TBR Thursday 119…

Episode 119…

I was so excited about the TBR falling last week that I celebrated with a tiny spree. Oops!  So an overall increase of 1 this week – to 195. But review copies remain stable at 33, so that’s good. If I ever finish Lorna Doone and A People’s Tragedy, I’ll start racing through them, you’ll see!

Here are a few that should topple off the pile soon…


Lenin the Dictator by Victor Sebestyen, courtesy of the publisher, W&N. When I started the Reading the Russian Revolution Challenge, I said I hoped a new biography of Lenin might come out for the centenary, and right on schedule this one turned up. The blurb implies it might be a bit light on the politics though, which from my perspective would be deeply disappointing. I don’t think I much care about his love for flowers or mistresses. But we shall see…

The Blurb says: Victor Sebestyen’s intimate biography is the first major work in English for nearly two decades on one of the most significant figures of the twentieth century. In Russia to this day Lenin inspires adulation. Everywhere, he continues to fascinate as a man who made history, and who created a new kind of state that would later be imitated by nearly half the countries in the world.

Lenin believed that the ‘the political is the personal’, and while in no way ignoring his political life, Sebestyen focuses on Lenin the man – a man who loved nature almost as much as he loved making revolution, and whose closest ties and friendships were with women. The long-suppressed story of his ménage a trois with his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, and his mistress and comrade, Inessa Armand, reveals a different character to the coldly one-dimensional figure of legend.

Told through the prism of Lenin’s key relationships, Sebestyen’s lively biography casts a new light on the Russian Revolution, one of the great turning points of modern history.

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Also for the RRR Challenge. I’ve never been an enthusiast for Russian fiction, but perhaps my current obsession will help me to appreciate this classic more. I certainly enjoyed reading The Zhivago Affair, a history of the publication of the book…

 The Blurb says: This epic tale about the effects of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath on a bourgeois family was not published in the Soviet Union until 1987. [FF says – well, not officially, perhaps, but The Zhivago Affair tells the story of how the CIA smuggled copies into the USSR long before then, thus making life very difficult for Pasternak.] One of the results of its publication in the West was Pasternak’s complete rejection by Soviet authorities; when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 he was compelled to decline it. The book quickly became an international best-seller.

Dr. Yury Zhivago, Pasternak’s alter ego, is a poet, philosopher, and physician whose life is disrupted by the war and by his love for Lara, the wife of a revolutionary. His artistic nature makes him vulnerable to the brutality and harshness of the Bolsheviks. The poems he writes constitute some of the most beautiful writing in the novel.

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Not only does the book sound fascinating, but it provided the story for one of Hitchcock’s early films, so I’m looking forward to reading first, then watching…

The Blurb says: In 1888, a series of prostitutes was brutally murdered in the East End of London. These gruesome crimes filled the press and shook England with fear and intrigue. Marie Belloc Lowndes established her considerable reputation as a crime writer through her fictional account of these murders.

Dealing with not only the psychology of “The Avenger”–her version of Jack the Ripper–but also with that of his landlady, Mrs. Bunting, who never gives away his secret, Lowndes creates an atmosphere of suspense, fear, and horror.

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Fiction on Audio

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima. Yokohama is one of the locations on my Around the World list, so I’m hoping this classic from 1963 will fill that slot. It’s narrated by Brian Nishii.

The Blurb says: A band of savage thirteen-year-old boys reject the adult world as illusory, hypocritical, and sentimental, and train themselves in a brutal callousness they call ‘objectivity’. When the mother of one of them begins an affair with a ship’s officer, he and his friends idealise the man at first; but it is not long before they conclude that he is in fact soft and romantic. They regard this disillusionment as an act of betrayal on his part – and the retribution is deliberate and horrifying.

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NB All blurbs taken from Goodreads.

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So…what do you think? Do any of these tempt you?

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47 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 119…

  1. Well, I’m pleased to say that they don’t 🙂 – apart from Dr Zhivago which I read in the dim and distant past. I think I enjoyed it (it was so long ago!) – I enjoyed the film, which made me want to read the book.

    • I haven’t watched the film either, but will do after I read the book. I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll like the film more than the book, but who knows? Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised!

    • I’m having fun with it, though so far I’m just seeing where my normal reading takes me. Eventually I’ll have to start properly searching out books for specific places – this is one of the first…

  2. Have you read We the Living by Ayn Rand. It is a great book about the revolution. Also Ruska, I forgot who wrote it. But it is fabulous. It is a fiction novel based on the history of Russia. And I loved Dr. Zhivago.

