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Sample Sunday: 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 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.

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