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Sample Sunday: Decision Time On Tales From Somalia, China and Scotland

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

Digging through the shelves of my unread books, I’ve reached authors whose surnames all start with the letter M.

Let’s see whether these are books I want to keep or move along to a more receptive home.

As The Women Lay Dreaming by Donald Murray

Murray’s novel is based on a tragic accident in 1919 when a ship carrying servicemen back from active service in WW1 sank just yards from the edge of Stornaway harbour with the loss of 200 lives. The novel considers the effects of this calamity on a small community in the Outer Hebrides, relating the story through the eyes and diaries of one man.

The Verdict: Definitely keeping this one having seen it described as a sensitive and compassionate narrative about scars that never heal

Red Azalea by Anchee Min

Anchee Min’s memoir traces her life from a child born into a devoutly Maoist family in 1950s Shanghai. As a teenager she was forced to work on a communal farm and was then recruited into Madame Mao’s industry of propaganda movies.

The Verdict: Keep. I’ve enjoyed three other memoirs of individuals who lived through this period in China’s past, the most notable being Wild Swans by Jung Chang. Though they tread similar ground each person’s lives are varied enough to give me fresh insight into their experiences.

Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed

Nadifa Mohamed’s debut novel spanning a decade of war and upheaval in Somalia, all seen through the eyes of a ten year old boy. When Jama’s mother dies he sets out to find the father who has been absent from his life since he was a baby. His journey takes on epic proportions as he travels through Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan, to Egypt. And from there, aboard a ship transporting Jewish refugees just released from German concentration camps, across the seas to Britain and freedom.

The Verdict: . Narratives written by adults but in the voice of a child don’t always work well but I’m tempted to give this the benefit of the doubt.

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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