TBR Thursday 196…

Episode 196

Wow! I think this may be the biggest fall ever in my TBR – down 6 to 225!! Partly this is because I abandoned a couple that weren’t working for me and partly it’s to make room for a bunch of books I’m expecting to arrive in the next week or two. But still! I’m feeling like a winner…

Here are a few more that will be appearing on court soon…

History

In a couple of months, it will be the centenary of the Treaty of Versailles which ended the First World War and, it’s often said, paved the way towards the Second. In this highly regarded book originally titled Paris 1919, Margaret MacMillan tells the story of the negotiations and decisions of the peacemakers, and disputes some of the commonly held opinions on the outcomes of the treaty. Since I hold those commonly held opinions, she’s got her work cut out to change my mind…

The Blurb says: Between January and July 1919, after “the war to end all wars,” men and women from around the world converged on Paris to shape the peace. Centre stage, for the first time in history, was an American president, Woodrow Wilson, who with his Fourteen Points seemed to promise to so many people the fulfilment of their dreams. Stern, intransigent, impatient when it came to security concerns and wildly idealistic in his dream of a League of Nations that would resolve all future conflict peacefully, Wilson is only one of the larger-than-life characters who fill the pages of this extraordinary book. David Lloyd George, the gregarious and wily British prime minister, brought Winston Churchill and John Maynard Keynes. Lawrence of Arabia joined the Arab delegation. Ho Chi Minh, a kitchen assistant at the Ritz, submitted a petition for an independent Vietnam.

For six months, Paris was effectively the centre of the world as the peacemakers carved up bankrupt empires and created new countries. This book brings to life the personalities, ideals, and prejudices of the men who shaped the settlement. They pushed Russia to the sidelines, alienated China, and dismissed the Arabs. They struggled with the problems of Kosovo, of the Kurds, and of a homeland for the Jews.

The peacemakers, so it has been said, failed dismally; above all they failed to prevent another war. Margaret MacMillan argues that they have unfairly been made the scapegoats for the mistakes of those who came later. She refutes received ideas about the path from Versailles to World War II and debunks the widely accepted notion that reparations imposed on the Germans were in large part responsible for the Second World War.

A landmark work of narrative history, Paris 1919 is the first full-scale treatment of the Peace Conference in more than twenty-five years. It offers a scintillating view of those dramatic and fateful days when much of the modern world was sketched out, when countries were created–Iraq, Yugoslavia, Israel–whose troubles haunt us still.

Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize, the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize.

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English Classic

Courtesy of Oxford World’s Classics. This is a new edition that OWC have published this month, so I slipped it onto my Classics Club list. I feel I may have read it before as a teen, but I’m not sure. So either it’ll all come flooding back to me when I start reading… or it won’t! It’s huge…

The Blurb says: The greatest ‘state of the nation’ novel in English, Middlemarch addresses ordinary life at a moment of great social change, in the years leading to the Reform Act of 1832. Through her portrait of a Midlands town, George Eliot addresses gender relations and class, self-knowledge and self-delusion, community and individualism.

Eliot follows the fortunes of the town’s central characters as they find, lose, and rediscover ideals and vocations in the world. Through its psychologically rich portraits, the novel contains some of the great characters of literature, including the idealistic but naive Dorothea Brooke, beautiful and egotistical Rosamund Vincy, the dry scholar Edward Casaubon, the wise and grounded Mary Garth, and the brilliant but proud Dr Lydgate. In its whole view of a society, the novel offers enduring insight into the pains and pleasures of life with others, and explores nearly every subject of concern to modern life: art, religion, science, politics, self, society, and, above all, human relationships.

This edition uses the definitive Clarendon text.

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Fiction

Courtesy of 4th Estate at HarperCollins via NetGalley. I chose this one purely based on the blurb and because of the Malaysian setting. It will be my introduction to Tash Aw so I don’t know what to expect, but it sounds good…

The Blurb says: A murderer’s confession – devastating, unblinking, poignant, unforgettable – which reveals a story of class, education and the inescapable workings of destiny.

Ah Hock is an ordinary, uneducated man born in a Malaysian fishing village and now trying to make his way in a country that promises riches and security to everyone, but delivers them only to a chosen few. With Asian society changing around him, like many he remains trapped in a world of poorly paid jobs that just about allow him to keep his head above water but ultimately lead him to murder a migrant worker from Bangladesh.