    • I haven’t read it, but We the Living is on my extra list, for if I finsih the main list before the end of the year (which I’m pretty sure I will). Oh, I hadn’t heard of Russka, but it looks great – the Edward Rutherford book, yes? Another one for the extra list – thanks for the rec! I don’t know how I’ll do with Dr Zhivago – I often struggle with Russian authors for some reason… 🙂

  3. They all sound interesting, except ” The Sailor who Fell From Grace From the Sea….already the title irritates me LOL I look forward to read your review of this audio. I did not enjoy the movie…

    • I always struggle with Russian authors – can’t really put my finger on why. The fact that they’re so often political really should mean I love them! Maybe Pasternak will change my opinion. I’ve been thinking I ought to try Gogol, since he’s been referred to a lot during my Russian reading this year – I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. 🙂

  4. Lenin looks *exactly* like my dad in that photo. It’s very distracting. I have a picture of Lenin which flashes up on my phone when Dad rings me – I showed it to him and he said ‘I look good there, when was that taken?’ Nothing to do with books but just thought I’d share 😀

  5. These are some interesting books! I like the historical theme in them very much, FIctionFan. I’m wondering what you’ll think of Dr. Zhivago – haven’t thought of that one in a long time.

    • It’s an odd batch this week – the only one I can truthfully say I’m confident about liking is The Lodger, but the others will be interesting, I hope. I’m not convinced I’ll get on with Dr Zhivago at all – I really took a dislike to Pasternak when reading the book about the book – but maybe he’ll surprise me…

  6. Well I’ve already read Dr. Zhivago so that one’s out and of course my iron willpower is protecting me against everything else – how many?? I think you should have a picture this week of you returning your medal….

  7. Maybe The Lodger. Though it’s not exactly a beach read (what I automatically think about when the weather turns warm). 🙂 Seems like a book to read by a roaring fire.

    • Yeah, it’s an odd batch this week – I’m not overly inspired by any of them myself! Except The Lodger, which I think will be great fun, and since I currently have a summer cold, I feel like curling up in front of a fire with a mug of hot chocolate even if the sun is shining outside… *sniffs self-pityingly*

  8. I treated myself to a new copy of Dr. Zhivago, and I am hoping to pick it up as soon as I finish some of my current reads. I was wondering if you have come across a book called “Lenin on the Train” while researching for your RRR Challenge. I saw it the library catalog yesterday and it sounded interesting (narrative nonfiction), but reviews seem to be a bit mixed. If you happen to have an opinion on this book, I’d be curious to hear it. Thanks!

    • Oh, we’ll be reading it at more or less the same time then! Which translation do you have? I have the Max Hayward one, but I think I might get the Pevear – I’ve heard good things about it.

      Like you, I’ve seen that book, but when I started looking into it, the reviews put me off – I got the distinct impression that it falls somwhere between history and fiction and doesn’t really do either brilliantly. So I’ve put it on the back burner – I’ll see how I feel once I finish the main list and start considering all the recommendations and stuff I’ve picked up over the last few months…

      • Ok, thanks. That was my impression of Lenin on the Train as well. I’ll skip it for now. After much agony, I decided to get the Pevear translation of Dr. Zhivago. It would be fun to read the two translations side by side, but I’ll save that for retirement… 🙂

        • I had a little look at the Kindle samples and compared the opening paragraphs, and that convinced me the Pevear will work much better for me. Plus I have the audio version of the Pevear and am hoping to do it as a read/listen and immerse myself fully… 😀

  9. I was mildly obsessed with Mishima as a student, so obviously I would go with that one, although it’s a very upsetting read (especially for cat lovers). It was never one of my favourites of his: I like the Temple of the Golden Pavillion or the Sea of Fertility. But it is an allegory of the sorry state of Japan after the war. The original title is very different, more like The Afternoon Ferry (or Being Towed in the Afternoon).

    • Oh dear! The upsetting for cat lovers bit sounds a little worrying – especially since it’s an audiobook. Somehow I find words being spoken in my ear bother me more than words on the page. I’ll have to see how it goes then. Being Towed in the Afternoon sounds a much better title – this one sounds incredibly clunky somehow…

  10. Whew, I’m safe this week, ha! I’m pretty sure I saw bits and pieces of the film version of Doctor Zhivago, which was expressive and visually expansive, but I never read the book (and now that I’m out of school, I don’t have to!!) Normally, I’m a fan of Hitchcock, but I’m afraid The Lodger sounds more brutal than I’m up for. Oh, well, carry on!!

    • Ha! I can’t say I’m looking forward to Dr Zhivago much myself, but I’m so steeped in Russia at the moment that I’m hoping I’ll like it more than I expect to! Being so old, I’m expecting The Lodger won’t go too deeply into the gory side of the story, but I may be wrong…

    • I’m thoroughly enjoying it, though so far I’ve mostly been reading histories with only a couple of fictions. My list of Russian fiction to read seems to be growing exponentially as the year progresses though! I can see this challenge might have to go on for another year…

  11. I’ve read the Mishima. It left me feeling a little cold. Can’t recall why. The others don’t appeal, either. Hhhmmmm. Saved. Where are you??? I come back to binge read blog posts and find you haven’t posted for a week?! How can that be?

    • Haha! Sorry about that – I had a little cold which meant I couldn’t be bothered writing any reviews. So now I have a huge backlog! I’m not sure about the Mishima at all, but I really had trouble finding a book for that particular spot on the Around the World map, so it must be done. What a book martyr I am! *sighs*

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