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Sample Sunday: From England to Persia

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

For someone who has never been an eager reader of short stories, I have surprisingly acquired a large number of collections. They’re all sitting on the shelves in the hope I imagine that one day I will get to understand the attraction of this form. It’s time to consider whether they deserve space on my shelves.

English Music by Peter Ackroyd

I bought this on the recommendation of a tutor at a creative writing course I took in the early 2000s. It’s Ackroyd’s sixth novel, published in 1992 and, as is the case with all his previous novels, is set in London. It’s a form of bildungsroman , charting the development of a motherless young man which sounds OK but what’s giving me pause for thought is that it features ghosts.

The book is structured using alternating chapters: some sections deal with a father-son relationship which involves ghosts from the pasts and actual ghosts. Other sections are in the form of a series of dream sequences based on classic works of English literature, music, and art.

The Verdict: Let Go. I’m not a fan of ghosts in fiction and though I’ve seen many comments about how poetic this novel is, I have a feeling I won’t be able to appreciate that fully because of those darn ghosts.

Like A Sword Wound by Ahmet Altan

This is one of the books still unread from my first subscription to the Asympote Book Club. Ahmet Altan is a Turkish journalist and author who has been an outspoken critic of his country’s regime and has spoken up for Kurdish and Armenian minorities. In 2016 he was imprisoned for life; released three years later but almost immediately detained once more. He is an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience.

Like a Sword Wound is part one of the “Ottoman Quartet”, a series of novels which span the fifty years between the final decades of the 19th century and the post-WWI rise of Atatürk as both unchallenged leader and visionary reformer of the new Turkey. The publisher, Europa Editions describe the books as “reminiscent of War and Peace“.

The Verdict: Keep. I know next to nothing about the history of Turkey and if this book really is as good as War and Peace, it sounds like an important one to read

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

I think I bought this back in the days long ago when we could go into a library and pick up some bargains from their sales table. Published in 2007 it’s a historical novel set in seventeenth century Persia. The plot revolves around a young woman whose destiny changes on the sudden death of her father. Forced to leave their village, the woman and her mother travel to the beautiful city of Isfahan, where they are taken in by an uncle, a wealthy carpet designer, and his unsympathetic wife. When an ill-considered action results in the heroine’s fall from grace, she is forced into an extraordinary secret marriage. Spirited and rebellious, she wants to be free to live a life her own choosing, if she can find a way.

The Verdict: Keep. It’s the setting that’s got my interest

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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