Sample Saturday: 3 “popular” novels

I seldom buy books that are in the bestseller lists. Somehow the more attention a book gets, the less inclined I am to read it. But a few of these bestsellers/much acclaimed novels do creep onto my shelves from time to time. I dug these three from the “owned but unread” shelves today to try and decide whether I want to keep them. You can help me decide.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josh Silver

I’ve no idea how I came to have this book. It’s marked as a proof copy but I don’t recall ever requesting it nor do I think it’s likely since it’s described as a “love story” and I don’t do romantic fiction.

The blurb tells me its about Lydia whose fiance Freddie is killed in a road accident on her birthday. She just wants to hide indoors and sob but believes that Freddie wouldn’t want her to do that. So she enlists the help of his best friend to take her first steps into the world alone but then gets another chance at her old life with Freddie.

That sounded a bit of a Sliding Doors type of narrative. But I’ve since discovered its more of an alternative reality tale since Lydia tackles her insomnia by joining a clinical trial for a new sleeping pill. Yet whenever she takes one of the little pink pills, she wakes up in an alternate reality, in which her beloved partner of 14 years is still very much alive.

It’s been described as “Heartbreakingly beautiful, butterfly-inducing and laugh out loud funny ” and “a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life’s crossroads.”

Loads of readers have clearly enjoyed it because it was on the Sunday Times bestseller list and came with a recommendation from Reese Witherspoon’s book club. I’ve sampled a few of the pages and though it reads well I don’t think its going to hold my attention for long. It belongs more in a home where it will be better appreciated.

The Verdict: Let Go

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine  by Gail Honeyman

Now this is one I did buy myself; I know because my copy still has the “buy one get one half price” sticker. I must have bought it thinking it was worth a punt at half price having seen it “everywhere” a few years ago.

Actually it was pretty hard to miss the book since it won the Costa First Novel Award in 2017; the British Book Awards Debut Of the Year and Overall Winner and was named in the Top Ten of Library’s Thing’s favourite books in 2017.

Gail Honeyman’s debut work is a tale of a 29-year-old woman who’s rather a social misfit and hard to like. She wears the same clothes to work every day and has the same meal deal for lunch. At the weekend she gets through two bottles of vodka.

As the book progresses we apparently come to learn that her behaviour is the result of a traumatic past. Bizzarely she becomes enamoured of the front man for a local band whom she believes is destined to be the love of her life.

I’m anticipating this tale include themes of loneliness and mental illness. It sounds promising, I just hope it doesn’t have a cheesy happy ever after kind of ending….

The Verdict: Keep

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

This is a review copy that was passed on to me with a recommendation from Susan who blogs at booksaremycwtches.

As you will not be surprised to discover it’s a story about a man who is a beekeeper in the Syrian city of Aleppo. He and his wife who live a fairly simple life but one enriched by friendship and kinship. Their life and everything they hold dear are destroyed by war

What’s selling this book to me is that Lefteri was inspired to write the story by the people she met and the stories she heard when she volunteered at a centre in Greece for women and children displaced by war. Her own parents were refugees, fleeing their native Cyprus during the war of 1974. Their feelings of trauma also helped inform the novel, according to an interview she gave to The Irish Times.

The Verdict: Keep

My TBR stash is now going to be marginally reduced. That’s ok; the objective of Sample Saturday 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.

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 Saturday: 3 “popular” novels

  • August 13, 2020 at 11:17 am
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    I read the Beekeeper. It is very relevant to what’s happening in Kent right now. I don’t want to spoil the story but there really is a Syrian refugee who is redeploying his beekeeping skills in Yorkshire.

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    • August 15, 2020 at 5:13 pm
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      I hadn’t heard about that Yorkshire keeper, now I am very intrigued

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  • August 10, 2020 at 12:58 pm
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    I would have kept the Aleppo book too. I did enjoy Eleanor.

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  • August 9, 2020 at 5:33 pm
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    Just finished the much vaunted novel ‘The Chain’. A passable, easy read but extremely contrived and with one eye on a film deal. Overrated.

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    • August 9, 2020 at 6:36 pm
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      So many modern thrillers are overrated. Few of them are memorable

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  • August 9, 2020 at 1:43 pm
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    I must be the only reader in the universe who simply couldn’t see what all the fuss was about where Eleanor Oliphant was concerned. It was a non-event for me.

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    • August 9, 2020 at 5:08 pm
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      I’m fearing it might turn out that way for me – I shall give it a go but will also abandon if it doesn’t grab me

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  • August 9, 2020 at 7:17 am
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    I haven’t read any of these and I’ll be interested to see what you make of the ones you’re keeping.

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    • August 9, 2020 at 5:09 pm
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      It miight be a while before you discover that Cathy – I have a long line of books that I am more interested in so these will likely take a back seat

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  • August 8, 2020 at 11:12 pm
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    I enjoyed Eleanor very much. She seems more on the autism spectrum than damaged by trauma. It has a twist or two and easy to read. I’ve heard the Beekeeper is very good though not read it. I’d chuck tje love story too. I seldom find much new in them so don’t read them either.

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    • August 9, 2020 at 3:58 pm
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      Thanks for confirming the doubts I had about the Lydia Bird novel

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  • August 8, 2020 at 8:52 pm
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    I have heard great things fro the 2 you are keeping.I hope you enjoy them

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    • August 9, 2020 at 3:59 pm
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      it will probably be a long time before I get around to them but I’m probably leaning more towards Beekeeper than the Eleanor Oliphant

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  • August 8, 2020 at 8:19 pm
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    I wouldn’t normally have picked up the Oliphant book but a couple of recommendations persuaded me and I really enjoyed it. I’d be really interested in what you thought of it as it has proved to be Marmite for several review bloggers. Don’t know the Aleppo title but it does rather intrigue.

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    • August 9, 2020 at 5:09 pm
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      I so often find these best seller kinds of books disappointing

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  • August 8, 2020 at 6:48 pm
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    Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a surprisingly good read. Like you, I don’t tend to read hyped books (well not until years after the hype). My book club chose this book a few months back and I ended up loving it. It now has a permanent spot on my bookshelf.

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    • August 9, 2020 at 5:11 pm
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      I think my book club was thinking of it but in the end the vote went for something completely different.

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  • August 8, 2020 at 6:40 pm
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    The only one I would be likely to consider is Beekeeper – I rarely get on with more mainstream works nowadays.

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    • August 9, 2020 at 5:12 pm
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      The “mainstream’ ones often turn out to be a fuss about nothing.

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  • August 8, 2020 at 6:31 pm
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    Whew! I’m relieved you’re keeping Eleanor and Beekeeper!!!!! I ❤️ brave Eleanor ❤️ and Beekeeper is beautifully written and feels authentic due to the author’s experiences. Enjoy these stellar and memorable reads!

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    • August 9, 2020 at 5:13 pm
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      The Beekeeeper is the one I’m most interested in – more than Eleanor

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      • August 9, 2020 at 5:50 pm
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        It’s a poignant and heartfelt read. Enjoy!

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