Reading plans

Sample Sunday: time for the Canadians

It’s been months since I last did a Sample Sunday post so my stacks of owned but unread books are feeling somewhat neglected. I hope to get back on track over the summer and do some more regular posts.

This week I’m choosing to feature three titles all beginning with the letter T. You can help me decide whether to keep these books on my shelves or let them go to a more welcoming home. By coincidence the first two are by Canadian authors.

Turbulent Wake by Paul Hardisty

I can’t remember buying this nor do I remember anything about it so have had to resort to the publisher’s blurb to fill in the blanks.

Ethan Scofield returns to the place of his birth to bury his father. Hidden in one of the upstairs rooms of the old man’s house he finds a strange manuscript, a collection of stories that seems to cover the whole of his father’s turbulent life. As his own life starts to unravel, Ethan works his way through the manuscript, trying to find answers to the mysteries that have plagued him since he was a child. What happened to his little brother? Why was his mother taken from him? And why, in the end, when there was no one else left, did his own father push him away? Swinging from the coral cays of the Caribbean to the dangerous deserts of Yemen and the wild rivers of Africa, Turbulent Wake is a bewitching, powerful and deeply moving story of love and loss … of the indelible damage we do to those closest to us and, ultimately, of the power of redemption in a time of change.

The Verdict:  so many plots now seem to rely on the discover of a letter, a journal or a will. The only thing that’s drawing me towards this book is its geographic spread. It might help me fill in one of the remaining blocks in my Wanderlust Bingo Challenge so I’ll keep it but if I haven’t read it by the end of the year (by which time I want to have finished the bingo card), then I’ll send it off to the charity shop.

Thicker Than Water by Bethan Darwin

Bethan Darwin is a Canadian who settled in Wales where she works as a solicitor. Her knowledge of the legal world, and the Welsh valleys plays out in Thicker Than Water, her third book. Her central character is the owner of a Cardiff law firm whose life is disrupted when a business woman from Canada comes knocking on his door. She’s the managing director of a shirt company that wants to set up a big manufacturing plant in the valley where Gareth grew up. He thinks of it as a wy of bringing hope back to an area suffering from despair and high levels of unemployment. Of course, something goes wrong….

The Verdict: I’m keeping this one. It could be the ideal kind of book to pick up after a spate of heavy reading material. And of course, I know the communities that will feature so that will give an added interest.

Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy

The cover on my Virago edition isn’t filling me with joy. It’s yet another novel that hinges on a “discovery”. The blurb tells me that it concerns a man in the Victorian era who delves into the family archive while recovering from an illness. There he discovers the correspondence and diaries of an ancestor from the Regency era who was something of a black sheep and connected with scandal. What they reveal are the two sides of this man — one serious and studious, the other a flirtatious mover in political circles.

The Verdict: I’ve never read anything by Margaret Kennedy though I’ve seen her name often mentioned by bloggers who enjoy Virago Modern Classics. This one was written apparently when she began to use more complex plots in her work — the introduction by Anita Brookner describes it as quite complicated and with an occasionally puzzling arrangement of the narrative. Hm, it’s not exciting me so I think I’ll pass on this one and read The Constant Nymph instead.

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

20 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: time for the Canadians

  • I haven’t read any of these, hence I can’t offer any advice. Turbulent Wake sounds interesting, but I do get what you mean about relying on the discovery of a letter. It has perhaps been overused by now.

    • It would be good to pick up a newly published novel that doesn’t have a dual or even triple time frame and discoveries of letters, journals etc. Are these writers all going to the same creative writing class???

  • We missed a book sale this weekend which would mean acquiring more books, and we’ve started a bag for repurposing books we’ve read and not wanting to keep to make space for the latest acquired ones. It is difficult to get rid of books when one’s mind is that I might read this except someday never comes as there are too many books. Of the books you’ve listed, I have heard of Troy Chimneys and I may have read something by Margaret Kennedy as this author’s name is familiar. Okay, thank you for sharing, and good luck riding off some of your books…to make shelf room for more books. I am not trying to be trite; I am a little paean practicing the English language…I mean I am forever learning the lingos and that which is above me in talks and such.

    • I too have a bag I use to collect all the books I am giving away. My rule is that once a book is in the bag I am not allowed to take it out again ….

  • I think I’d have to keep no 1 and let no 3 go too. Not sure about no 2 but then I don’t need to decide.haha🤠🌻🐦

    • Thanks Pam. The more I think about 3 the less inclined I am to keep it

  • Sorry, I don’t know any of them.
    You might try checking out the blog of the late Kevin from Canada. ( His reviews were always spot on, and if he’s recommended any of these writers, I’d hesitate to pass on them.

    • Thanks Lisa, just checked his site but he hasn’t reviewed any of these – I’m not surprised since two of them were published after he seems to have finished adding to the blog.

      • AH, well, Kevin died in 2016, and the blog since then has only posted about the Shadow Giller Prize, and that seems to have faded away. Which is sad, but the blog is still full of treasures, i.e. the reviews that he posted for ten years so it’s still a good resource for Canadian fiction.

  • It took me a long time to get into Troy Chimneys but I loved it when I did. I think I preferred it to The Constant Nymph in fact. I’d hang onto it!

    • I did see somewhere that in some quarters Troy Chimneys is considered one of his strongest novels. If the subject appealed more to me I wouldn’t mind the complexities – just not sure I am that interested

  • I’m not familiar with any of the three so can’t be much help. I agree that plots more and more seem to turn on the discovery or receipt of a letter or journal. It feels too easy of an ignition moment, or perhaps we as readers are tired of it because it’s become too familiar. I’m curious now about Margaret Kennedy, after reading the comments here.

    • There do seem to be fashions in novel writing – the dual time frame is another one that I am seeing more and more. Some are handled brilliantly but there are also too many where only one of the time frames works

  • I haven’t read the three books you’ve listed, but I have read two Margaret Kennedy novels that I think are excellent–in fact, I’ve reread both more than once. (I’ve also read “The Constant Nymph”, but so long ago that I don’t remember anything more than that I thought it was readable but not exciting–and would probably seem very dated now.) The Kennedy books that I can strongly recommend are “Lucy Carmichael” (1951) and “Not in the Calendar” (1964). Lucy Carmichael is the exceptionally likable heroine of a novel named after her. She goes to work at a cultural center in a factory town where the rich factory owners are trying to bring “culture” to the workers. That’s a sadly oversimplified version of the plot that involves Lucy waking up to what is going on around her with all its complicated social-class ramifications. “Not in the Calendar” has TWO wonderful heroines, and we follow them from childhood to old age. It is a “light” book about a very large family that nevertheless has a great deal to say (some of it truly thought-provoking) about what it means to be a good person:
    a saint, if you like. Forget “Troy Chimneys”, and try to get your hands on one or both of these outstanding books.

    • Lucy Carmichael sounds interesting Kim – I enjoy books with clashes of social class. Thanks for the recommendations

  • Oh dear. Not one of those has me tempted. But I have a fair few untempting books on my shelves too, and I’m quite poor at disposing of them. I think I need to follow your example and from time to time, put it to the discerning types who read my blog!

    • I view this exercise as a way of clearing some space in the shelves so I can fill it with books i really want to read!


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