Norwegian authorsReading plans

Sample Sunday: The Road to U

It’s the turn of the “U” section of my virtual and physical bookcases for this latest episode of Sample Sunday. I have only three books whose titles begin with that letter, which doesn’t give a lot of scope but let’s see which of these have lost their appeal and which spark my interest

Under Another Sky: Journeys In Roman Britain by Charlotte Higgins

Will I never learn?? I need to resist the temptation of non fiction tables in bookshops because I rarely read the books I buy. Under The Sky is a case in point. I bought this after watching some programme or other presented by Mary Beard. If anyone can make Roman history interesting she can, hence how I ended up buying her book SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. Right next to it was Under the Sky. It took but a moment for me to walk out of the shop with two books on the Romans,

Nine years later and I haven’t read even a chapter of either of them. I’d actually forgotten what Under The Sky is about until earlier today when I read the back cover details and then searched for some reviews. It sounds more interesting than I was expecting.

Charlotte Higgins travels around Britain in search of remains from the time when this island was once a Roman territory. On foot and in her camper van she tracks down architecture and artefacts throughout the mainland, reflecting on their significance and how often the remains were misinterpreted.

The Verdict:  I’m keeping this and aiming to read it for Non Fiction November. What’s appealed to me is that Higgins doesn’t necessarily travel to the most important finds, the ones we already know about. Instead she tracks down evidence of the past in the middle of housing estates and garden centres, the remains that are often unknown to local residents.

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

I bought this having enjoyed an earlier novel by Claire Fuller — Swimming Lessons (see my review here). Part of the synopsis reminded me of On The Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin, both novels featuring a close relationship between twins who live in a remote cottage. In Fuller’s Costa Prize- winning novel, fifty-one-year-old Jeanie and her brother Julius still live with their mother, Dot, their rented cottage acting as a sanctuary and their armour against the world. When their mother dies, the twins find their livelihood is threatened and secrets from their mother’s life emerge.

The Verdict: No doubt about this, I’m keeping Unsettled Ground on the shelves. It sounds wonderful. Now I’m wishing I had included it in my #20booksofsummer list.

The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen

One of the many (too many) books I have requested via NetGalley that I have failed to read. I suspect this one caught my eye because it is by a Norwegian author but isn’t crime fiction. The blurb describes it thus:

Ingrid Barrøy is born on an island that bears her name – a holdfast for a single family, their livestock, their crops, their hopes and dreams.

Her father dreams of building a quay that will connect them to the mainland, but closer ties to the wider world come at a price. Her mother has her own dreams – more children, a smaller island, a different life – and there is one question Ingrid must never ask her.

Island life is hard, a living scratched from the dirt or trawled from the sea, so when Ingrid comes of age, she is sent to the mainland to work for one of the wealthy families on the coast.

But Norway too is waking up to a wider world, a modern world that is capricious and can be cruel. Tragedy strikes, and Ingrid must fight to protect the home she thought she had left behind.

The Verdict: Sounds interesting and since the only Norwegian fiction I’ve read to date has been in the Nordic Noir genre, I’m going to keep this one.

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. So 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

21 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: The Road to U

  • I can vouch for both Unsettled Ground and The Unseen so pleased to see you’re keeping them. I agree about the releif in finding something Scandi which isn’t crime!

  • I love Jacobsen’s spare writing, and Unsettled Ground too, so that’s two reading treats. I’d definitely like to get acquainted with your first choice as well.

  • Well these all sound good! I just read a Norwegian novel, Is Mother Dead, which I loved. Also not crime. If you’re into Rachel Cusk or Gwendoline Riley you might like it.

    • Hm, I don’t think I’ve read anything by either of those authors though have seen mention of them over the last couple of years

  • I think we have a copy of SPQR on the shelves too. (There are two of us making impulse buys in this household!)

    • Oh dear, there must be competition for shelf space in that case

  • This year I set a modest target of reading one nonfiction book per month. It works reasonably well and now nonfiction has become a natural part of my reading. I would definitely keep Unsettled Ground, it’s a great novel!

  • I used to read a lot of nonfiction, principally archaeology, history and popular science, but now I almost exclusively focus on fiction. That leaves me with a lot of half-read and virtually unread history books that, paradoxically, are mostly out of date! But I can hardly bear to get rid of them as they have some use as reference material.

    • Ah but the question Chris is whether you do actually refer to them? I suspect you do because your blog posts so often refer to historical facts and context

      • I do! However dated they might be (and some are very long in the tooth!) they’re important to consult because they provide context for theories held then and where we might be now, bolstered with evidence that may have emerged since.

    • Thanks for the recommendation Heidi. I’ve now moved it to my “read soon” shelf

  • Evonne Benedict

    Unsettled Ground was a 5-star for me last year. Anxious to read her new one!

    • I hadn’t realised she had a new one out until I went to her website to check the publication date of Unsettled Ground. So good when you find an author you like and then discover there are more of their books to enjoy

  • I seldom have a chance to shop in bookshops, but I’m way too prone to requesting Netgalley books that I promptly forget about. I hope Nonfiction November is a help with the Roman book! I wanted to read SPQR too but lately I find large history books daunting.

    • It’s because those NetGalley books are not physically in my sight line that I just forget they exist.


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