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Top Ten Tuesday: Book Series On My Radar

The focus for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is on book series.

I’m really good at starting a book series. Not so good though at completing them. It took me about eight years to read the six novels that form The Chronicles of Barsetshire by Anthony Trollope. In my defence some of those books were very long since Trollope is not noted for his brevity. By the time I finished the series I calculated I had read 3469 pages. Phew.

There are many readers who begin with book one and immediately pick up the next one and just keep reading until they reach the end. I can’t seem to do that — I prefer to have a decent time interval between each “episode”.

The problem with that of course, is that if the gap is too long, it can be hard to remember details about individual characters and the progress of their story. Then I feel I have to start all over again (which is what happened with Mr Trollope).

I’m also guilty of starting a new series instead of finishing the ones I already have underway. Some never do get picked up again such as the Aubrey–Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian or The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis and the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. I’ve also decided after two books, that I won’t continue with Alison Weir’s Six Wives of Henry VIII.

But there are others I really do want to finish and plenty more that I’d like to begin.

Book Series I’ve Started …. And Will Definitely Finish

Rougon- Macquet series by Emile Zola

There are 19 titles in all, published between 1871 and 1893, of which I’ve read eight in my Emile Zola project. This is one of those cases where the first book I read was not the first in the series. I’ve now gone back to the beginning.

Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny 

Another book series I began part of the way through. My first experience was book number eight, A Beautiful Mystery which captured my interest so much I’ve gone on to read nine more titles set in Quebec province, Canada. I thought Penny would stop writing these books when she got to number 10 book number 10 since this saw the denouement of a narrative thread that went across several titles. But she’s not showing any signs of running out of steam yet and book number 18 is due out later this month. So on I go.

Indian Crime Fiction

I do love novels set in India or written by authors from the sub continent. The crime series by Abir Mukherjee and Vaseem Kahn are both notable for the insight they give into attitudes towards the time of British rule.

Mukherjee’s series which begins with A Rising Man is set before Independence while Kahn’s inspector Persis Wadia series, which begins with Midnight at Malabar House takes place in the first years of the newly-independent nation. I’ve read only the first book in each but really enjoyed the way both authors evoked the spirit of the country and the British/Indian tensions.

Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning

Manning used her personal experience for two trilogies that follow a young married couple in World War II. The Balkan Trilogy features Guy and Harriet Pringle who set up their first home in Bucharest (Romania) in 1939, just weeks after the German invasion of Poland. As the Nazi regime tightens its grip on Europe, the Pringles flee to Greece. In The Levant Trilogy, their flight takes them even further away from Europe, to Cairo.

It’s The Danger Tree, part one of The Levant Trilogy that I read. I loved the atmosphere of Egypt so much I decided I wanted to read the next two titles. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to begin at the beginning with the first trilogy.

Book Series I Plan to Begin

The “Five Towns” novels of Arnold Bennett 

We seldom hear the name of Arnold Bennett now but in his day he was highly popular and one of the most financially successful of early twentieth century authors. Many of his novels and short stories were set in the Staffordshire Potteries region in which he was born — he called his fictionalised community “The Five Towns.”

These towns are the setting for seven novels, starting with Anna of the Five Towns (1902) and ending with the Clayhanger trilogy – Clayhanger (1910), Hilda Lessways (1911) and These Twain (1915). Together they portray the aspirations and challenges of ordinary people in these communities.

Strangers and Brothers by C P Snow

About twenty years ago I press ganged my husband into trawling the second hand bookshops of Hay on Wye, to find all eleven novels in this book series. I was insistent that they were all Penguin orange spine editions. Published between 1940 and 1970, these books deal with – among other things – questions of political and personal integrity, and the mechanics of exercising power.

The books have moved house three times. I’ve yet to read any of them. But I’m still reluctant to give them away until I’ve at least sampled a few.

The Palliser Novels by Anthony Trollope 

I’m not yet finished with Mr Trollope. The four books that came to be known as the Palliser novels feature the wealthy aristocrat and politician Plantagenet Palliser, and his wife, Lady Glencora.

There is a connection to the Barsetshire Chronicles — the Pallisers are a hugely important political force in the county and Plantagenet Palliser makes a brief appearance in book five of that earlier series.

The Cazelet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard

This series has popped up in numerous blogs I follow, most recently featured by MarinaSofia @findingtimetowrite who read the series last year — her review is here. The five books form a saga about a family in Sussex, following them through decades of great social change. The series begins in the years after World War I, takes in the effects of the second world conflict and shows the family dealing with more change to their way of life in the 1950s.

Lord of The Rings by J R R Tolkein

This will come as a shock to those of you who read this blog because you’ll know that I never read fantasy. But it’s good to step outside our comfort zone once in a while and if I’m going to dip my reading toes in the genre, I may as well opt for one of the most acclaimed of fantasy series.

I did try reading Tolkein back in my university days when I was surrounded by people who were huge fans. I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about so gave up after a few chapters. I wonder whether my older self will find it more interesting????

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