TBR Thursday 212…

Episode 212

Phew! Last week the TBR had fallen dangerously low and I know a lot of you have had sleepless nights worrying on my behalf. Well, sleep sound tonight! Thanks to the unanticipated arrival of a box of books, the bookocalypse has been delayed – up 1 to 223…

Here are a few I plan to read before the end comes…

Historical Fiction

The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert

OK, this doesn’t sound my kind of thing at all, especially since lots of Goodreads readers have tagged it as romance, fantasy and magical realism – ugh, ugh, and oxymoronic! But Omaha is a compulsory spot on my Around the World challenge and you have no idea how hard it’s been to find a book set there! So buckle up – it’s going to be a bumpy ride…

The Blurb says: On the eve of the 1898 Omaha World’s Fair, Ferret Skerritt – ventriloquist by trade, conman by birth – isn’t quite sure how it will change him or his city. Omaha still has the marks of a filthy Wild West town, even as it attempts to achieve the grandeur and respectability of nearby Chicago. But when he crosses paths with the beautiful and enigmatic Cecily, his whole purpose shifts and the fair becomes the backdrop to their love affair.

One of a travelling troupe of actors that has descended on the city, Cecily works in the Midway’s Chamber of Horrors, where she loses her head hourly on a guillotine playing Marie Antoinette. And after closing, she rushes off, clinging protectively to a mysterious carpet bag, never giving Ferret a second glance. But a moonlit ride on the swan gondola, a boat on the lagoon of the New White City, changes everything, and the fair’s magic begins to take its effect.

* * * * *

Biography

Enoch Powell by Paul Corthorn

Courtesy of Oxford University Press. Enoch Powell was the bogeyman for the left back in the ’70s when I became politically aware, hated and reviled as the arch-racist over his infamous 1968 Rivers of Blood speech, when he warned Britain of the dangers of uncontrolled immigration in extraordinarily incendiary terms. But he had had a long and important career before that, almost completely forgotten now because of that moment. I’ve often wondered whether he was really as vilely racist as that speech made him appear and have wanted to know more about what brought him to self-destruct in such a spectacular fashion. Hopefully this book might answer some of my questions…

The Blurb says: Best known for his notorious ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968 and his outspoken opposition to immigration, Enoch Powell was one of the most controversial figures in British political life in the second half of the twentieth century and a formative influence on what came to be known as Thatcherism.

Telling the story of Powell’s political life from the 1950s onwards, Paul Corthorn’s intellectual biography goes beyond a fixation on the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech to bring us a man who thought deeply about – and often took highly unusual (and sometimes apparently contradictory) positions on – the central political debates of the post-1945 era: denying the existence of the Cold War (at one stage going so far as to advocate the idea of an alliance with the Soviet Union); advocating free-market economics long before it was fashionable, while remaining a staunch defender of the idea of a National Health Service; vehemently opposing British membership of the European Economic Community; arguing for the closer integration of Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK; and in the 1980s supporting the campaign for unilateral nuclear disarmament.

In the process, Powell emerges as more than just a deeply divisive figure but as a seminal political intellectual of his time. Paying particular attention to the revealing inconsistencies in Powell’s thought and the significant ways in which his thinking changed over time, Corthorn argues that Powell’s diverse campaigns can nonetheless still be understood as a coherent whole, if viewed as part of a long-running, and wide-ranging, debate set against the backdrop of the long-term decline in Britain’s international, military, and economic position in the decades after 1945.

* * * * *

Crime

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

Courtesy of Pan MacMillan via NetGalley. I’ve been talking about catching up with Ann Cleeves’ two existing series for years, but never actually get around to them. So I’m jumping aboard on book 1 of her new series – at least I’ll be up-to-date with it!

The Blurb says: In North Devon, where the rivers Taw and Torridge converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. The day Matthew turned his back on the strict evangelical community in which he grew up, he lost his family too.

Now he’s back, not just to mourn his father at a distance, but to take charge of his first major case in the Two Rivers region; a complex place not quite as idyllic as tourists suppose.

A body has been found on the beach near to Matthew’s new home: a man with the tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

Finding the killer is Venn’s only focus, and his team’s investigation will take him straight back into the community he left behind, and the deadly secrets that lurk there.

