TBR list

Sample Sunday: 3 eBooks

My Sample Sunday spotlight this week is turned on three books that are languishing on my eReader.

As a reminder, Sample Saturday is where I look at all the books I own but have yet to read, and decide which I should part company with and which I should keep.

I used to read a fair number of ebooks, not because I enjoyed the experience, but simply because they were much more convenient to take with me on work trips overseas. Now I’m retired, I no longer have to worry about carrying heavy books with me. Consequently, my list of unread ebooks just gets longer and longer.

These three books were all bought more than five years ago.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Who is the real Elena Ferrante? That was the big question a few years ago, a mystery that no doubt helped sales of her (or should that be his?) “Neopolitan Quartet”. My Brilliant Friend is the first of the quartet, a coming of age story of two best friends from their early life in a poor neighbourhood of Naples. .

The relationship aspect of the story wasn’t the attraction for me. I was more interested in the Italian setting. It was simply an excuse to reminisce about holidays from long ago. and are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. But I’ve never even opened the book and now that a return trip to Italy looks increasingly unlikely this year, the book has lost its appeal.

If you’ve read this, do tell me what you thought about it – is it worth reading?

The Verdict: Undecided

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Picked for Oprah Winfrey’s book club, Ruby is a debut novel about a young girl who tries to escape the suffocating atmosphere of her small community in Texas. Forced to return she relives the abuse she once suffered. Is she strong enough to survive in a town that wants to destroy her?

It sounds like a powerful novel. I’ve seen it described as “Utterly transfixing, with unforgettable characters, riveting suspense, and breathtaking, luminous prose, Ruby offers an unflinching portrait of man’s dark acts and the promise of the redemptive power of love.”

The one thing holding me back is that it apparently contains some elements of magical realism. That’s not usually my kind of thing but I’m going to take a chance on this one.

The Verdict: Keep

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

I have this book purely because it was on the Booker shortlist in 2015, a time when I liked to read a few of the contenders. But I never got around to it, finding it hard to summon up enthusiasm for a book described as “Semi-random musings on various oddities of modern life.”

It’s hard to find a coherent summary of what this book is about. My best attempt would be that Satin Island is about a person named U who researches products and services from an anthropological view and deduces meanings from his research. It’s not a book of events or page-turning plot; more of a collection of random thoughts and ideas.

It sounds dreadful. 

The Verdict: Discard

So that’s one fewer book on the TBR shelves this week. Maybe two depending on your insight about the Elena Ferrante.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

23 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: 3 eBooks

  • Ruby sounds pretty interesting to me! The others.. maybe not. I am having a hard time reading anything that reminds me of traveling to places I probably won’t be able to visit for a while either. 🙁

  • I know everyone will be plumping for the Ferrante – I didn’t love it HOWEVER I switched to listening to the books instead of reading and found them far more compelling that way… That said, the tv series of My Brilliant Friend was absolutely magnificent and I was GLUED to it.

  • Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    I’m a die-hard Ferrante fan, so I’m resisting the temptation to scream KEEP in your direction, I know not everyone loves her as much as I do… but in my view, My Brilliant Friend and the Neapolitan Quartet as a whole are incredible contributions to contemporary literature. I’ve also read Satin Island, and it wasn’t BAD, but it wasn’t anything I’d shout about – discarding is probably the right call.

  • I keep feeling like I *should* read Ferrante but I never get round to it!

  • I read the first Ferrante book but haven’t been inspired to read more yet.

  • Sylvie Marie Héroux

    Hi, I read all four of the Ferrante novels. Had trouble getting into it at first, but then could not put it down. I really enjoy novels where this is an interweaving of personal history and evolving social context and that was extremely well done in this series.

  • I am definitely the odd one out here having read all four of the Ferrante books and enjoyed following the development of the friendship between the two girls.I have grown up with a friend who lived next door and as children we played at her home more often as her parents hadn’t banned Enid Blyton as mine had. We spent many a happy hour together getting our Famous Five fix.

  • Lyn Leader-Elliott

    I’ve read three of the Ferrante books now. The first two are formidably good, tough reading not at all syrupy as the cover illustration might suggest.

  • Forget the hype, My Brilliant Friend is actually an interesting literary work about the process of writing.

  • I wasn’t successful in getting thru the audio of Ruby before I threw in the towel but perhaps I didn’t go far enough? I haven’t read the Ferrante books either … but they sure got a lot of interest & sales when they came out. I’m still curious about them.

  • Invention of Wings had some magical realism too and I attributed it to culture. Maybe you’ll be ok with it in Ruby.

    • I’ve read a few books where there is a smallish element of magical realism and managed that ok. It’s when it dominates the book that I struggle

  • I didn’t enjoy the Ferrante at all and stopped reading after a few chapters, something I rarely do. By coincidence, I have just finished Ruby after it had sat on my shelves for years and thought it was a stunning read, brutal and tough at times but the comparisons to Toni Morrison are justified.

    • Thanks for the insight Alison, It does sound like a powerful novel.

    • I usually avoid books which are hyped. This one clearly slipped through

  • “story of two best friends from their early life in a poor neighbourhood of Naples. . ” Sounds like “Where do you go to my lovely”, Peter Sarstedt’s hit from 1969. Was that the starting point for the book, I wonder? Would that add to or take away from its potential as a book worth keeping?

    • gosh now you are taking me back in time. I remember the song…. no idea whether it was the spark for Ferrante’s book though

  • I’m in the apparently tiny minority of people who *quite* enjoyed the Ferrante but didn’t think it was wonderful, and I read it in Italy!


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