Reading plans

Sample Sunday: An Overdose of Toxicity?

Moving along my bookshelves to decide which of the 290 unread books to keep, I’ve reached titles all beginning with the letter B. By accident the three I’m sampling this week all seem to have an element of toxicity.

Border Crossing by Pat Barker

Barker’s ninth novel hones in on the relationship between a psychologist and his patient whose repressed memories are of a murder he committed while a child. According to The Guardian reviewer, the novel probes “not only the mystery of “evil” but society’s horrified and incoherent response to it.”

The Verdict: Let Go. I haven’t enjoyed previous novels by Barker and this one sounds too dark and depressing.

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi 

I bought this soon after it was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize intending to read it before the announcement of the winner. But the moment passed and I’d forgotten I had a copy until yesterday when I was looking through the bookshelves. Set in the Indian city of Pune, it’s about a fraught mother and daughter relationship. The daughter is caring for the mother who abandoned her when still a child and much of the novel concern’s the daughter’s conflicted feelings about the situation.

The Verdict: Keep. Lisa at ANZLitLovers said she came close to abandoning the novel more than once, disliking the “torrent of grievances from a narcissistic daughter preoccupied by the legacy of her toxic mother. The Guardian didn’t have the same issues with it, describing it as “sorrowful, sceptical and electrifyingly truthful about mothers and daughters.” I think it’s worth a go.

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

A much-praised debut that follows a lawyer as she takes on the case of a woman accused of murder whilst dancing on her own fine line between an apparently perfect life and its reckless reality. The synopsis of the book says the novel asks searching questions about guilt and innocence whilst cleverly turning the tables on accused and accuser.

The Verdict: Let go. I’m not a big consumer of thrillers and this doesn’t excite me.

So that’s two that will be given new homes and one that has earned its right to stay on my shelves.

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.


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: An Overdose of Toxicity?

  • I’ve only tried one book by Pat Barker and it wasn’t for me either. I’m curious about burnt sugar as well. Great post!

    • I think I’ve read two by her but it just shows you how little impression they made on me that I cant even remember what they were called.

  • I read Blood Orange and it’s quite good, for what it is, but tellingly, I remember very little about it. So if you aren’t a fan of that kind of thriller, I think letting go of it is the right decision

    • I find that with most thrillers – they just never stay in my mind

  • Good choices. I think I’ve only seen critical reviews of Burnt Sugar so I’ll be interested to see what you make of that one. I had a good look at all my TBR books when I moved them around yesterday (moved all husband’s books to another room so I can now see my whole TBR in one go, although that’s a bit horrific in itself!) and seem to want to keep all of them – and some from my husband’s shelf (oops).

    • Yes that happens to me too. I do some tidying of his shelves and spot all kinds of books I “meant” to read.

  • Burnt Sugar has polarised readers from what I’ve read. All the more to want to read it to decide for myself. I would let the other two go too. I’ve not had great luck with Pat Barker either.

    • It does seem Pam that opinions are divided on Burnt Sugar – the main reason I kept the book. As you say, its good to make up our own minds.

  • I think Burnt Sugar is the only one I would have kept too. Border Crossing sounds interesting too, but it does sound pretty dark!

    • Yes I have a feeling that Border Crossing would be uncomfortable reading

  • Burnt Sugar is a book I’ve been torn about picking up, I’d be really interested in your thoughts on it when/if you do.

    • I found it hard to decide whether to keep it. In the end I thought I’d give it the benefit of the doubt


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