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Sample Sunday: Decision Time On Novels From Serbia to Africa

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

I’m now in the second half of the alphabet in my trawl through the shelves of my unread books, I’ve reached authors whose surnames all start with the letter O.

Let’s see whether these are books I want to keep or move along to a more receptive home.

Tigers wife by Téa Obreht

In her debut novel, the Serbian-American writer Téa Obreht relates a story of a young medical student in an unnamed Balkan country and her relationship with her recently deceased grandfather. She was privy to his many incredible adventures, the two most fantastic being the the legend of the Tiger’s Wife. The plot sounds complicated — even after reading half a dozen reviews I’m still none the wiser.

The Verdict: Not one for me.

In The Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje’s novel fictionalises the lives of the immigrants who played a large role in the building of the city of Toronto in the early 1900s, but whose contributions never became part of the city’s official history. It contains two characters — Hana and Caravaggio — who feature more prominently in a later novel, The English Patient, which is one of my favourite Booker Prize winners.

The Verdict: There’s no question about this — it’ s staying on my shelves.

Bound to Violence by Yambo Ouologuem

Published in France in 1968 & winner of the Prix Renaudot, Bound to Violence is a sweeping novel about a fictitious Sudanese empire. In his only published novel Ouologuem tries to cover hundreds of years of African history, looking at the forces responsible for the black man’s “slave mentality”. it’s a controversial work, surrounded by accusations of plagiarism from Grahame Greene and Guy de Maupassant. Some critics described it as “powerful” and others as a mess of a narrative. The few pages I’ve read didn’t engage me much.

The Verdict: This can leave the house unread.

So that’s two down, one to remain. I’m slowly making inroads into the TBR. So far this year I’ve given away 22 books and read 21 so will end the year down on last year’s total, providing of course that I don’t go crazy with new purchases in the next few months.

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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