Thursday, February 08, 2007

Everything old is new again

Occasionally I get questions from people asking why the HNS bothers reviewing novels that are reprints. The February HNR, for example, contains reviews of Anya Seton's The Winthrop Woman and Ben Ames Williams' A House Divided, both reissued by Chicago Review Press in late 2006; William Golding's To the Ends of the Earth, a 3-in-1 compilation of his classic sea trilogy, from Farrar Straus & Giroux; and Judith Merkle Riley's In Pursuit of the Green Lion, rereleased by Crown/Three Rivers to coincide with publication of v.3 in her Margaret of Ashbury trilogy.

We don't review every novel of this type. Very few of the Plaidys, either the Three Rivers trade pbs or the UK editions with the attractive new covers, have been revisited by us. It all depends on space, whether publicists decide to send them, and whether the editors think they're worth extra attention. (At the risk of derailing this post, I'll mention that some Victoria Holts will also be reissued soon, but the covers are, imho, garish in an odd psychedelic way and a little creepy.)

It struck me while reading the 1/29 Publishers Weekly over lunch that HNR isn't unusual in sometimes reviewing new editions of older books, although I haven't seen this done in PW very often. On p.42 I found a very nice review for Orson Scott Card's Saints, in its new Subterranean Press edition. Saints is a historical novel about Dinah Kirkham, a heroine of the early Mormon church; born in Britain, Dinah lives through the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century, converts to Mormonism, and emigrates to America, where she becomes one of the wives of Church founder Joseph Smith. The novel has an interesting history in itself. First published in 1984 by Berkley as A Woman of Destiny and marketed as a romantic saga, it was renamed Saints and republished by Forge as a mainstream historical in 1988. It also appeared as a Forge trade paperback in 2001. (I own the original and the 2001 editions. Yes, I realized they were the same book. I liked the 2001 cover better.)

A quick trawl through the PW and Booklist databases reveals no previous reviews for the earlier editions of Saints, under that title, though plenty of libraries own copies - well over 300 holdings in WorldCat for the two combined, plus 70 holding libraries for the original Woman of Destiny. So it's not quite the undiscovered gem the review hints at (emphasis on "undiscovered").

Still, six years after its most recent edition, it gets republished, repackaged, and garners a rare starred review from PW. Not bad at all for a historical novel on its fourth life in print.


  1. Victoria Holt is back!! It has been SO long since I read them, they would be new stories for me! I agree, Sarah, the covers are garish!

  2. I gotta' say it: I like the new Holt covers a lot :-)

  3. I'm actually glad to hear that, Hope - it means there's an audience for them, even though I don't like them personally :)

  4. I thought the covers were interesting, but the plot descriptions didn't grab me. Think I'll stick to Plaidys for a while . . .

  5. Of course they re-print Victoria Holt's most boring book! They couldn't have chosen "The Demon Lover" or "On the Night of the Seventh Moon", or "Devil on Horseback" or "The Landower Legacy"? But I like the covers as well! I'm so glad gothics are coming back.

  6. I'm glad gothics are coming back too! I just found Valancourt Books and their wonderful editions and I've been having a blast.

    As for Holt, I have a sentimental attachment to the Shivering Sands because it is the first Victoria Holt I ever read -- when I was about fifteen at my grandmother's house. As much as I like the new editions, I don't need them since I have all my grandmother's Victoria Holts in my library now.

    ...Although, I have other books where I have collected a copy to Save and also one to Read, hmmmmmm....