Reading plans

Sample Sunday: Decision Time On Refugee Tales and Missing Babies

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

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

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena 

This is described as a domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbours. A couple return home from a dinner party at their neighbour’s home, to find their front door open and their six month old daughter missing. They’d left her alone in the house (really?) . Suspicion immediately falls upon the parents. As the investigation proceeds the image of the perfect couple begins to unravel.

This book has had plenty of five star reviews on Goodreads but an NPR review points to a dull detective, plot developments that are a little too pat and an over the top ending that comes out of nowhere.

The Verdict: Release. I have plenty of other procedurals/crime novels on my shelves so I’m not inclined to give space to one that could best be described as “so-so”

The Beekeeper of Aleppo  by Christy Lefteri

I’d forgotten I had a copy of this, passed onto me accompanied by a strong recommendation from Susan, a fellow blogger from Wales, @booksaremycwtches. The beekeeper and his artist wife enjoy life among family and friends in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo. When the city is destroyed in a civil war they have little choice but to leave. The book follows their horrendous journey through refugee camps in Europe and Britain.

The Verdict: Definitely one to keep. It sounds utterly compelling.

The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

This is a very slim book, completed only shortly before Lispector’s death in 1977. It’s the tale of Macabéa, one of life’s unfortunates. Living in the slums of Rio and eking out a living as a typist, she loves movies, Coca-Cola and her philandering boyfriend. She dreams of a better life but wealth and happiness seem destined to be out of her reach.

In her only televised interview Lispector said the book is “the story of a girl who was so poor that all she ate was hot dogs. That’s not the story, though. The story is about a crushed innocence, about an anonymous misery.”

The Verdict: Keep. This was highly recommended by former colleagues in Brazil where it’s considered one of Lispector’s finest works

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: Decision Time On Refugee Tales and Missing Babies

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  • One of the first books I got through BookCrossing was the Lispector, in Dutch. I’d just started focussing on reading ‘international’ books and was delighted to have something from Brazil. I don’t know if it was just the translation, but I didn’t get past the first couple of pages. I’ll be interested to read your review in November to see what I missed.

    • I’ve had quite a few books in translation that I struggled to get into. As you say it’s hard to know if it’s the translation that’s the problem

  • I have The Hour of the Star lined up for Novellas in November and am looking forward to it.

  • Beekeeper is an excellent book, it’s a keeper and one to re-read!

    • Thanks for the insight John. Do you do much re-reading? I used to but now seem to have far too many new books to read

    • I’m now suitably intrigued by your intriguing response…..

  • I agree with your choices. I read The Couple Next Door. It’s a quick read one might read sitting in an airport waiting room. Held my attention but no great shakes. Your other two books sound much better.

    • I have more than enough books like that so I feel OK about letting this one go to the little free library so another more receptive reader can pick it up

  • I’m happy to hear you’re keeping Beekeeper! I enjoyed it and the author writes from some first hand experience which always makes the story more compelling I think.

    • I didn’t know there was some personal experience that informed the novel. That’s giving me confidence that it will be an authentic tale

      • Not her personal experience as a refugee but her extensive personal experience working in a refugee camp.


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