TBR Thursday 216…

Episode 216

You might want to hold on to your hats, people, because you’re in for a major shock! The TBR has plunged this week by a massive FOUR – down to 214! 

Here are a few more I’ll be diving into soon…

American Classic

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

This is on both my Classics Club list and my 5 x 5 Challenge. Oh dear! I do think Steinbeck’s prose is wonderful but I find his worldview depressing way beyond realism. I’m really hoping this will be the one that I can finally love without reservation… but I’m not confident…

The Blurb says: Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.

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Classic Sci-Fi

Wild Harbour by Ian MacPherson

Well, I made it through just 8% of Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein before throwing it at the wall. So I found I had an empty slot in the Sci-Fi section of my Classics Club list. Serendipitously, the British Library had sent me a copy of this vintage sci-fi from a Scottish author, which is quite a rarity in itself…

The Blurb says: Something has happened in Europe. Fearing the approach of it to Britain, Terry and Hugh retreat from their home to the remote highlands of Scotland, prepared to live a simple existence together whilst the fighting resolves itself far away. Encouraged by Terry, Hugh begins a journal to note down the highs and lows of this return to nature, and to process their concerns of the oncoming danger. But as the sounds of guns by night grow louder, the grim prospect of encroaching war threatens to invade their cherish isolation and demolish any hope of future peace. Macpherson’s only science fiction novel is a bleak and truly prescient novel of future war first published in 1936, just 3 years before the outbreak of conflict in Europe. A carefully drawn tale of survival in the wilderness and the value of our connection with others, Wild Harbour is both beautiful and heart-rending.

(Since I know some of you enjoy my embittered abandonment comments on Goodreads, here’s what I said about Starship Troopers

8% in and bored out of my mind. I paraphrase…

“I saw a building and directed a bomb with a funny name at it. It blew up. I saw another building and directed another bomb with an equally funny name at it. It blew up.” Ad nauseam.

If only I had a bomb with a funny name I could blow this book up. As it is, I’ll have to settle for deleting it from my Kindle. A classic? Perhaps, but only if you like bombs.)

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Historical Crime

Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee

The much-anticipated next instalment in Mukherjee’s excellent Sam Wyndham series, set in the last days of the Raj. My only criticism of this series has been Sam’s tedious opium addiction, so I’m delighted to see he’s seeking a cure – I sincerely hope he finds it…

The Blurb says: 1922, India. Leaving Calcutta, Captain Sam Wyndham heads for the hills of Assam, to the ashram of a sainted monk where he hopes to conquer his opium addiction. But when he arrives, he sees a ghost from his past – a man thought to be long dead, a man Wyndham hoped he would never see again.

1905, London. As a young constable, Sam Wyndham is on his usual East London beat when he comes across an old flame, Bessie Drummond, attacked in the streets. The next day, when Bessie is found brutally beaten in her own room, locked from the inside, Wyndham promises to get to the bottom of this. But the case will cost the young constable more than he ever imagined.

In Assam, Wyndham knows he must call his friend and colleague Sergeant Banerjee for help. He is certain this figure from his past isn’t here by coincidence, but for revenge . . .

* * * * *

Historical Fiction

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

For my Around the World challenge, but also mainly because I’ve wanted to read this one for a long time. Regulars will know I enjoy colonial-era fiction, but it’s usually told through the eyes of the colonisers. This book is lauded as changing that, and putting an African voice and perspective centre-stage…  

The Blurb says: Okonkwo is the greatest warrior alive, famous throughout West Africa. But when he accidentally kills a clansman, things begin to fall apart. Then Okonkwo returns from exile to find missionaries and colonial governors have arrived in the village. With his world thrown radically off-balance he can only hurtle towards tragedy. Chinua Achebe’s stark novel reshaped both African and world literature. This arresting parable of a proud but powerless man witnessing the ruin of his people begins Achebe’s landmark trilogy of works chronicling the fate of one African community, continued in Arrow of God and No Longer at Ease.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

47 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 216…

    • It could go either way with East of Eden. I loved and hated The Grapes of Wrath at the same time, abandoned Cannery Row, and admired but got depressed by The Pearl. I think it’s fair to say I’m conflicted about him… 😉

  1. It’s such a long time since I read East of Eden – I had a Steinbeck phase in my teens – I recall little about it. What I do remember is largely from the classic 1955 Kazan film, with that iconic performance from James Dean in his first major role. I just looked him up; I knew he died young in a car crash, but hadn’t realised it was later that same year, after starring in his other two famous roles, in Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. He was 24.

