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.