Sample Sunday: Decision Time On Artists and Tigers
In my rummage through the shelves of my unread books, I’ve reached authors whose surnames all start with the letter K. The three books I’m featuring this week are a mix of classics, crime fiction and non fiction.
Let’s see whether these are books I want to keep or move along to a more receptive home.
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
I don’t really know why I bought this because I wasn’t all that keen on the novel that made her famous: The Poisonwood Bible. Loved the Congo setting but I got tired about half way through. Maybe it was the art theme within The Lacuna that attracted me?.
It’s the tale of a man raised in North America and Mexico who becomes the celebrated author of American potboilers about the Aztecs. In his youth he gets a job in the household of the painter Frida Kahlo and her sculptor husband, Diego Rivera. The narrative moves from the muralists and surrealists of the 1930s to the McCarthyite witch-hunt of artists in the late 40s and 50s.
The Verdict: I’m torn on this. The connection to the surrealist movement does have an appeals but the novel seems to be made up of diaries and memoirs, letters and press cuttings that are discovered after the writer’s death. Does this make it confusing to read? To make a decision, I need help from people who have read the book.
Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann
This a debut novel partly set on the island of Martha’s Vineyard where two cousins have spent their summers at an old family estate called Tiger House. As the years advance their lives don’t deliver the lives either girl had imagined. Two of their children make a discovery that reveals the passion, betrayal and secret violence hidden behind the facade of Tiger House.
The Verdict: Give away. The premise sounds far too familiar.
Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan, Translation by Labodalih Sembiring
This short book (200 pages) was longlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2016. I probably bought it as part of my effort to read more geographically diverse authors (Kurniawan is Indonesian) but looking again at the description of this novel, I don’t think it’s one for me.
The description from the publishers, Verso Books, tell me that it’s set in a small town on the Indonesian coast. It tells the story of two interlinked and tormented families and of Margio, a young man ordinary in all particulars except that he conceals within himself a supernatural female white tiger. The inequities and betrayals of family life coalesce around and torment this magical being.
It sounds as if there is a mystery element which would be fine but it’s that mention of the supernatural that is the deciding factor. I really struggle to engage with books that contain unexplained or non-natural elements.
The Verdict: Ditch.
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.
34 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: Decision Time On Artists and Tigers”
Barbara Kingsolver is one of those authors who writes fabulous nonfiction but her fiction is somewhat less compelling (in my very humble opinion). Of course I have not read this book.
I would read the first chapter of each of these, and if it doesn’t work for you, out it goes!
Thanks for the insight Deb. I do tend to read the first few pages of each book before making a decision. With some books I find it easy to guage very quickly whether I will like the style. None of these did it for me
For what it’s worth, I found the mishmash of The Lacuna very worthwhile. I hope you take a chance on it!
My review here: http://hotchpotcafe.blogspot.com/2016/08/whats-missing-is-what-matters.html
Enjoyed reading your review, thanks for pointing me towards this – I shall keep in mind as I make my final decision
I loved The Lacuna, as evidenced by my review: https://www.exurbanis.com/archives/2683
Just read your review Debbie and you make the plot more coherent – and interesting – than most reviews I’ve read.
I have to say, Karen, I’m not instantly drawn by the descriptions of any of the books, but feel I should at least try the Lacuna, But I’m dithering because of the various comments. I think I shall go and search out unread books on my shelves instead.
A very good decision Judith.
I really enjoyed The Lacuna. Alas, I didn’t write a review, and that was 10 years ago, so I actually don’t remember much of it
This has happened to me so many times – I know I enjoyed a particular book but when asked about the plot or the setting I’m often at a loss to remember the details
The only book that I’ve read by Kingsolver is The Lacuna and just about all that I remember about it is that I enjoyed it – it was years ago I read it – that’s my excuse anyway.
You’re not making it easy for me!
Interesting, none of these particularly appeal to me and I’d possibly pass them all by. I’m no help at all, am I?
It’s a vote against Kingsolver in a sense so of some help
I love Kingsolver but I don’t like reading novelisations of real people’s lives (yes, I know I’m reading Roots at the moment …). So it’s the one Kingsolver I won’t read. Poisonwood was my least favourite of hers, because of the Africa theme (ha – Roots, again). So I’d say ditch that one but find another by her to read!
It’s not looking good for Kingsolver based on the comments here. What would you recommend by her instead?
Flight Behaviour or Prodigal Summer.
Flight Behaviour I have heard of by not Prodigal Summer. Thanks Liz I shall look for a copy of one of them in the library
Barbara Kingsolver has said The Lacuna is her favorite book, but I only made it halfway through. I do love Kingsolver’s writing, so I hung on to the book and intend to try it again someday. I wish I were more interested in Frida.
I saw her comment that this is her favourite – that’s one of the reasons I think I kept it for so long. But that of course doesn’t mean readers will like it
It’s true that Lacuna has a couple of traits that characterizes an epistolary novel, but this fact doesn’t hamper the flow of the action between the protagonists as the storyline develops. It’s a book that needs some focusing, but it’s worth the effort. When I put down this novel, I felt that my socio-cultural horizon was enlarged by its lecture.
I’ve not read any of these, but don’t think any particularly appeal – so I would probably ditch the lot!
You are edging me towards ditching Kingsolver
It’s a long time since I read Tigers in Red Weather but I loved it (and I think one of my favourites that year). Sorry, not what you want to hear when you’re culling!
Always good to have different opinions.
You know how much I like an art theme but the Kingsolver was far too long for me. Good luck in choosing, Karen!
It does look rather hefty – I’m fine with long novels as long as the narrative warrants it. sometimes I wish the author would learn that less can me more
Not a great haul, then
not great purchasing decisions for sure
Can’t help, m’dear, I ditched The Lacuna myself a while ago, I don’t read crime, and although I’ve read two by Eka Kurniawan, I would say that he is probably an acquired taste which I have failed to acquire. Apparently his style is “a gritty, comic, pungent mode that fans of Quentin Tarantino like”, if that’s any help.
That description of his style is certainly enough to put me off. Sounds awful.
I have had the Lacuna on my shelf for years unread and still haven’t decided to keep it though I might get to it. The 2 tiger books don’t appeal to me at all either. I often wonder how books came ro live here at times.🐧😀
I recall trying The Lacuna some years ago, and abandoning it speedily. I don’t recall the specific reason, but I think boredom may have played a part. On the whole, I am not a BK fan. Her soap-boxing exhausts me.
As always, I vicariously enjoy your struggles on whether or not to prune the collection. I admire your resolve, as I almost never get rid of any book, no matter how unpromising that book turns out to be! When I was forced to do so last year because of a move, I went into psychological shock.
I must admit that neither of the “tiger books” appeal to me so . . . I appauld your (temporary?) decision to ditch.
I have read, and loved, Kingsolver’s Lacuna, which won the Orange Prize back when it was the Orange Prize. But then, I also liked Poisonwood Bible; that you didn’t may be an indication that Lacuna should go. When I read Lacuna I didn’t know very much about the Mexican muralists or the Kahlo/Rivera circle and Lacuna certainly sparked my interest in this area. On the flip side, a good bit of the book as I recall concerned the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s. As far as Kingsolver’s retrospective point of view is concerned, I found it both easy to follow & very engaging, as it made me, the reader, a participant in exploring the chief protagonist’s life.