Two things conspired to make me write this post this week – firstly the publication of Sophie Hannah’s Poirot continuation The Monogram Murders and secondly the arrival in the post of The Chalet Girls Grow up – a follow on to my favourite school story series that I’ve long hesitated over reading that a friend has lent me.
Why have I been worried about reading it? Well the reviews on Amazon are pretty polarised shall we say, and I have a bad track record for dealing with outcomes that I don’t like in books. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s one of my previous favourite books I can hardly bring myself to read any more after the author (in my opinion) messed up the ending to the final book in the series. I’ve since “forgiven” the author – I still read and look forward to her new books, but I can’t get past the ending to the third book when reading the first. So, I thought, why run the risk of ruining the Chalet School?
So what’s changed? Well there have been hints recently that my attitudes are changing – dare I say maturing. I read the Sebastian Faulks Jeeves and Wooster novel at the start of this year – and although I thought the writing style was pretty spot on, I wasn’t keen on the plot or on the outcome (if you know what I mean). But it hasn’t stopped me returning to my “proper” Wodehouse books. But I don’t love Bertie and his butler the way that I do the Chalet School.
I do love the Peter Wimsey books though – it’s not as long standing a passion, but if you set me going, I think I could recite large chunks of Busman’s Honeymoon and in the last week I’ve listened to the audio book of Strong Poison and the radio plays of Have His Carcase, Murder Must Advertise and Gaudy Night. And a few years ago I read two the Jill Paton Walsh Wimsey continuations – Thrones, Dominations and The Attenbury Emeralds. The first I thought was ok, if more sordid than Wimsey novels usually are and more packed with returning characters, the second I was disappointed in – I haven’t read the third or the fourth. But it (clearly) hasn’t stopped me loving the originals. There was nothing in there that ruined my enjoyment of Peter’s other cases.
I’ve also recently read my first Chalet School “fill-in” title (lent to me by the same friend who’s sent me Grow Up), that’s a book by a different author that fills in a gap in the series. I quite liked the plot, I didn’t think it was entirely “right” but it didn’t bother me enough to stop me from finishing it – and I’d read some more if I get a chance to. I’ve also read really quite a lot of Pride and Prejudice follow-ons/retellings – some that I’ve hated (Emma Tennant’s Pemberley) and some which I’ve enjoyed (P D James’ Death Comes To Pemberley) and I’ve another (Jo Baker’s Longbourn) waiting on the pile – and they haven’t dimmed my liking for the original. In fact some of them, have given me a good laugh – although that probably wasn’t what the author intended.
So – I think I’m prepared to risk both the Poirot continuation and the Chalet Girls Grow Up. If you find me in a puddle weeping, you’ll know that I’ve completely miscalculated and have Ruined It All For Ever.
Feel free to share your follow-on novel stories and recommendations in the comments – are there any others that you think I should definitely read?