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Coincidentally I spotted Cashelmara on the library's shelves a few days ago. I read the premise and first few pages and thought it would be a good one to pick up -- I may also have an old paperback of it at home. It's been ages since I've read anything by Susan Howatch (the last one was a gothic called April's Grave). Your review must be a sign I should go back to the stacks and grab it!

Margaret @ BooksPlease

Oh this takes me back! I read this in the 70s!! I hope I still have a copy - it may be up in the loft. I loved all of Susan Howatch's books - especially the Starbridge books.


I have it here on the shelves! I read it years ago, and remember almost nothing about it now, but it might be fun to re-visit.


How I loved reading Cashelmara, though I must confess, it was another lifetime ago, in the mid-1970s. I've never forgotten my attachment to it. I also read Penmarric, which was published in 1971. After Cashelmara, I kept waiting for Howatch to write another epic, but I don't think she did.

I believe, given time's passage, that I could read Cashelmara again as an entirely novel read, because all I can recall of the book is that I loved it.

Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)


I have one of her later books--I think she wrote a few books related to an Anglican church (?)--that's what I have on my own shelves. I didn't realized she also wrote historical fiction, which is sort of more to my tastes at the moment, so I had to order a few more of her earlier novels. I'm looking forward to reading them. I'll have to check out April's Grave, too. It's a sign--you'll have to pull Cashelmara from your shelves now!


I'm coming quite late to these books but it seems they have been reissued with nice covers, so they seem to have weathered the test of time well. I'm looking forward to reading more of her work! I'm not familiar with the Starbridge books, so will go check them out, thanks!


I have quite a few books I can say that about. Perhaps it's not so bad as it makes rereading and re-discovering a book as pleasurable an experience (well, hopefully anyway) as the first go round. How did I miss out on her work--have only now discovered her earlier historical novels and I do love a good historical fiction story.


Isn't it nice when a book remains in memory no matter how long ago it was read? A good reading experience it seems! I have a copy of Penmarric, too. When I started this, I knew I would have to pick up more of her books, and Penmarric was one that was recommended. I'm very tempted to pick up another of her books sooner than later--but maybe I'll wait for summer--she seems a perfect summer vacation read. The beauty of rereading is discovering good books all over again!


I'm glad you enjoyed it but I have a feeling it wouldn't be for me.
I'm not so keen on big books. The idea that every chapter is told by another narator is interesting though.

Margaret @ BooksPlease

The Starbridge books are set in a fictional Anglican Cathedral and I see from your reply to Sarah that you have one of her books set in an Anglican church - that could be one of her Starbridge books. She also wrote a later series about St Benet's which I didn't think were as good.

I liked them because they're full of wonderfully drawn characters and she's a master storyteller. I found them addictive and read them at least twice. I still have them - there are six - and wish I had time to re-read them, as well as Cashelmara and the other family epics.

Christine Harding

I read Penmarric and Cashelmara many years ago, and really enjoyed them, and consequently picked up Wheel of Fortune and The Rich are Different in a charity shop last year, and was disappointed with both.


This takes me right back to the 70s when I was in high school. This was the book to read in the school summer holidays which seemed to go on for ever but were only seven weeks.

I am almost scared to re-read it in case it takes the shine off it!


I think the 1970s must have been the pinnacle of family saga blockbusters. It does sound like a roller coaster. Does it have a happy or a tragic ending?

Debbie Q

Oh this was one of my favorites during my teenage years. I actually bought it in a book store in London in 1977 on a family trip when I, HORROR OF HORRORS, ran out of things to read. The book was lost sometime during a move but I still remember it fondly.


I need to dig my book out--I have a feeling it must be one of the series of books you mention. Is it Joanna Trollope that also wrote books dealing with vicars and such? It seems quite different than these historicals, but I do like how she writes so I imagine I would probably like it just as much. She is really very good at creating interesting characters--and they all seem quite different and unique. If you've read them twice, they must be very good indeed!


