Thursday, September 2, 2021

The Starbridge Book Series by Susan Howatch

Currently reading Scandalous Risks by Susan Howatch (published 1990).  It's the fourth novel in Howatch's wonderful Starbridge series (6 books in total).  These novels are set in mid-twentieth century England (1930's-1960's) and they center around the town of Starbridge and more specifically the Cathedral of Starbridge and the Bishops, Archdeacons, wives, children, parishoners, who live there.  Each novel is narrated by a different cleric who has risen high in the church but now finds himself at a crisis point in his life and the question is why?  What has gone wrong that has brought him to this point?  

Theology and the history of the Church of England get discussed in these books in a very informative and interesting way.  And also psychology as we try to learn what got our main character into the predicament he finds himself in and the roots in these books are very often located in the main character's early years before he ever entered the clerical life.  I am currently listening to Scandalous Risks on audio and the British actress Sian Thomas who is reading this novel is doing a fabulous job.  I plan to listen to more of her audio recordings.

One thing I will say is that though the Starbridge novels can be read out of sequence,  I don't advise it.  These characters carry over into each novel and there are things you learn from these prior books that are essential in order to get the full enjoyment of the series.  So my advise is start with the first book, Glittering Images, and you won't be disappointed.

P.S. I should add that Scandalous Risks (book 4) is the one book in the series narrated by a woman, Venetia Flaxton.  The year is 1963 and Venetia is twenty-six years old, rather innocent in spite of her outward sophistication and she makes the mistake of becoming involved with the married Archdeacon of Starbridge, Neville Aysgarth.  Part of the fun of reading Scandalous Risks is that we learn everything we need to know about Neville Aysgarth in Ultimate Prizes (book 3) and he is no prize.


  1. OMG! I can’t believe you are reading these books. I LOVED them in the ‘90s. And GUESS WHAT. There is another trilogy that follows on called The St. Benet’s trilogy and takes place in the ‘90s. The first one is the Wonder Worker (Venetia and Nicholas Darrow are both in it). I read it last year and then went and re-read Glittering Images and Glamorous Powers. This year I read The High Flyer, which is the second in the St. Benet’s series and I hope to get to the third one soon. Then I plan to continue with my re-read of the Starbridge series. I am so thrilled to find another fan of these books. On paper, I would probably not want to read them. A soap opera about Anglican clergy? But they are in fact, compulsively readable.

    I only recently discovered that Howatch also wrote historical fiction and I definitely want to get to those books too. So many books, so little time...

    1. Hi Ruthiella, I am so glad you have read these books too and I will definitely go on to the St Benet series. It's a shame more people don't know about these books. I have finished book four so I have only been briefly introduced to Nicholas Darrow but I think I am going to like him. His father Jon Darrow was a good man and an excellent counselor. I don't know how long ago you read Ultimate Prizes book 3 but oddly enough I enjoyed this book not because I liked Neville Aysgarth but because I couldn't stand him but sometimes that can be fun too in a novel.