In the tradition of Camus and Houellebecq, Ah Hock’s vivid and compelling description of the years building up to this appalling act of violence – told over several days to a local journalist whose life has taken a different course – is a portrait of an outsider like no other, an anti-nostalgic view of human life and the ravages of hope. It is the work of a writer at the peak of his powers.

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Crime

Courtesy of Vintage Digital via NetGalley. Another debut which claims kinship with some of the greats of contemporary crime writing. The last time I read a book claiming to be “perfect for fans of Peter May” it provoked an extremely blunt review from me. I’m hoping this one will fare better…

The Blurb says: A stunning, atmospheric police procedural set against the grit of Inverness and the raw beauty of the Scottish Highlands, this is the first book in the DI Monica Kennedy series.

Sixteen-year-old Robert arrives home late. Without a word to his dad, he goes up to his bedroom. Robert is never seen alive again. A body is soon found on the coast of the Scottish Highlands. Detective Inspector Monica Kennedy stands by the victim in this starkly beautiful and remote landscape. Instinct tells her the case won’t begin and end with this one death.

Meanwhile, Inverness-based social worker Michael Bach is worried about one of his clients whose last correspondence was a single ambiguous text message; Nichol Morgan has been missing for seven days. As Monica is faced with catching a murderer who has been meticulously watching and waiting, Michael keeps searching for Nichol, desperate to find him before the killer claims another victim.

From the Shadows introduces DI Monica Kennedy, an unforgettable new series lead, perfect for fans of Ann Cleeves’ Vera, Susie Steiner and Peter May.

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Classic Club Spin #20

And the winner is…

Hurrah! For the first time in ages, the Classic Club gods picked one I’m actually looking forward to reading!

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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

50 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 196…

  1. The Peacemakers looks interesting: Romania was one of the ‘winners’ from the Versailles Treaty, so we’ve always seen it as a positive, but I know many countries feel like it created serious problems which erupted later that century.

    • Certainly I was always taught that the reparations led to the conditions that made Hitler possible, so I’m intrigued to see how far MacMillan veers from that orthodoxy and whether she can take me with her…

    • That’s good to hear! I kinda know the story but don’t know if that’s because I read the book long ago or maybe saw the film (though I don’t think so) or if it’s just one of those stories that has become part of the popualr consciousness. I’m looking forward to it… 😀

  2. Oh, you’ve got some great ones there, FictionFan! I’m especially drawn to The Peacemakers. What a pivotal time in history, and it’ll be interesting to see how it’s explored. From the Shadows sounds terrific, too. For now, though, I say you deserve a piece of cake for lowering your TBR as you have – what a feat!

    • I enjoyed MacMillan’s later book on the lead up to WW1, so I’m looking forward to The Peacemakers. I was always intrigued by the impact of the Treaty of Versailles so I’ll be interested to see if she changes my perceptions of it. I’m trying a few new-to-me crime writers at the moment, so fingers crossed for From the Shadows! The drop in the TBR is amazing, isn’t it? I date it to when you stopped blogging… 😉

    • Oh, that’s a pity. I’ve been trying a few new-to-me authors recently, with mixed success. It’ll be a week or two before I get to From the Shadows, so we’ll see how I get on with it…

  3. Congrats on that drop! Woot!! Hope you celebrated appropriately with chocolate and Mr. Darcy.

    Middlemarch would have tempted me had I not read it already after watching the miniseries ages ago.

    • Something seems to have boosted my willpower superpower! Either that or the postman’s on strike again… 😉

      I didn’t see that miniseries either – I really must try to watch more TV! The book is massive, so I hope it’s good… 😱

  4. I’ve never read Margaret MacMillan but I remember how popular that one was when it came out. I wonder why they changed the name though? On the Beach is on my TBR (and has been for a long time) but our library doesn’t have a copy and I don’t want to buy it. Perhaps your review will change my mind?

    • I read her later book about the lead up to WW1 and was very impressed by it, so I’m looking forward to her take on Versailles. No idea – the workings of the minds of publishers are a mystery to me! Well, I have my fingers crossed for On the Beach – it sounds very much like my kind of thing… 😀

  5. Middlemarch is one I took on last year and I had a lot to say about it, in short, hooked on Eliot. She has a way of writing that makes you stop and think. I read another one of her books Daniel Deronda end of last year into this year and it was good but I enjoyed Middlemarch more.