* * * * *

Classics Club

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr

This sounds utterly dire – I can’t imagine what I was thinking when I put it on my Classics Club list! What would make anyone in their right mind want to read a book like this? Is the world not depressing enough without us choosing to pollute and poison our minds voluntarily? Not that I’m pre-judging it, of course… 😉

The Blurb says: Few novels have caused as much debate as Hubert Selby Jr.’s notorious masterpiece, Last Exit to Brooklyn, and this Penguin Modern Classics edition includes an introduction by Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting [FF says: that alone should have warned me not to touch it with a ten-foot barge pole].

Described by various reviewers as hellish and obscene, Last Exit to Brooklyn tells the stories of New Yorkers who at every turn confront the worst excesses in human nature. Yet there are moments of exquisite tenderness in these troubled lives. Georgette, the transvestite who falls in love with a callous hoodlum; Tralala, the conniving prostitute who plumbs the depths of sexual degradation; and Harry, the strike leader who hides his true desires behind a boorish masculinity, are unforgettable creations. Last Exit to Brooklyn was banned by British courts in 1967, a decision that was reversed the following year with the help of a number of writers and critics including Anthony Burgess and Frank Kermode. [FF says: Yes, this one’s already halfway to the abandoned heap… ]

* * * * *

NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads.

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?
(I’m not sure I am… 😉 )

49 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 212…

  1. Hmmm..must say I’m not particularly tempted by the Selby, FictionFan. Things in the real world are, as you say, dire enough… But the Cleeves very much appeals. I like her work, and just love her sense of place and local culture. Always interesting, too, when an author starts a new series (if that’s what this is to be). I do hear good things about it.

    • Ha – I was hoping you might be going to tell me the Selby wasn’t as bad as it sounds! 😉 I’m really looking forward to the Cleeves. I’ve only read one of her books so far – the first in the Shetland series – and thoroughly enjoyed it, and this new series sounds intriguing…

  2. Your TBR is quite safe from me this week, FF, as it seems like your normally sensible brain was taking a wee rest when you chose some of these. Were you suffering from chocolate withdrawl at the time?
    The Swan Gondola sounds bizarre, and Last Exit to Brooklyn just seems horrible. As an aside, I can’t stand Trainspotting, and could never get why it was so popular.

    • Hahaha! Sometimes when I put these posts together I begin to wonder if aliens sneak in and add books to my TBR when I’m asleep!
      I hate Trainspotting without ever even having read it – it just sounds so awful. I hate the way so many authors like to portray only the bad bits of Scottish culture – where are the serious fiction authors writing about the culture most of us Scots actually inhabit? Oops – soap-box moment! But I do wonder now if I even read the blurb for Last Exit to Brooklyn – it sounds dire! Maybe it’ll surprise me… (did my pathetic attempt at optimism work? 😉 )

  3. I am relieved that your TBR list has returned to normal. I can have one piece of chocolate since it went up by 1. Please try harder next time so I can have more chocolate. 😉

    None of the books tempts me this week. I can have another piece of chocolate because of that.

    • Hahaha! But, see, I only get extra chocolate when it goes down! It’s a dilemma… 😉

      You can have four – one for each book! I have a feeling there’s not enough chocolate in the world to get me through Last Exit from Brooklyn…

  4. I think this must be your set point. You keep batting around between 222 and 223 for a few weeks now! These all sound great! I requested The Long Call, but the publisher ran out. Just yesterday I received a surprise copy in the mail, so I’m back in business. This will be my first from the author. I hope we both love it!

    • I know! I’m determined not to go up any higher but publishers don’t seem to be paying attention… 😉 Oh good! I’m glad you got a copy! I’ve only read one of her books before and thoroughly enjoyed it, so fingers crossed for both of us for this one… 😀

  5. I laughed because your thoughts on ‘catching up’ on all the series of Ann Cleeves are the same as mine. I want to read THE LONG CALL and I’ll be ‘caught up’ on one of her series! Yay!

    • Hahaha! It’s so hard when you really want to catch up with an author but she has too many books!! We’ll be able to feel smug about the new series once we’re “up-to-date” with it… 😉

  6. I’ve taken the same decision as you where the Ann Cleeves is concerned and for the same reasons. Of course, I do have to turn this into action by getting hold of a copy of this new book. Maybe this time next year I will still be saying this is going to be the novel that turns be into a Cleeves reader.

    • I read the first in her Shetland series a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I already have two of her other books on my TBR – but still have never managed to fit them in. I’d just about given up hope of ever catching up with her, so I’m delighted she’s started a new series – hope we all enjoy it!

