Reading plans

Sample Sunday: Nearing The End

I’m almost at the end of my alphabetical review of the unread books on my shelves. This time it’s the turn of authors whose surnames all begin with the letter W. I do seem to have a large number of these including Naomi Wood, Virginia Woolf, Tim Winton, Colson Whitehead, Edith Wharton and Dorothy Whipple.

I’ve just pulled out three that I’ve owned for at least five years and read a few pages of each to help me decide whether I want to keep them.

Voss by Patrick White

I bought this about seven years ago when I decided it was high time I read more Australian authors. I hadn’t heard of Patrick White until then despite the fact he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973 . Voss is apparently his best known work. It’s set in nineteenth-century Australia, and is a story of the secret passion between an explorer and a naïve young woman.

My current edition of the book is actually a replacement for a copy I lost some years ago. So I should take that as a sign I really do want to read this book!

The Verdict: Keep. I’ve seen some comments that White’s writing can be challenging but that it’s well worth the effort.

Gone To Earth by Mary Webb

This is one of my many Virago titles. Published in 1917 it’s set in Shropshire where Hazel lives in a forest cottage. She’s a child of nature who attracts the attention of two men, the local squire and the local minister. The novel is about the choices she must make between the kind, platonic love offered by one man and the passionate but violent relationship offered by the other.

The plot sounds reasonable but I can see the style of writing will be an issue. It’s rather over-blown. The opening gives a taste of what I mean: “Small, feckless clouds were hurried across the vast untroubled sky – shepherdless, futile, imponderable – and were torn to fragments on the fangs of the mountains, so ending their ephemeral adventures with nothing of their fugitive existence left but a few tears. ”

This is a writer who doesn’t seem to understand that less is often more, and that if you’re going to use multiple adjectives, they had better have meaning. I’ve read this sentence several times and all it comes down to is that there are some clouds in the sky and then it rains.

The Verdict: This would severely test my patience so I’m letting it go

They Knew Mr Knight by Mary Whipple

My first Persephone book is a 1934 novel featuring a fairly ordinary family who get taken in by a dubious financier (the Mr Knight of the title). Celia Blake is a housewife who takes a dislike to Mr Knight but is steadfastly loyal to her husband and does enjoy the benefits of their connection to Mr Knight. Until things go horribly wrong and their swift climb is followed by just as rapid a fall.

The Verdict: Keep. Really enjoyed the few pages I sampled.

So that’s one down, two to remain. The little space this has opened up has already been filled however because as I was buying books for family and friends in the past week, I couldn’t resist the temptation to give myself an early Christmas present. Or three… four… maybe five…..

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: Nearing The End

  • piningforthewest

    Apparently Stella Gibbons was inspired to write Cold Comfort Farm as a parody of Mary Webb’s books, so at least something good came out of Webb’s efforts!

  • It’s a very long time since I read Voss, and quite a while since one of us reviewed any Patrick White. I think we should have a readalong and all read Voss together.

    • That would be fabulous Bill – maybe an idea for Australia Reading month??

      • Bron is surely run off her feet this week, but I have to write to her anyway in the New Year so we’ll see then if she’s happy to be involved (even if not as a reader) and I can say something at the end of AWW Gen 4 Week (23/01). We would probably have to start reading in Sept.

        • Thanks for offering to do that Bill.

  • Voss sounds interesting Karen, look forward to hearing what you make of it.

    • It might be some time before I get to it if Bill’s idea of doing a readalong gets some interest

  • Good choices. I don’t mind Webb’s over-blown writing but that one has a really horrible event which really upset me. The Whipple is excellent, in fact I want to re-read it.

    • I suspect I know what that horrible event could be (just having read a couple of review of the book)

  • I love the vintage book covers as the Webb book has. I would have probably kept it for the cover. That’s why I’m so overloaded with books. (slap forehead). I have the Voss too and determined to read it but sadly haven’t yet. I have enjoyed your alphabet project this year. I love seeing what books others have. Now if I could just refrain from going out and buying them. 2022…? I really need to buckle down and read the books I already own (says she every year). Have a wonderful Christmas season and we all look forward to seeing what 2022 brings. In any case, at least we have our books.😆

    • All the old Virago Modern Classics have wonderful vintage type covers so I grab them as soon as I see them in a second hand bookshop even if I have no idea about the content! Yep, every year I say I’m going to read more of the books I already own but still end up buying loads. This year though I’ve managed to read about 25 from my back stock so not too bad.

      Hope you have a safe and health Christmas Pam.

  • Good call with the Webb. I read it many years ago but still remember it as excruciatingly over-written

    • On the basis of what I sampled, I suspect I would end up throwing the book down in frustration. So probably better for my stress levels to let it go now


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