    • For some reason I haven’t read much Eliot – I think I maybe tried her when I was too young and put myself off. But she seems very much like the kind of writer I *should* enjoy, so I’m looking forward to giving her another chance… 😀

  6. Down 6?? Way to go, FF — that’s cause for celebration! You know I’m not a big fan of historical books, so I’m fairly safe for another week (though From the Shadows could tempt me — I’ll read your review before committing, ha!)

    • I don’t know anything about From the Shadows, so it could go either way – let’s hope it turns out to be a new favourite series! Yes, my willpower superpower is feeling turbo-charged at the moment! Of course it won’t last… 😉

  7. Peacemakers sounds interesting and I hope you love Middlemarch. It was the first book I read for the classics club, took me a while to get into it but then I was hooked, really wonderful. Hooray for your spin!!

    • Oh, good – Middlemarch looks huge but sounds like my kind of thing, so it’s good to know you loved it. That’ll encourage me if I find the start slow. 😀 I enjoyed MacMillan’s later book on the lead up to WW1, so I’m looking forward to Peacemakers. And yes, hurrah!! The first time in ages the spin has come up with one I really want to read!! 😀

  8. Well done for getting that TBR list down! Read On The Beach many years ago and loved it. I’ve been meaning to read Middlemarch, it’s sitting waiting for me, one day!
    They all sound pretty good especially From the Shadows but my TBR is growing too much already I think I’ll have to stick with having to get around to Middlemarch.

    • Haha – thank you! It won’t last! 😉 I’m so glad so many are people saying how much they enjoyed On the Beach – it’s making me even more enthusiastic about it. Ha – yes, Middlemarch takes up an awful lot of room on the TBR, doesn’t it? I hope it’s good…

  9. I’ve not read On the Beach (nor seen the film), so I’m definitely interested in your thoughts on it. I wonder how dated it might seem now.

    I read Middlemarch in 2016 for a personal “tome challenge” I took on to rid my TBR pile of some whoppers. My edition was 795 pages!

    • I usually enjoy specualtive fiction from that era so am looking forward to On the Beach. They do often seem dated, especially in attitudes to women, but somehow they were great at tapping into very human fears that don’t seem to date much at all…

      Haha! Mine is 785 plus notes, and worse, the type is small! I might still be reading it at Christmas… 😉

  10. Down 6! Down 6?!! I’m going to have to go and sit in a darkened room, FF…

    I adore Middlemarch so I hope you do too. Plus that TBR should creep up nicely while you’re engaged in such a weighty tome 😀

    • Hahaha – it might be even worse this week, so be prepared! 😉

      I feel in my bones Middlemarch and I are going to be friends and I actually can’t wait to get to it – one more book to go first! I have several weighty tomes coming up – I may need to give up sleep entirely to keep up…

  11. Peacemakers has definitely piqued my interest! Thank you for the great description of the book and I will be sure to let you know what I think of It. I recently finished an extraordinarily unique book by author Donna Baier Stein called “Scenes from the Heartland” with accompanying lithographs by American painter Thomas Hart Benton. Her nine short stories are based on these pictures and take place in early 20th century Missouri and Arkansas. I couldn’t put this book down as the characters go through hardship, loss, love and even cruelty, and I felt myself relating to these women surprisingly even though we are from completely different time periods. No matter how far ahead we get with technology I find that humanity stays the same throughout the ages. I am recommending it to my book club next week and hope you and your readers will check it out too. Here is the website with more info: https://donnabaierstein.com/

    • Thank you for commenting, Amy. While I’m always happy to receive genuine recommendations from friends, I don’t allow advertising on my blog, and I’m afraid it seems to me that that’s what you’re doing. If I’m wrong, I apologise, and I hope you will provide me with a link to your own blog if you have one. However, if I’m right, I’d be obliged if you don’t use the comments section of my blog to try to market books. Thank you.

    • Hi again! I am bummed to read your comment 😦 Not trying to advertise and I don’t have a blog. I just like sharing books that I’ve read and loved. Perhaps it’s time I start my own blog? I’m a big historical fiction fan so I was excited to come across your recommendation for Peacemakers and thought I would tell you about a book I loved in that genre. Again – sorry to seem spammy. I will definitely let you know when I’ve started my own blog! Kind of an exciting idea!

      • Hi Amy! Then I do apologise for my mistake and will take a look at the book you’re recommending! Blogging is great fun, and a great way to meet people with a shared loves for all things bookish – it can also be very time-consuming though! If you do start one, do let me know – I’m always keen to make new online friends. And meantime, please pop back any time… 😀

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