  7. Not particularly tempted by any of these — woo hoo!! Biography and Historical Fiction really don’t interest me much. The Crime one might work, but I’ve got so much on my TBR right now that I don’t dare add anything else!

    • This particular biography will only appeal to Brits of a certain age, I think, so I’m not surprised it doesn’t tempt you! The Long Call should be good – Ann Cleeves’ other series have been hugely successful so it’s good to see her start another.

  8. You know what? Being in a book club has required (I use that word loosely) me to read quite a few books I never would have picked up on my own… and I’ve ended up enjoying the majority of them. So go into the questionable ones here with a positive attitude. Who knows?! 😀

    • Haha – that’s exactly why I don’t join book clubs! 😉 Seriously, though, one of the things I’ve enjoyed about hunting for books for the Around the World challenge is that it’s made me try books I’d otherwise have ignored and I’ve had some great finds as a result. So who knows? I might love The Swan Gondola… but I don’t hold out much hope for Last Exit from Brooklyn… 😂

  9. Hmmm… well, the Ann Cleeves is definitely the winner for me! 🙂 I wish you luck with your Classics Club pick. Are you the kind of person who would feel comfortable switching out one of your choices or do you intend to stick with the list as it was originally chosen no matter what?

    • Yes, the Cleeves is definitely the pick of the bunch this week, though I’m weird enough to be looking forward to the political bio, too! I’m trying to stick to the original list as much as possible, but I’m not being too rigid – I’ve already swapped out a couple that just didn’t appeal any more. I don’t understand how Last Exit from Brooklyn ever got on the list… or why it didn’t get taken off last time I swapped books… maybe it’s destiny! 😂

    • Hahaha! I’m hoping I can bear to read enough of Last Exit of Brooklyn to be able to review it – I should be able to take out a lot of pent-up frustration on that one… 😂🤬

    • I’m hoping the Powell is good – I read one before but it turned out to be a hagiography from a bunch of his adoring little right-wing fans. This one looks like it might be more balanced! And after Powell, maybe Last Exit won’t seem so bad… 😉

    • I’m keen to try the Ann Cleves too, much easier to start with a whole new series 😊 And I did think the Swan Gondola might be for me but I’d much rather wait for your review which will be so much better than the book 😂🤣😂 Good to know the apocalypse has been avoided though 🤔🤨🙄

    • I’ve only read book 1 of the Shetland series – book 1 of Vera is languishing on my Kindle unread – and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I’m really looking forward to this one! Thank goodness there’s at least one of this week’s choices I’m looking forward to… 😉

  10. The only one of these that vaguely tempts me is the Cleeves, hooray! Maybe I’ll change my mind if you get on with Ferret Skerritt but I’m not convinced… I definitely don’t want to spend any time with Enoch, but I do admire your open-minded approach. I’ve read the Selby and although I’d never tell anyone not to read a book I do think maybe its a possible one to reconsider FF – there are things in it I can’t unread, ugh. It is well written though, which is worse in some ways.

    • Haha – I’m not convinced I’ll get on with any of these other than the Ann Cleeves, so it better be good! Oh dear, thanks for the warning – I must have bunged it on my TBR without reading the blurb, I think, because it’s so not the kind of book I want to read. I’ll give it a try but am ready to abandon it as soon as it crosses the acceptability line…

  11. This is a….wide variety of books you got here! haha That second political book reminds me something that just happened here yesterday in Canada-an article written by a Calgary professor was posted on a Vancouver news site ( a major one) basically making the argument that society is harmed when tolerance and diversity are introduced into it. After a few hours of angry emails and public shaming, the article was taken down and replaced with an apology from the newspaper. Yikes!

    • Hahaha – I know! Some weeks I wonder who it is who adds these books to my TBR! 😉 I’m always a bit ambivalent in that I do think speeches and articles like that serve the purpose of making people think about why they do believe diversity is good, or racism is bad, etc. But it’s hard to understand why otherwise intelligent people don’t seem to realise in advance the reaction they’re going to get… apparently Enoch Powell was stunned at how people reacted to his speech. And he’s now a major hero of the far right hate groups in Britain, which I’m almost sure would have horrified him…

    • Ha! I’m not sure I’m tempted by them myself this week – who adds these things to my TBR?? 😉 Glad you’re back – hope all’s well, and you’ve just been enjoying the summer. 😀

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