Something on Susan Hill’s blog the other day led me to think about the ‘right’ order to read an author’s novels… obviously there is no single correct way to read an author (note my continuing, slowly, project Backwards With Daphne), but there might be methods more conducive to enjoyment and appreciation…
More specifically: should you read the best book first?
This makes an assumption, of course, that an author has a ‘best’ book. Perhaps it would just as well be replaced with the word ‘favourite’, because the dilemma is just the same. My initial response, on Susan’s blog, was that reading the best/favourite novel first would lead to all subsequent reads being a disappointment – Lynne pointed out, in the same comments, that one might just give up after an average read. If you read an excellent novel, you’ll continue with that author, even if there are a few duds or mediocre reads along the way.
Let me think. I’ve done this both ways. Barbara Comyns, for example – Our Spoons Came From Woolworths was enjoyable, but I much preferred Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, which was on my shelf for years before I read it. Luckily Our Spoons was good enough for me to keep looking for more Comyns, though without any urgency – had it been a shade less enjoyable, I might not have bothered. On the other hand, as always, is Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker. I’ve only read one other novel by him – Before I Go Hence – which was likeable enough, but nothing compared to Miss Hargreaves. If I’d read Before I Go Hence first, I probably wouldn’t have bothered seeking out Miss Hargreaves – which might well be my favourite novel; certainly top five.
What to do! More importantly, what to recommend? If someone asks me about an author, should I send them towards the Pride and Prejudices or the Mansfield Parks? (Now, there’s a cat among the pigeons!)