Reading plans

Sample Sunday: Detection. Survival. Magic

it’s time to delve into the darker corners of the book shelves in search of three more candidates for an episode of Sample Sunday. This time I’m looking at book titles beginning with the letter M, trying to decide which of the older purchases have lost their appeal and can be released to a new home. And which I definitely want to keep.

The Man Who Knew Too Much by G K Chesterton

My last encounter with G K Chesterton — The Man Who Was Thursday— was a complete failure. I have more hopes for this 1922 book which is a collection of eight stories linked by a central character: Horne Fisher. He applies a brilliant mind and powers of deduction to solve crime but also wrestles with moral dilemmas.

The Verdict: I’ll keep this one. The short format may address the problem I had with the verbosity of The Man Who Was Thursday.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

I bought this on the recommendation of a bookshop owner in Totnes, Devon who described it as “powerful” and “remarkable.” It’s a debut novel set in Northern California about the relationship between a young girl and her possessive father. He’s taught her how to survive in the wilderness, controlling her life through a mixture of fear and love. A friendship with a boy her own age challenges that relationship.

The Verdict: Unsure about this one. It seems to be a much stronger story than your typical teenage relationship kind of narrative. But I don’t know if I could get beyond the sexual abuse elements in the early part of the book.

The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia 

This is the first novel by the Mexican author Sofia Segovia, to be translated into English. It’s about a baby found abandoned and covered in a blanket of bees under a bridge. The couple who take him in and rear him as their own, discover as he grows up that he has an unusual ability. When he closes his eyes, he can see what no one else can―visions of all that’s yet to come, both beautiful and dangerous. The townspeople fear this gift but his adoptive parents see him as a cause for wonder.

The Verdict: Keep. The ‘mysterious gift’ element doesn’t interest me greatly but the story’s connection to a tumultuous time in the history of Mexico and the effects of the 1918 flu epidemic are more appealing. Worth giving it a go I think.

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

11 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: Detection. Survival. Magic

    • I’ve only had the one experience of him so far – wasn’t to my taste but I’m hoping this will suit me better

  • This is such a good idea. I have far too many books that remain unread on my shelves. I know none of the ones you’ve selected this time.

    • If I had more space I wouldn’t be at all concerned at how many unread books I have – I view them as my private library. But it’s got to the point where I can’t even see what I have now because they can’t be fitted neatly on shelves. They’re dotted around everywhere

  • I’m a bit apprehensive about My Absolute Darling, too – I’ve had it on my shelf for ages, but I’m always hesitant to pick it up, because it sounds SO intense (to put it diplomatically). I’m sure the curiosity will overcome the apprehension at some point, but even so, I empathise with your uncertainty.

    • I just picked up a Twitter message that said the book was “appalling” because of the sexual abuse. The person went on to say “Much seemed gratuitous & one scene could’ve been straight out of a snuff film. ” Oh dear that does not sound like something I’d be keen to try

    • Just read your review Lisa. I now know I shall have to be patient when reading this and maybe keep a list of character names ( I always have a hard time remembering who is who in a book)

  • I only know My Absolute Darling in your list but keep it and read it. It’s powerful, sometimes difficult to read but I was on the heroine’s side all along, rooting for her. Billet on my blog.

    • Thanks Emma. I might sample it and see whether I can push through the difficult content or whether it becomes too much to take


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