    • I haven’t seen any of the James Dean movies, amazingly, and I must admit that the idea of watching East of Eden after I get through the book is one of the major incentives to read it. I do love Steinbeck’s prose – sometimes it’s sublime – but oh, I find him depressing! I’m hoping against hope that at least one of the characters in East of Eden gets a happy-ish ending, but I’m not really expecting it… 😉

    • I love Steinbeck’s writing but I think he’s way too pessimistic. Some people manage to enjoy at least some bits of life! 😉 The Sam Wyndham books are great – I think you’d enjoy them.

  2. Ooh, the next Sam Wyndham book! I haven’t quite gotten there yet, FictionFan, but I do really like that series, and I’m hopeful you’ll love that one. I agree with you, too, about his opium addiction; I hope he gets past that, too. As for Steinbeck, it’s true that he’s not exactly known for light, uplifting novels. Still, he’s got such skilled writing and rich characters….well, I hope you’ll enjoy that one. Interesting you’ve Things Fall Apart, too. I taught that one at one point; there’s a lot there although it’s not a long novel. I’m looking forward to what you think of it.

    • I’m looking forward to the Sam Wyndham book – I like that Mukherjee varies the setting every time so you get a different aspect of Indian life. And if Sam doesn’t get cured this time, I shall write a stern letter of complaint! 😉 I wish I loved Steinbeck more, so I’m hoping this one might be the one that finally gets me over the line. I’m intrigued by Things Fall Apart, partly because of the controversy over Achebe calling Conrad a “bloody racist” – not at all the impression I have of Conrad from the little I’ve read to date. But then from Achebe’s perspective, I guess I’m an apologist for the colonisers, so I’ll have to make sure my mind is as open as possible going in…

  3. Wow. I’m so shocked by that TBR that I have to revive myself with chocolate. Here I go. . . .There. That’s better. I had to read Things Fall Apart freshman year in college so I’m not tempted it..I’m not entirely surprised that Starship Troopers was a DNF. I didn’t read the book, but I saw the movie. Very gory. Your Goodreads blurb is hilarious! I’m not a Steinbeck fan. So I’d say Death in the East is the only one that peaks my interest.

    • Hahaha – I was shocked myself! It won’t last… 😉 Hmm… sounds like Things Fall Apart didn’t hit the mark for you. I’m not sure how I’ll react to it… we’ll see! Hahaha – Starship Troopers was awful! Sometimes it’s astonishing which books get given classic status. East of Eden – again hmm!. Could go either way – you know I struggle with Steinbeck too. But I’m totally confident about Death in the East – oh dear, is that tempting fate??

  4. Wild Harbour sounds great. Things Fall Apart has been on my radar for ages. East of Eden still sits here – watching me … I’ll feel that little bit closer to reading these once I’m bouyed by your undoubtedly 5-star reviews 😄

    • Hahaha! Well, East of Eden might get five stars – The Grapes of Wrath did! But then Cannery Row got thrown at the wall, so who knows? Things Fall Apart – hmm, I feel I will either love it or hate it. Wild Harbour better be good since Scottish sci-fi is an exceedingly rare beast! But Death in the East is almost certain to get five stars – oh dear, I think I’ve just tempted fate! 😉

  5. Only 8%?? And here, thanks to you, I read the entire thing!! 😱😝😬 At the point you gave up, I was finding it awfully boring, but it eventually dropped back to the past and told the story of how he got to that point (and beyond). Not my favorite, but still better than the film, IMO. (though a small part of me wants to watch again, now that I’ve read the book)

    • Hahaha – did you? Sorry about that! 😂 Ugh! When I was hating it so much, I looked at the Goodreads reviews and decided I wasn’t going to like the rest of it any more than the beginning, so I zapped the delete button. And happily I have no desire to see the film now! Oh well! 😉

  6. East of Eden is on my list too, not sure about it but then it is a challenge! I read Things Fall Apart years ago and remember a lot of palm wine drinking (in the book, not me) I hope you enjoy them all.

