Sample Sunday Scrutinises Unread Books: Ds

3 unread books on my shelves. Which should I keep

I’m moving through my shelves of unread books to decide which to keep, this week landing on a few whose author’s name begins with the letter D.

Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor

Bitter Fruit is a 2004 Booker-prize shortlisted novel set in a post-apartheid South Africa presided over by Nelson Mandela. The narrative explores the damaging legacy of the country’s political past through the lives of one family: a high ranking civil servant, his wife and their only son. The wife was the victim of a racially-motivated rape by a white policeman twenty years earlier. They’ve never talked about that attack, not to each other or to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But news that the policeman is now seeking amnesty for that crime, awakens all the memories of the past and threatens to de-stabilise their marriage.

The Verdict: I’m thinking this is one to keep. I do enjoy novels set in South Africa, particularly ones that focus on the issues raised by the apartheid policy.

The Silver Pigs by Lindsay Davis

The first title in a crime fiction series set in ancient Rome, this novel introduces Marcus Didius Falco, in the role of the “detective”. He’s a low-life informer whose normal working day consists of spying on adulterous husbands for jealous wives. But in this plot he goes to the aid of a pretty young girl who is fleeing for her life, and ends up uncovering a ring of conspirators who want to destroy the Roman Empire.

The Verdict: I bought this on a whim in a library sale thinking it might be fun – a bit like the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. But I’ve never felt drawn to read it so I’m going to let it go. I have more than enough crime fiction among my stack of unread books.

The Diary Of A Provincial Woman by E M Delafield

A fictional journal detailing how a middle class woman tries to “keep up appearances” while struggling with the privations of the Great Depression. doesn’t sound all that enticing. But I know this is considered a minor “classic” so I did a little research to help inform my decision on whether to keep the book. An article in The Guardian by Kathryn Hughes tipped the balance. She describes it as the “funniest, smartest and most lovable book I have ever read” although she accepts that the title and the appearance of “comedy servants” could be off-putting. But she urges readers to persevere because “if you settle down to read you will find a book that is all about how to accept limitations – your own as well as other peoples’ – with as much good humour and fellow feeling as possible. “

The Verdict: Ok, I’m persuaded to keep this one. It’s out of copyright so there are plenty of editions available. Mine is a lovely green Virago Modern Classic. There is a rather special Persephone edition available which contains the original illustrations.

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

12 thoughts on “Sample Sunday Scrutinises Unread Books: Ds

  • Oh the Provincial Lady is marvellous, you have to keep her! I have a Virago omnibus so didn’t buy the Persephone even though it had the illustrations! But I wanted to!

  • I actually enjoyed the Lindsey Davis crime series set in ancient Rome, or at least the first four or so entries, all of which I read many, many years ago. BUT totally understand the discard decision — one can’t keep everything & I let my own copy go a very long time ago, as a re-read was unlikely.
    Despite the glowing reviews, I’ve never been able to whip up much enthusiasm for Delafield’s Diary, probably to my loss. Since it’s a Virago, however, I’d put it on my keeper stack with the idea of getting around to it on some distant date.
    Bitter Fruit sounds interesting but . . . there are other South African authors who are higher on my own list (Coetze, Galgut). Since I don’t have a particular interest in the author and am avoiding grim things these days, I’d probably get rid of it!

    • I’ve read a few of the books by Coetzee already – Disgrace was fabulous but his most recent ones left me old.

  • I definitely would keep the Virago (as I’ve read and loved it) – the others don’t particularly speak to me at the moment…..

  • I haven’t heard of any of these before, but I would keep Bitter Fruit as I think it sounds intriguing.

    • Caroline Arthur

      I was working for Sidgwick and Jackson when The Silver Pigs was pulled off the slush pile, so I have an emotional attachment, but I absolutely loved it. The series got a bit repetitive after the first few books, but I would recommend the first two, especially for the way Davis uses a Philip Marlowe type narrative voice that is anachronistic in a very funny way

      • Interesting to hear it almost never saw the light of day Caroline. Yes I can understand why you have that attachment to it. If I feel the yearning to read it, I know I can always get a copy from the library


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