Friday 7 February 2014

Read in 2014 - 3: Sir Humphrey of Batch Hall

[If you want to write your part for "The Hummus Hunters", you can do that here.]

First of all, my apologies to the author for having taken so uncharacteristically long to read the second novel he so kindly gave me as a free review copy. Sorry, Peter!

Earlier on this week, I finished „Sir Humphrey of Batch Hall“, and the actual reading did not take long at all – it was „getting round to it“ that took from the end of July until now.

The first novel in the Batch Magna series, „The Cuckoos of Batch Magna“, deals with the arrival of the American heir to an estate in an idyllic river valley on the border between England and Wales, and the changes this arrival brings to the land and its inhabitants, last but not least to the heir himself. I enjoyed „Cuckoos“ very much and was looking forward to reading the second novel. In short, my expectations were exceeded.
(You can find my review of the first book here.) 

Somehow I liked the second book even better than the first. The same characters the reader became acquainted with in the first book reappear, plus several new ones; some of them likable, some of them less so. The same poetically descriptive language fills the pages and the mind.

But the outcome of the first book was relatively predictable, because had things not turned out well in the end, there would not have been a series. „Sir Humphrey“ has more suspension in that unfolding events could lead to more than one possible result. While in „Cuckoos“ love stories develop between some of the characters, this time you're in for a proper mystery. The way it is solved is told in a manner that makes you alternatingly laugh and grip the book harder.

The chapters are of exactly the right length to read „just one more“ before putting the lights out, or to last me the short train ride to and from work. The language is, as I said, poetically descriptive, and that is maybe most obvious when the river is depicted, especially at night. So atmospheric you feel quite „there“. 

My favourite characters are the Commander and his wife. I also like Humphrey and Clem, but am not too fond of Jasmine or Phineas, although I can't really put my finger on the reasons. I guess it is like with real people; you take an instant liking to someone but never quite warm to someone else.

The editing could have been better; I found many typesetting erros that conscentious editing would have noticed. For instance, in Chapter 16, it is said about the reverend „...when he was in the pupil“ instead of the pulpit. But I also know that books are not produced the same way they used to be, and since such errors were not frequent enough to spoil the pleasant reading experience (plus I had been given the review copy for free), I am not complaining – just stating.

At the end of this book, there is a shorter story, a few chapters long, called „The Famous Cricket Match“. I must admit I quick-read good part of it, since the descriptions of the actual cricket match were a bit boring (i. e. hard to understand) for someone like me who does not know more about Cricket than that it is a firm favourite in England and played by very well-dressed men. The idea of the story is great, though, and the beginning and end are so much part of what makes Batch Magna Batch Magna that I am glad I did not skip it altogether.

Thank you once again, Peter, for having given me the possibility to read „Sir Humphrey“! I certainly recommend the Batch Magna novels.

Peter Maughan's website is here. His books can be found on Amazon:
The Cuckoos of Batch Magna
Sir Humphrey of Batch Hall


  1. This review makes this book and series sound like books I enjoy reading and I will note down the titles and author.

  2. This sounds like a great book to take on a railway journey. I'll remember Batch Magna. It's a surprisingly memorable name!

    1. It made the trip to and from work so much more enjoyable, Jenny.

  3. I remembered your first review and your contact with the author and the original book's been on my list. Today I decided that I really should do something about it and decided that this would be a 'real' book purchase rather than a Kindle one. I have no idea why. When I went to Amazon I discovered that it's only available on Kindle. As is Sir Humphrey. The next two in the series are not yet available. So we know they have been written but they can't be bought. That really is a bit bizarre. In fact only the first one seems to have been printed commercially because the second one doesn't appear on any book sites that I can find. The first one appears but is simply labelled as unavailable.

    1. Peter has been in touch with me again this time, Graham. When I sent him my review before posting it, so that he could add his own thoughts if he wanted, he said "I shall not add a word to it; it's perfect as it is."
      I have just checked the German Amazon website; it listst Cuckoos, Sir Humphrey and Apple Bough as available on kindle. No idea where, when and if the books are or will be available in print.

    2. I have just found this on Peter's homepage under the introduction to "The Batch Magna Caper": (Waiting a release date: watch this space.)

  4. Thanks for visiting my blog, and THANK YOU for the book recommendations! I'm almost finished this Peter Robinson I'm reading right now, and I will order these two books tonight on my Kindle and read them next!

    1. You are very welcome, Dorothy! I am glad my reviews manage to convey enough about the books, but not too much, so that others still want to read them.