Clearing the review backlog: Three short reviews

Jason at We Need to Talk About Books hit on a great idea with his “books read but not reviewed” posts. Such a great idea that I’ve borrowed it to deal with a backlog of reviews that I never seem to be able to get through. I’ll start with which was the first year of this blog. Luckily I had a few notes scribbled on a document to help me recall the books.

cranfordCranford by Elizabeth Gaskell . This became a much talked about book when it was turned into a highly successful television series in the UK. Broadcast in three series from 2007, it featured some class actors like Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Imelda Staunton. The story is set in the early 1840s in the fictional village of Cranford in the county of Cheshire in North West England, and focuses mainly on the town’s single and widowed middle class female inhabitants who are comfortable with their traditional way of life and place great store in propriety and maintaining an appearance of gentility.

There is clearly an opportunity to reflect changes in the world around them but that never came across to me in the first few episodes I watched.  It felt too whimsical amd cosy for my tastes. The book, when  I got around to reading it left me with the same impression (just to be clear I read book one of what is  series in effect). I was missing the depth of social understanding that I’d found in Gaskell’s North and South (reviewed here)


Woman in Black by Susan Hill. The play of this book was one of my best theatre experiences of the late 1980s. It’s still doing the rounds so I won’t give any details away thet will spoil the surprise and shock. It’s far superior to the  later film adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe by the way. The book upon which both versions were  based was published in 1983. It’s a relatively slim volume written in the style of a traditional Gothic novel about The Woman in Black is a 1983 horror novella by Susan Hill, written in the style of a traditional Gothic novel about a mysterious spectre that haunts a small English town, heralding the death of children. The suspense is handled well and it kept me engaged theiughout a red eyed flight when I couldn’t sleep. But I wouldn’t give it many marks for quality of writing. Susan Hill seemed to think stuffing the narrative with lots of adjectives  was the best way to conjure up the atmosphere. It didn’t. It just left me feeling irritated.



The Witch Hunter by Bernard Knight. This is part of his Crowner John series which revolves around the figure of a coroner based in Exeter, England in the twelfth century. I’ve read or listened to audio versions of about half of them and they are all excellent at conjuring up the spirit of those times. I dont recall the plots usually, preferring the way Bernard Knight in eyes the uncertainties of life in those times, the struggles of a monarch trying to extort his power across the whole country in the face of opposition by the powerful barons and vested interests. Knight shows the coroner as a man of principle, determined to fulfill the responsibilities for this newly established role even if thet means he comes head to head with the county sheriff who happen so be his brother in law. In The Witch Hunter he has to contend with a community that views the death  of a prominent burgess as a signof witchcraft. Personal interests intervene when the coroners beloved mistress Nesta is implicated. I’m surprised this series doesn’t have more visibility because it’s highly readable. I’ve posted about the series in general here.


About 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

Posted on October 27, 2016, in Book Reviews, British authors, Classics Club, Crime and thrillers, historical fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Cranford is on my TBR and Susan Hill is on my distant TBR. Glad you enjoyed the reads. Review backlogs are sure piling up, especially since the year is about to end.

  2. I loved Cranford, but I read it in my teens and it was my first Gaskell. I read it as a sort of Austen look-alike which it is and it isn’t. But, these days I love Gaskell more for her more hardhitting novels like North and south, and Ruth (despite its religiosity).

  3. I like to write posts with several short reviews — I’m working on one for Monday with a Halloween theme.

    And, I like to read other people’s round-up posts, too. I think I’d like the Knight series — adding the first one to my TBR!

    • You read so much that I imagine it would be too much of a burden to do an extensive review of everything Joy. Just saw you were mentioned in the top 100 book bloggers list by the way – congratulations on that. Quite an achievement with the millions of blogs around

  4. Nice to meet you via Joy Weese Moll’s British Isles Friday meme. Oh my, my books to review pile is almost as big as my TBR pile! Both are never ending. Like you, I could never do a twitter length review!!

  5. Oh my goodness, I fee the same way as you about The Woman in Black. I read it with a book group and I was the only one who didn’t love it and no one could understand why I was grumbling about the poor writing. I wish you had been in my group!

  6. Thanks for mentioning me! I think I might enjoy Gaskell, like I do most novels that remain popular from the 19th century, I just don’t see myself getting around to her anytime soon!

  7. I only blog on about a quarter of what I read; it’s just no feasible for me to blog on everything. I sometimes do a multi-review post, usually just to keep my hand in.

  8. I loved the book Cranford but couldn’t stand the film version.

  9. I’ve got a backlog of reviews too, for books that I read more than a month ago. I’ve not done them all in one post, but have done shorter than normal reviews for them. 3 down, 2 to go!

  10. Oooh, I may try to write a quick review post like this as I need to catch up on my book reviews too.

    Ahem. I shamefully fell asleep when I watched the play version of The Woman in Black. Although a long day at the office was probably the root cause.

  11. I did this for a few months but somehow lost the habit when I came back from holiday. I may pick it up again in the New Year.

  12. What a good idea! I often beat myself up trying to do my reviews properly but maybe I should give myself a break and sometimes do shorter one!

    • i do the exactly the same – constantly getting a guilt feeling when i see the list of books yet to be reviewed. It feels like a never ending climb up a mountain. I’m trying to teach myself to take the more relaxed approach – who cares if they don’t see my pearls of wisdom on a particular novel, Just me…….Jason’s blog post was the wake up call I needed!

  13. I sometimes do quick, catch-up reviews – try to treat them like a modified Twitter i.e. review in 140 words or less!

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