TBR list

Sample Sunday: Around The World

When I embarked on my World of Literature project back in 2013, I began to seek out books by authors from countries I had never experienced previously.

Some were recommended by work colleagues. Luckily I worked for a multinational company so every time we had a face-to-face meeting or I had to visit one of our overseas offices, I would ask for recommendations. It was a great ice-breaker and my colleagues were delighted that someone was taking an interest in their culture. Some of the books I read that came from those recommendations were superb – without my colleagues’ help I wouldn’t have enjoyed Amelie Nothomb (Belgium) or the magnificently named Joachim Maria Machado de Assis (Brazil).

I had more moderate success with books I bought as a result of internet searches – they often turned out to be real duds (like Full Circle by the Congolese author Frederick Yamusangie).

I’m hoping none of the three books featured in today’s Sample Sunday are duds but maybe they are not worth keeping on my shelves. Let’s see if you agree with my thoughts on which to keep and witch to ditch.

The Blood Of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

This is the first of two books by Iran-born Anita Amirrezvani. She left the country to settle in the USA when her parents separated. She returned to Iran during her gap year, her visit coinciding with the 1978 Islamic Revolution. She is now back in USA where she teaches writing and literature to college and master’s degree students.

The Blood Of Flowers follows a young village girl who is cast on the mercy of relatives when her father dies and her hopes of marriage dwindle. Her future improves when she reveals a talent for designing carpets, an invaluable skill in seventeenth century Iran. But a disastrous act causes her downfall.

The setting and cultural context are drawing me towards this book.

The Verdict: Keep

The Hour Of The Star by Clarice Lispector

I opened this slim book to discover a receipt which shows I bought it in the Oxfam shop in Oxford in November 2013. It was one of two purchases in the store that day – now I’m puzzling what the other book could be…

Clarice Lispector is described in this Open University edition as “one of the half-dozen irreplaceable Portuguese-language writers of this century.” She has an interesting multicultural background – born of Jewish descent in the Ukraine, she was raised in Brazil and then travelled extensively with her diplomat husband.

The Hour Of The Star was published in 1977, shortly before the author’s death from cancer. It focuses on a young woman who lives in the slums of Rio de Janeiro where she ekes out a living as a typist. But, according to what I’ve read about this book, the narrative is a lot more complex than that summary indicates.

Just to give you an example, this is how the book begins:

Everything in the world began with a yes. One molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born. But before prehistory there was the prehistory of prehistory and there was the never and there was the yes. It was ever so, I do not know why, but I do know that the universe never began.

Clearly this is not a book to read when I’m feeling sleepy. It needs full attention. It’s a mere 75 pages long so I might give it a whirl

The Verdict: Keep

Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed

Of the three books I’m featuring this week, this is the one that appeals most.

Nadifa Mohamed left her home in Somalia for what was meant to be a temporary stay in the UK. But war broke out in Somalia so they remained in the UK and never returned.

Black Mamba Boy is Mohamed’s debut novel, a semi-autobiographical account of her father’s life in Yemen and his trek through Sudan, Egypt, Palestine and the Mediterranean. In the novel, a ten year old boy who has grown up in the slums of Aden, decides his only chance of survival is to find his father who disappeared years earlier. And so begins his epic journey by foot, camel, lorry and train.

Though it’s a story of one individual, the theme of exile and survival gives it far greater significance at a time when we continue to see images of refugees risking their lives to find a new home.

The book won the 2010 Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the 2010 Guardian First Book Award and long-listed for the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. Mohamed was chosen as one of Granta magazine’s “Best of Young British Novelists” in 2013.

No doubt about my decision on this one.

The Verdict: Keep!

For the first time since I started the Sample Saturday series, I’m keeping all three featured books. The TBR is thus staying at its current level but that’s ok – the objective of Sample Sunday isn’t to get rid of books, but to make sure my shelves are full only with books I do want to read. What do you think of the decisions I’ve reached – if you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear from you.


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

15 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: Around The World

  • I read The Blood of Flowers three years ago when I was in Isfahan, where the book is set. Maybe I was unduly influenced by my gorgeous surroundings, but I thought it was a lovely book and hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. I reviewed it here on my own blog. Unfortunately the review is in Dutch, but maybe Google Translate can give you an idea of what my thoughts were.

  • I looked at your selections with interest (because of my own Around the World reading challenge. I haven’t read anything from a Somalian author – will look out for Black Mamba Boy.

    • I’ve read only one book by a Somalian author but wasn’t very excited by it – this one seems far better

  • I have always wanted to try Lispector. This one is short and said to possibly be her masterpiece, so I might just try it. Thanks!

  • I’d not be sure about the Lispector but at 75 pages you might as well try it. I love the sound of the 3rd one you’re keeping.

    • I suspect I’ll know within a few pages whether the Lispector is going to work for me

  • Pingback: Sample Saturday: Away From Home | Wadadli Pen

    • I could have predicted Stu, that you would be familiar with her work 🙂

  • All three books seem interesting. Happy reading. Have noted down the names

    • So glad to add to your wishlist! It’s usually a case that I am the one adding to my list so it makes a refreshing change…

  • The Lispector is not easy, but she’s worth reading. I’ve heard a bit of controversy around some of the translations and so I suspect that might have been why I struggled slightly – when I read some other, shorter works I had no problems!

    • Thanks for giving me the “alert” about the translation, I would hope that since mine is an Open University text they would have a gone for one of the better translated editions


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