19/01/2011

In the Company of Others (by Jan Karon)

Jan Karon is the US author of the gentle 'Mitford' series, featuring the elderly Anglican minister known as Father Tim, and his writer/illustrator wife Cynthia. She is now writing books that focus on Father Tim elsewhere in the world; the first in this new trilogy was 'Home to Holly Springs', where Tim returned for the first time in many years to his childhood town, and unearthed some family secrets.

The second in the series, 'In the Company of Others' was released in hardback in Autumn 2010. I don't usually get hardback editions of books, but I had a voucher for Amazon.com, and friends travelling to the USA... so as I didn't want to spend half the voucher on postage, and couldn't find much else that I wanted, I thought I might as well treat myself to this new book.

In this book, Tim and Cynthia travel to Ireland for a long-awaited holiday. They stay in a guest lodge and get to know the owners, and something about their family tensions. They also discover a journal, about 150 years old, which is interspersed in some of the narrative. The holiday is unexpectedly extended, and they get involved not just in the lives and stresses of their new friends, but help to solve a crime mystery.

I have slightly mixed feelings about this book. I liked the pace, and the characterisation as ever is good. Tim and Cynthia have a delightful, believable relationship... and the dialogue, some of it in Irish brogue, was a great deal easier for me to read than that of the US South in 'Home to Holly Springs'. It was a gentle story, which I read in twenty-minute bursts at bedtime for almost four weeks, but I didn't have any inclination to read it at other times of the day.

However, taking so long over it meant that I found myself regularly confused about the other characters, of whom there were many - those in the journal as well as in the main story, and eventually I gave up trying to remember, which meant that the later part of the story had less impact than perhaps it should have done.

Fans of the Mitford series will probably enjoy it, so long as they don't mind the action having moved right out of Mitford, and since it stands alone, with mainly new characters, it would probably work as an introduction to Karon's novels too, for anyone who likes a gentle paced character-driven story. There is, as with all her books, a low-key Christian aspect to it, but it's nicely done without being preachy or pushy.

Overall I did like it, and am glad I read it, though I shall think twice before ordering another Jan Karon in hardback... even if I do have an Amazon voucher to spend. Links at the sides are to the current editions at the UK and US Amazon sites, but it's widely available online second-hand at much better prices.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 19th January 2011

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is she going to finish this series? What has happened to her?

Thanks