Reading plans

Sample Sunday: On Class And Conflict

A big discovery today: a heatwave is not conducive to review writing. So instead of sharing my thoughts on Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, I’m taking the path requiring less effort and doing another episode of Sample Sunday.

From my owned-but-unread books I’m choosing three whose titles begin with the letter H. Let’s see whether you agree with my decision on which to keep and which to let go to a more appreciative home.

The Heel of Achilles by E M Delafield

Published in 1921 this predates Delafield’s best known work: The Diary of A Provincial Lady. It’s drawn from her experience of working as a voluntary nurse during World War 1 which brought her into contact with people from social classes other than her own. The novel follows a lower middle-class girl who marries ‘above herself’.

The Verdict: Let Go. The storyline seems rather thin.

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

Ghosh’s sixth novel is set in mangrove-covered islands in the estuary of the Ganges River where settlers live in fear of drowning tides and man-eating tigers. A young American marine biologist of Indian descent, arrives in this lush, treacherous landscape in search of a rare species of river dolphin and enlists the aid of a local fisherman and a translator. Together the three of them launch into the elaborate backwaters, drawn unawares into the powerful political undercurrents of this part of the world.

The setting is appealing but I’ve seen a few comments along the lines that this is a rambling story that tries to cover too much ground: love, class-difference, political conflict, natural and man-made catastrophes.

The Verdict: I’m tempted to keep. I’ve read one other novel by Ghosh – The Glass Palace – and it was the setting and evocation of a culture that I enjoyed most, both of which appear to be key to The Hungry Tide.

The House of The Deaf Man by Peter Kristufek

Peter Kristufek is an enigmatic figure. All I know about him is that he hails from Bratislava in Slovakia and this is his debut novel, published in 2015 by the Welsh independent press, Parthian Books. He doesn’t appear to have written anything since and Parthian don’t mention him on their website. I suspect I bought this purely because it was written by a Slovakian author and I was trying to read books from a broader range of geographies.

It focuses on a doctor in western Slovakia who has spent his whole life pretending to be radiantly happy and contented. But his son discovers that in reality this genial man had turned a deaf ear to his conscience through key historical events: the Holocaust, the political trials of the 1950s, the secret police before and after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

So this is clearly going to be a novel that takes us through the country’s history which would certainly fill in some gaps in my knowledge. But the few extracts I’ve seen on Goodreads give me the impression this could be a ponderous read.

Here’s an example:

I salute you, wonderful blue glow of living rooms at night! I salute you, the opium electric that befuddles mankind. I salute you, television, for preventing your viewers from getting up to mischief because they’re bored and have nothing better to do. I salute you, the sweet trance to which criminals, layabouts and violent people succumb, that switches off the brain, dampens dangerous passions and offers distraction. I salute you, oh television, I salute you!

The Verdict: Let Go. I think the writing style would be a major turn-off.

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

13 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: On Class And Conflict

  • I would have to keep the Delafield as I loved the Diary of hers so much and curiosity would win out; might keep the Ghoush too but I could not cope with the writing style of the third one at all so goodbye to it 😁

    • Glad you agree with my decision on House of the Deaf Man

  • The oppressive heat is only encouraging me to read light, novella-length novels at the moment – a Simenon, a Muriel Spark, a Patricia Fitzpatrick and so on. Sadly none of these appeal (though the concept behind the Hungarian book sounds interesting, shame about the delivery) so I can’t really help—sorry!

    • My concentration levels are lower too – I keep picking up books and losing interest after 20 pages

  • I have read The Hungry Tide and I’m sorry to say it turned me off Ghosh though he used to be one of my favourites:).

    • Oh dear, its always a shame when you find an author you used to love no longer has the same appeal

  • I’d be inclined to keep the Ghosh too. I haven’t read it, I haven’t even got it on my shelves, but I’ve read three or four, no — five — by Ghosh and I’ve really liked them. (I loved the Sea of Poppies trilogy!)

    • Ah yes Sea of Poppies is something I’ve been eying for a while

      • Loved it, Karen, I really did. It’s a standout in the last ten years of my reading.

        • That good eh! well in that case i shall have to save up some pennies to get the trilogy.

  • I’m strongly believing you’ve made the right decisions here.

  • I’d be drawn to the Slovakian author having visited that part of the world but that writing (or perhaps translation?) is turgid.

    • i did wonder if it was a translation issue but on balance I think it’s just overblown writing..


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