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Sample Sunday: An Overdose of Toxicity?

Sample Sunday is an opportunity to check all the books on my shelves and decide what to keep

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.

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