I seem to be mostly reading much shorter books this year as well (I think of the books I've read so far at least two--maybe three even have been novellas. I used to be able to fly through long books like this one, but this did take me a couple of months to work my way through (too many other distractions). I can see the appeal for both sorts of books. Having several narrators like this was very effective for this story--it did occasionally slow things down a tad since you have to reorient yourself to a new voice, but towards the end it all kind of snowballed so it didn't matter.


I have Penmarric, too, so am looking forward to it. Too bad about the other two--I think she has written quite a few books (?), so I imagine it must be hard to keep up the momentum sometimes.


I can see how this would make a perfect summer vacation read--I was thinking just the same thing--that I might have to pick up another of her books when the weather turns warm and sunny. It is hard to know whether to revisit a much loved book or not. Will it stand the test of time is the question!


And movies were just the same--have you noticed? I remember going to see movies like The Poseidon Adventure and the Towering Inferno--such dramas and spectacularly disastrous plots. They remind me of this sort of blockbuster book. As for the ending--it was a mixture of both I guess. Sort of tragic in its way, but ultimately hopeful for the main (and of the line such that he is) character.


What a fun memory of it. And how nice to think you got your copy in London! Another case of a perfect vacation read. I can see how this would stick a reader--it made me want to read more about Henry II--but it stands just fine on its own. I have a number of favorite books from my own teenage years!


I had a Susan Howatch book on my shelf for a long time but I may have gotten rid of it. It was Wheel of Fortune and I think that book was based on the Plantagenets... seems like she's big on that theme of bringing the past back to life now!


I wonder if her books have ever been out of print? My copy of Cashelmara is a nice newer reissue edition, but I've seen copies with the older 1970s covers (a few of her books that I own are just such editions). I have one of her 'church' books somewhere, but it was only recently that I discovered her historical fiction. I think she must indeed like to do retellings--in this case it didn't seem to matter that I didn't know the original story. I look forward to trying something else by her.


Oh yes! Those 1970s movies! they don't make them like that anymore!


No, they really don't. Some of them were so campy--but dang they were fun. I have happy memories going with my dad and sister to see them at the movie theater!


I'm so glad you enjoyed this! I've read a lot of Howatch's novels, The Rich Are Different, and several of the Anglican church ones as well as all the short novels she wrote first. I was really sorry to let this one fall by the wayside. She was always able to tell a really good story and keep you interested in the shenanigans of her families.


In the end I really did like this. Some of characters grated on me a little, but I think it was intentional really. The sort of characters you love to hate. I think I have The Rich Are Different and one of her Anglican Church ones. I am sure there will come a time when I am in need of a good chunky read and will have her book close at hand. Shenanigans is such a perfect way to describe the book by the way! :)

I picked up Cashelmara at a garage sale...because it had a "pretty" cover, which surprisingly was the original cover about 4 years ago. It took about 3 years til I got bored with my reading and I picked it, the size of it is quite daunting afterall. It was instalove. Oh how I loved it. So much so that I inhaled Pennmaric, oh what a wonderful book as well, the horror of the circumstances and endurance, oh how I loved it, lol! I went on the inhale the Church of England series, oh they are all so divinely twisted. I'm stuck on The Wonder Worker, Nicholas's story a separate yet related to CoE series and after 3 years have just bought and put it on my Kindle and queing it up to read next. I am also going to finish Sins of the Fathers and The Rich are Different afterwards. Thank you for a great page!


A friend recommended it to me and I really enjoyed it as well--so much so that I have begun 'collecting' her books and really must get back to them and pick one up. She is such a perfect summer read--it feels like you have so much reading time with the long days and they are indeed chunky books (but that isn't a bad thing in most cases). I would like to read the CoE books, too. I think I might have one, but with so many others of her books on hand I feel like I should read one of the others first. It's always nice to find a kindred spirit when it comes to liking the same books/authors! Thanks so much for your comment and stopping by Taldrea! Happy reading! :)

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