Reading plans

Sample Sunday: Corruption. Assassination. Injustice

I’ve found three more candidates for scrutiny in Sample Sunday. This time I’m looking at book titles beginning with the letter N , trying to decide whether some of my older purchases no longer hold the same appeal and can be released to a new home.

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

I must have been very keen to read this at some point because I have two copies.

Published in 1904, Nostromo is frequently described as one of Conrad’s finest works. According to the blurb it’s “Insistently dramatic in its storytelling, spectacular in its recreation of the subtropical landscape, this picture of an insurrectionary society and the opportunities it provides for moral corruption gleams on every page with its author’s dry, undeceived, impeccable intelligence.”

Such high praise surely cannot be ignored?

The Verdict: I’m keeping this one, curious how it will compare to Heart of Darkness; the the only Conrad novel I’ve read so far.

A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee

This is the second in a crime fiction series set in India in the early part of the twentieth century. I enjoyed the debut — A Rising Man — so much I immediately bought books two and three. My mistake was getting them in e-format. Everything I buy in that format tends to get forgotten about because they are not in my sight line.

This one is set in 1920 and involves an investigation into the assassination of a Maharajah’s son by Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee from the Calcutta Police Force. Their inquiries take them to the fabulously wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore, home to tigers, elephants, diamond mines and the beautiful Palace of the Sun.

The Verdict: I’ll keep this one and, book three of course. It will be interesting to compare this series with another I recently started which is set thirty decades later — Midnight at Malabar House.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

I found this in a little free library having heard it briefly discussed on a radio book programme. Either I wasn’t listening carefully enough or I missed a key part of the programme because I didn’t realise it was set in a Florida reform school where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife.

The Verdict: Let go. If the content was more about racial injustice I would keep it but I have very little ability to tolerate violence either in fiction or in films. I suspect I would struggle with the brutality depicted in this book.

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

34 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: Corruption. Assassination. Injustice

  • Lyn Leader-Elliott

    Since I read your post I’ve read the first two in the Mukherjee series and enjoyed them very much. I’ll read all I can find by him and follow up on Khan too.
    Thanks as always for your blog.

  • Haven’t read Nostromo yet, looking forward to seeing your thoughts on it

    • You might be waiting a long time – I am reading so slowly these days

  • Pains me to admit it, but you’ve made the right call with The Nickel Boys – the violence is extreme and confronting, all the more for happening to children. If that’s not your jam, it can find another home ❤️

    • Glad I made that decision – the book has now gone to a charity bookstore.

  • I loved Nostromo and found it easier to read than Heart of Darkness, though just as profound. I also loved the Abir Mukherjee book. So I think you’ve made good decisions this week!

  • I too have problems with descriptions of violence, so I understand your decision. I’ve read a couple of Conrad fictions but not this – like Henry James his literary style requires a lot of figurative chewing to extract its essence but I find it stimulates my thinking. Meanwhile, Mukherjee is not a writer I’ve sampled so I’ve nowt to say about your other option!

    • At least Conrad isn’t as long winded as James. Gosh that guy suffers from a form of verbal diarrhoea. He can spend a page describing nothing more than a woman opening an umbrella

  • I found The Nickel Boys very powerful – though I agree, it’s not easy reading. You’re teh secong blogger this morning to mention Abir Mukherjee. Indian crime novels are having a bit of a moment, what with Vaseem Khan too, whose books I enjoy.

    • The Khan and Mukherjee would make good reading partners – giving us a slice of life in India before and after independence

      • Indeed. Though there’s not a great deal of period feel in Khan.

        • I felt Khan’s first book had a lot of detail about the resentment towards the British that lingered after independence. Maybe the later books in the series are not quite so detailed

        • Fair point. But life seemed rather more settled than I’d expected.

        • I’m intrigued now – going to have to read number 2 in the series soon to find out

  • Lyn Leader-Elliott

    Thanks for another update on your reading. I hadn’t heard of Mukherjee before, am delighted to find our library seems to have the series as e-books (mostly how I read, now) and have borrowed #1.
    I’ve never enjoyed Conrad’s books, and look forward to seeing what you think of Nostromo when you get to it. I’ve been actively choosing to avoid darkly violent material for some time now, which keeps me away from many works that are widely admired, by writers like Conrad and Whitehead and so many others. There’s a limit to how much horror I can take on board and the world seems to be full of it.

    • Hope you enjoy the Mukherjee series. He has an earlier one that I’ve not read where the main character has a baby elephant!
      I know what you mean about the world being so full of horrible things right now. It’s overwhelming at times

  • I think you “did right” in keeping Nostromo! I read it during a Conrad kick some time back and, while I found it a slog (I ended up reading it in little bits & pieces, so it took forever to finish) I thought it was worth the time. TBH I DID like Lord Jim much better!
    As for Whitehead, he’s such a great writer I feel guilty about avoiding Nickel Boys (my copy’s been sitting around for some time); my reservations for doing so are much like yours. I’ll keep, and eventually read my copy, but probably not anytime soon (my next Whitehead novel will probably be Harlem Shuffle!)
    I did read his earlier book, Underground Railroad — a fabulous book but — quite brutal in spots, fittingly so, of course, given the subject.

    • Thanks for the insight about the Conrad reading experience. I found with Heart of Darkness that I’d read a few pages and then realise I had no idea what I’d just read so had to go back over it again.

  • I am unsure if you want to hear from me; anyhow, the choices you’ve made and suggested are a good course to take. I have plenty of books of late that I have gotten and don’t really want to read them and so perhaps I should follow suit and let them go since I am only stressing myself. I continue to find folks acting things out around me when outside doing chores and I don’t know why women or men go to such heights; it must be an illness on my part. I had started to read some of this author’s (Benedict Brown) book and while at the laundromat some women that were around made me think of his book; weird since I had not seen these women before at the laundromat; I am not usually surrounded by working and intelligent folks since I don’t work, I tend to be surrounded by fat women; well non-working folks, I imagine and people who could reach laundromat on days other than Saturdays but this has nothing to do with book reviews and I am sorry.
    It is good that you kept the Conrad book; good choice; he’s so very dark in his writing as is his heart.

    • I do feel guilty sometimes about the amount of money I’ve spent on books that I’ve not read and no longer have any interest in. But if I keep them I am just cluttering up the house..

  • I skipped Nickel Boys for the same reason.

    • I appreciate it’s an important topic and one that needs to be given visibility but I fear it could be too graphic

        • I remember being appalled by Lolita

        • I think a lot of people are.
          It raises the whole problem of being transgressive in writing. I picked up, and then abandoned a book recently, because of the really foul language and the misogyny. It’s authentic in certain sub groups of society, but I already know that and I don’t need or want to read a horrible book about it.

        • I’d have done the same thing Lisa

        • No, it makes me very uncomfortable

    • I don’t want to avoid reality but sometimes you can have too much of it – I don’t need to be confronted full on by violence to know that horrid things do happen

  • I found Nostromo difficult to enter into but ultimately a rewarding experience. I’ll wait for your views.

    • Heart of Darkness was like that too. Hard to understand at times what was happening – ended up reading it twice just to get a grip

    • Sometimes the books you have to work hard to get into, can turn out to be the books that linger in your mind. I found that with Portrait of a Lady (Henry James) – first time I read it i loathed it. Second time I understood much more about what he was doing


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