    • I’m very wary of East of Eden – my feelings about Steinbeck are so conflicted. Love his prose, hate his depressing view of the world! Oh, I must see if my supermarket keeps a stock of palm wine – sometimes I feel I’d get on better with some books if I was pleasantly tipsy… or even roaring drunk! 😉

  7. You should create a book of every negative review you’ve ever written. I’d certainly read it. My relationship with Steinbeck’s work has been pretty similar to yours, but the blurb for East of Eaden is vaguely tempting me. I’ll be interested in your experience of Things Fall Apart, my own thoughts on it were rather ambiguous.

    • Hahaha! I look on negative reviews as a form of therapy to get the bile out of my system before it damages my innards! 😉 I do hope East of Eden works for me – I would love to love him, but hate the way he puts his characters through so much pain just to manipulate the reader’s emotions. Interesting – I won’t ask more about your opinion of Things Fall Apart till after I read it, but I’ll be interested to hear your views then. I’m a bit ambivalent about it going in – I get the impression he might be as prejudiced as the people he’s accusing of prejudice, but maybe with better reason. We’ll see…

  8. I preferred The Grapes of Wrath to East of Eden. Both are beautifully written, but EoE is so long – too long really – and I thought it read like a morality tale of good versus evil. I’m looking forward to seeing what you think about it. I read Things Fall Apart several years ago and loved it.

    • I had really mixed feelings about The Grapes of Wrath – some of the writing was sublime but he made me angry with how he manipulated the characters to get an emotional response from the reader. And all that stuff about fixin’ the truck! So I’m wary of East of Eden, but maybe lower expectations are a good thing. That’s good to hear about Things Fall Apart – it’s another one I’m a bit wary of, but I have my fingers firmly crossed!

    • Haha – thank you! I’m feeling smug, but I’m sure it won’t last… 😉

      Views on Things Fall Apart seem to be pretty mixed – I have my fingers crossed, but I’m a bit wary of it. I do love Steinbeck’s prose but I’m hoping this one isn’t quite as miserably depressing as some of his other stuff – but I suspect it will be! 😂

  9. I really liked East of Eden although it’s a chunkster it flowed smoothly so didn’t take me too long to read.

    • That’s good to hear! I do find his prose wonderful and very readable, but he’s the ultimate pessimist and I’m on the optimistic side so he irritates me with all his misery. I’m hoping this one will be different though – I’d love to be able to love him!

  10. Yes, Steinbeck often left me in despair. My son has to read Of Mice and Men this year for high school, and I asked his teacher why their reading list looked like something out of my era, instead of spicing it up with more recent “classics.” He said that English depts are slow to change. I’m going to have to prep my son for the killing of the dog. Anyway, I’ve been wanting to read Things Fall Apart for a long time, so that gets my vote.

    • Oh dear, Of Mice and Men killed me at school – I wept buckets! I loved it though – I don’t think I objected quite so much to his emotional manipulation back then. Haha – given my increasing aversion to all things modern in literature, I’m kinda glad they’re not teaching them to kids! They seem to learn how to swear, be violent, get depressed and take drugs anyway, without having to learn it from books… 😉

  11. I’ll be very interested in how you find Wild Harbour, so far it’s definitely of interest for me. I’ll also keep an eye on up you reviews of Things Fall Apart and Death in the East. An interesting collection here!

    • I’m looking forward to Wild Harbour – I remember trying and failing to find some Scottish sci-fi when I was putting my Classics Club together and failing completely. Death in the East should be good if it’s up to the standards of the other books in the series. Things Fall Apart I’m more hesitant about, but I have my fingers crossed…

  12. Wow, four down!! I wonder if you’ll ever get below 200? 😉 It is impressive, that you haven’t given up on Steinbeck yet. If I’d had that response to an author, I would have given up ages ago.

    A Scottish vintage sci-fi? That sounds intriguing and a bit unusual as well. I hope it’s a good one! Otherwise, we might get another review a la Starship Troopers / Kate Atkinson, which is not bad either. 😀

    • In my first ever TBR post, long, long ago, I think I only had 74 on the list. My TBR is the fault of all you people who tempt me with reviews and book lists all the time! 😀 I do love Steinbeck’s prose which is why I stick with him, but the misery aspect makes me so angry – pessimists bring me down… 😉

      Hahaha! I’m seriously hoping Wild Harbour doesn’t inspire a 1-star rant, but we’ll soon see…!

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