Sample Sunday: New Beginnings
I had so much fun delving into my shelves of unread books that I’m going to continue with the Sample Sunday feature this year. Last year I went through the shelves alphabetically by author surname.
This year I’ll inspect the books alphabetically by title. Which of course means that the three books selected this week all begin with the letter A.
After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell
This is Maggie O’Farrell’s debut novel, marking the start of an illustrious career. The synopsis tells me that the plot concerns a woman who travels from London to Scotland to visit her family but when she gets to Scotland she witnesses something so shocking that she insists on returning to London immediately. A few hours later, she lies in a coma after an accident that may or may not have been a suicide attempt. As her family wait at her bedside, long-buried tensions emerge.
The Verdict: Keep. No doubt about this really because I’ve enjoyed all of O’Farrell’s novels. Her most recent one Hamnet was one of my favourite novels from 2020
All This I Will Give To You by Dolores Redondo
I bought this in 2019 after a few aborted efforts to read something by a Spanish author. The plot begins when author Manuel Ortigosa discovers that his husband has been killed in a car crash. Ortigosa travels to Galicia, the scene of the accident, to discover that there were many aspects of the dead man’s life of which he’d been unaware. As he tries to unravel the truth behind his husband’s double life, he uncovers a web of corruption and deception linked to one of Spain’s most powerful families.
The Verdict: The few pages I’ve sampled read well. I’m edging towards keeping this purely on the basis that some Goodread reviewers have described this as more of a character study than a mystery story.
Aranyak: Of the Forest by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay
A left over from my Asymptote subscription in 2018, this semi autobiographical novel is by a writer described as one of the greatest in modern Bengali literature. It looks to be an episodic narrative about a young graduate in 1920s Calcutta, who, unable to find a job in the city, takes up the post of a ‘manager’ of a vast tract of forested land. There, Satyacharan feels conflicted because the task he is paid to complete — clearing the land for cultivation — means the loss of ancient trees he has come to love and the loss of an ancient way of life for people living within the forest.
The Verdict: Keep. I enjoyed the few pages I sampled.
So all three books have earned their right to stay on my shelves. How long it will take me to get around to reading them is another issue entirely.
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.
14 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: New Beginnings”
This inspires me to go through the shelves again. I try to do this four times. a year, before our library book sales. Right now I’m struggling with some very long (1000 pages-ish) NFs (history) that I keep holding on to but don’t seem to be motivated enough to conquer. Maybe they need to move on to someone who reads faster than I do???
I’ve read ALL of O’Farrell’s novels AND her memoir so I’m glad that’s staying! I almost forgot this one, but yeah… it is VERY well done.
That’s great to hear. I thought her memoir as superb, especially the sections about her daughters medical problems
OMG… I cried SO hard at that part… I mean really, horribly, ugly crying. (And I’m tearing up just writing this.)
I think this is the first Sample Sunday I’ve seen on BookerTalk where all three get a stay of execution! 😂 Very pleased you’ve decided to keep the O’Farrell especially – have you read Instructions For A Heatwave?
I hadn’t realised it but yes this is the first clean sweep. I have indeed read Heatwave – not my favourite though which is The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.
The only one I read is Aranyak and I found it reads slowly, very much like a memoir. So I dipped in and out of it over the course of about three months and I can say that it is a powerful portrait of the the jungles and the people inhabiting them at this time with scenes that have never left me. Well worthwhile.
That’s great insight Joe. Sounds like a book to take slowly.
I agree with your choices. I’d keep these three too!😁
Delighted to hear we are in agreement.
Maggie O’Farrell is a favourite, but I’ve read none of the others – yet. If you’re still in quest of a Spanish author, I recommend giving Javier Marías a go. His Berta Isla was one of my personal Books of the Year in 2021.
I did try Javier – the book was called Infatuations. But I’m afraid I gave up on it half way through. I couldn’t see where it was going and it was taking an awfully long time to get anywhere. It might just have been the wrong book for me at the time. I’ll look up Berta Isla based on your reaction to it.
I can see he’s an author you have to be in the mood for. But Berta Isla was a slow-burning, stunning read for me.
I enjoyed the O’Farrell very much. I’m a sucker for dual narratives if done well and this one’s an excellent example.