Friday 1 June 2007

Second Book Syndrome

We've all heard about the difficulties authors have with their second books - especially if these authors have had phenomenal success with their first books. The press, the pressures, the awaiting backlash...
...but this is not the kind of Second Book Syndrome I'm chatting about today, though it is of a quite similar variety. Rather than the second book written, I'm referring to the second book read. These might well coincide, if you're buying up the work of a live-and-writing author, but often this won't be the case.

I should try and be a little clearer. You've read one book by an author. You love it. And so you find, and read, another. And this is where Second Book Syndrome hits in...

Regular blog visitors will know that I LOVE Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker. It might even be my favourite novel, but, though I've read it three or four times, it wasn't until last week that I'd read any other of Frank Baker's novels. I've had them on my shelf for a
while, but they've not got any further than that. And now I've read Before I Go Hence. Bam! Second Book Syndrome. I knew that Before I Go Hence wouldn't live up to Miss Hargreaves, how could it, but...

The novel takes place on two time levels - the Reverend Kenner, his daughter Ellen and mentally deficient son Arthur live in an old house 'Allways', undisturbed until the mysterious return of his other, long-absent, son Robert. A few years later newly-weds Maurice and Ruth visit 'Allways' with some friends. And Reverend Kenner can see them out the window.
This initial time-bending isn't really followed up upon, not particularly. The two narratives are dealt with in separate chapters, and reflect upon each in quite intriguing ways, but... yes, another diagnosis of Second Book Syndrome. Before I Go Hence is too philosophical, too leaden in comparison to the, frankly incomparable, joie de vivre of Miss Hargreaves. And yet there is little intrinsic to Before I Go Hence which makes me dislike it; had it been by a different author, perhaps I'd appreciate it more, but as it is... Second Book Syndrome.

Anyone else suffered from SBS?


  1. I enjoyed "Light on Snow" by ASnita Shreve and then tried a couple more by her. One I didn't bother to finish and I can't rememeber how far I got in the other, actually I think I DID finish it but i don't know why I bothered.

  2. I wrote about the same thing recently. I feel the same way about E. Annie Proulx.


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