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Sample Sunday: Decision Time On Artists and Tigers

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

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.

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