Daily Archives: December 27, 2011

The dilemmas of reading a sequel

At the moment I’m reading River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh, the second in what will be the Ibis trilogy.  I very much enjoyed the first book Sea of Poppies, written in 2008 which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

So, some eighteen months later, here I am with the second installment. The sad reality is that I really can’t remember all that much about the first, except that I enjoyed it.  Even my own blog post doesn’t enlighten me particularly.  I’m aware that he’s providing small snippets of back story for those who have not read the first book, but they’re not evocative enough to trigger a rush of memories.  At the moment, all they’re doing is frustrating me- should I remember more about this character???

Reading a trilogy as it is being produced, rather than coming to it later as a finished product, means that there is often a long waiting time between volumes- three years in this case.  Authors generally do back track a bit, but there’s a limit to how much they’re able to do this without retelling the first story over again.  I assume that they write so that a new reader could read it without having read the first book.  However, while the author has probably been living with his characters – and maybe even his/her vision for the work as a whole , for years- readers (or at least, I)  don’t have this same level of intimacy and have moved on to other books and other stories.

So what to do? Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I can easily find a plot summary of the earlier book but somehow that feels like cheating.  I feel as if the book should be able to stand on its own two feet, but I’m willing to admit that perhaps the problem in this case lies more with the reader than the author.

Dammit- I’m going to do it.  Lord Wiki, here I come.