are Wives and Daughters and Sylvia’s Lovers.

        Reply
        • June 16, 2021 at 10:22 am
          Permalink

          I don’t know Sylvia’s Lovers at all. Shall add it to my to read list

  • June 13, 2021 at 5:46 pm
    Permalink

    The Hungry Tide was the Ghosh novel that kind of put me off the author. I hope you have better luck with it.

    Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 9:42 pm
      Permalink

      Was the problem the same as I’ve seen mentioned by a number of other readers – too many different elements and the narrative rambled at times?

      Reply
  • June 13, 2021 at 5:40 pm
    Permalink

    I always enjoy the soul-searching that goes on vis á vis weeding the collection. It’s not entirely schadenfreude on my part, more a reassurance that others go through the same process as myself! I admire your discipline, BTW, as I hardly ever get rid of anything myself.
    I’d definitely keep the Ghosh novel. I’ve had his IBIS trilogy (unread) sitting on my shelf for the longest time now but I WILL get to it and I’m sure you’ll get to this too! He’s an interesting writer and you know you like his work.
    I’d ditch the Gardam; as you say, what’s the point of having Book 3 of the trilogy when you don’t have the other two? I tried the trilogy myself and didn’t get far (I’ll probably take at least one more go at it). For what it’s worth, I think the first two volumes received much better reviews than the third.
    Gaskell, well, I’m pretty immune to her writing, although I did like Cranford. While I wouldn’t keep this one, the case is obviously different for you, so — good decision!

    Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 9:45 pm
      Permalink

      Our experience of Gaskell was very different – it was Cranford that I didn’t like at all!

      I didn’t give away books in the past but I just don’t have space any longer to keep everything. I used to keep many of the books Id read too – but then a few years ago after a frank discussion with myself decided that there were very few I really, really did want to read again. So now most of mine get given away once read.

      Reply
      • June 14, 2021 at 10:55 pm
        Permalink

        Oh, Cranford was fine, if not earth shaking. There was a phrase — “elegant economy” or something along those lines — that the middle class characters used to describe their life-style, which I really liked. I tried another Gaskell fairly soon afterwards and didn’t get far. All this occurred when I was going through a Victorian fiction phase, so many years ago that it really doesn’t count! My opinion on these matters is always subject to revision, however, as my tastes over the years has changed pretty drastically, which is the reason I enjoy re-reads. I’ll definitely give Gaskell another go, just as I will Gardam’s Old Filth trilogy, just to make sure I’m not missing something. I must admit, however, that I’ll be re-reading several Trollope novels first!

        Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 9:52 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks Derrick. I’ve only two more novels by her still to read. My Lady Ludlow and A Dark Night’s Work. I’ve not heard anything about these – are they worth reading?

      Reply

We're all friends here. Come and join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: