Sample Sunday: Decision Time On Ferrante, Fitzgerald and Farrell

It’s time to move along the shelves to the letter F in my trawl of unread books in the bookcases, deciding what to keep and which to let go. In the case of my collection of novels by Richard Flanagan and J. G Farrell, the decision is an easy one: they are authors I’ve enjoyed reading previously so there’s a very good chance that will continue. From the other Fs on my shelves, I’ve picked out three books where there is more uncertainly whether they will resonate with me.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

The opening novel of Ferrante’s acclaimed Neapolitan Quartet, My Brilliant Friend charts two best friends’ journey into adulthood in post-war Italy. I’ve seen it described as having great emotional depth but I didn’t get that impression from the opening chapter.

The Verdict: I’m torn on this one. In the absence of any real travel to Italy in the near future, this will at least let me indulge in one of my favourite countries. But the fact this whole novel is about a relationship doesn’t excite me.

The Gate of Angels by Penelope Fitzgerald

I’ve read only one novel previously by Fitzgerald and that was  Offshore , the book that won her the 1979 Booker Prize. I was enamoured with it but I know other bloggers rated it more highly. Maybe I’ll get on better with The Gate of Angels, which was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1990. It’s set in Cambridge and London 1912, following a junior fellow at a college which has never allowed women through its doors. Fred Fairly becomes smitten with a nurse. If he is to win her love he will have to make a huge sacrifice and abandoned his settled life in college.

The Verdict: Undecided. On the basis of reading the first few pages I know it will be well written so it’s going to be a question of whether I find the characters interesting.

The Rising Tide by M J Farrell

M J Farrell, the pseudonym of Molly Keane, tells the story of a gothic mansion, Garonlea, and two women who vie to be queen of the castle. Lady Charlotte French-McGrath has successfully ruled over her family with an iron will, until the arrival of Cynthia – beautiful, young, talented, selfish, and engaged to her son Desmond. Cynthia is a denizen of the Jazz Age and, on the surface, her life passes in a whirl of hunting, drinking, and romance. But the ghosts of Garonlea are only biding their time. They know the source of their power – a secret handed down through generations.

The Verdict: Keep. I’ve read two books by this author and love her psychological depth. Everything points to that being evident in this novel.

Sample Sunday is when I take a look at all the unread books on my shelves and decide which to keep and which to let free. The goal isn’t to shrink the TBR as such, but rather it’s about making sure my shelves have only 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.

BookerTalk

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: Decision Time On Ferrante, Fitzgerald and Farrell

  • May 27, 2021 at 9:28 pm
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    I’d definitely keep My Brilliant Friend – while the women’s relationship is at the heart of the book, it’s also a brilliant portrayal of the wider community around them at that time.

    I haven’t read that Fitzgerald but I would want to so nudging that towards a keep but did not know that’s who MJ Farrell was, so you’ve added to my tbr now too!

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    • May 28, 2021 at 6:52 pm
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      The weight of comments here is very much in favour of keeping Ferrante and you’ve just added to that!

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  • May 27, 2021 at 5:27 am
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    If it were within my power, I’d sneak over to your bookshelf and nudge Ferrante over into the “keep” pile 😉

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    • May 27, 2021 at 6:21 pm
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      You and a few other people have persuaded me to keep her/him for now

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  • May 25, 2021 at 4:49 am
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    Same here, despite the hype, Ferrante’s books have never tempted me really, the story doesn’t grab me

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    • May 27, 2021 at 6:40 pm
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      It’s all the fuss about this book that has been causing me to hesitate.Usually I find those much hyped books to very disappointing

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  • May 24, 2021 at 9:29 am
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    I haven’t read that particular Molly Keane, but I do love her writing!

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  • May 24, 2021 at 7:34 am
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    The Gate of Angels has been on my shelves for 6 years and I’d almost forgotten I’d bought it. It certainly has good reviews going off the extracts quoted at the front of the book. I’ll have a proper look at it today.

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    • May 27, 2021 at 6:43 pm
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      I’ll be interested if you read it to discover what your thoughts are Margaret. it will likely be on my shelves for a few years yet

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  • May 24, 2021 at 1:08 am
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    I have the Ferrante on a Kindle. Downloaded it for a trip then too busy to read it and there it still sits. I like the sound of the Rising Tide but not familiar with that author.

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    • May 27, 2021 at 6:45 pm
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      I have both an e version and a paperback. I bought the ebook because I was going on a long flight so thought it would be easier to read that way than lug such a thick paperback with me. But I never even opened the book.. and now, as with so many books on my Kindle app, I had forgotten I had it

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  • May 24, 2021 at 1:01 am
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    I loved My Brilliant Friend (and read it on the train to Naples! How good is that). Sure the relationship is interesting but the best part of the book is Ferrante’s writing about writing, which she uses the different styles of the two friends to contrast.

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    • May 27, 2021 at 6:46 pm
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      That would have been the perfect time to read it Bill. I love reading books set in places I am visiting. Thanks for the insight that this is more than a book about a relationship

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  • May 23, 2021 at 8:06 pm
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    Um. I’m afraid I’m going to be a negative voice and say I wouldn’t keep any. I’ve never felt drawn to read Ferrante; the one Fitzgerald I read underwhelmed me; and I was put off my first Keane by the hunting. Sorry!!

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    • May 27, 2021 at 6:49 pm
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      That was my reaction too with the one and only book by Fitzgerald I’ve read. I find hunting an appalling activity but it didn’t figure very greatly in the Keane novels I’ve read. it was there, but wasn’t a bit element of the book

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  • May 23, 2021 at 5:16 pm
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    Why is it a problem that My Brilliant Friend is “about a relationship”? Too limiting? It isn’t really though, it’s a portrait of a social class and time and above all of Naples, so if you’re interested in Italy I think it’s kind of a must-read. I confess that I didn’t make it on to the other books in the series but I was glad I read at least this one. The others sound good too so you might be hanging on to all of them this time.

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    • May 23, 2021 at 7:29 pm
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      That’s exactly it Lory, I just have a sense I might find the relationship aspect too insular

      Reply

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