TBR Thursday (on a Tuesday) 345 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 345

(A reminder of The People’s Choice plan. Once a month, I shall list the four oldest books on the TBR, then the next four, and so on, and each time you will select the one you think I should read, either because you’ve read and enjoyed it, or because you think the blurb looks good. And I will read the one you pick within three months! If I begin to fall behind, I’ll have a gap till I catch up again. In the event of a tie, I’ll have the casting vote.)

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OK, People, time for another batch of four – still in 2020, and a rather odd selection this month, all historical fiction but very different from each other. I like to run three months ahead with these polls, so the winner will be a November read. I picked up The Sealwoman’s Gift in a charity shop on impulse, mainly because I used to like the author’s father when he presented Mastermind on TV! I also bought Cold Mountain there on the same day, but it was on my wishlist since I’d previously enjoyed another of his books, Nightwoods. I loved Neil Munro’s The New Road, so acquired Doom Castle and it’s now on my Classics Club list. A Suitable Boy is one I’ve long wanted to read but its excessive length means it keeps getting shoved aside.

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Historical Fiction

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

Added 11th January 2020. 5,160 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.16 average rating. 365 pages.

The Blurb says: In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted some 400 of its people, including 250 from a tiny island off the mainland. Among the captives sold into slavery in Algiers were the island pastor, his wife and their three children. Although the raid itself is well documented, little is known about what happened to the women and children afterwards. It was a time when women everywhere were largely silent.

In this brilliant reimagining, Sally Magnusson gives a voice to Ásta, the pastor’s wife. Enslaved in an alien Arab culture Ásta meets the loss of both her freedom and her children with the one thing she has brought from home: the stories in her head. Steeped in the sagas and folk tales of her northern homeland, she finds herself experiencing not just the separations and agonies of captivity, but the reassessments that come in any age when intelligent eyes are opened to other lives, other cultures and other kinds of loving.

The Sealwoman’s Gift is about the eternal power of storytelling to help us survive. The novel is full of stories – Icelandic ones told to fend off a slave-owner’s advances, Arabian ones to help an old man die. And there are others, too: the stories we tell ourselves to protect our minds from what cannot otherwise be borne, the stories we need to make us happy.

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Historical Fiction

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Added 11th January 2020. 234,132 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.88 average. 449 pages.

The Blurb says: Based on local history & family stories passed down by Frazier’s great-great-grandfather, Cold Mountain is the tale of a wounded Confederate soldier, Inman, who walks away from the ravages of the war & back home to his prewar sweetheart, Ada. His odyssey thru the devastated landscape of the soon-to-be-defeated South interweaves with Ada’s struggle to revive her father’s farm, with the help of an intrepid young drifter named Ruby. As their long-separated lives begin to converge at the close of the war, Inman & Ada confront the vastly transformed world they’ve been delivered.

Frazier reveals insight into human relations with the land & the dangers of solitude. He also shares with the great 19th century novelists a keen observation of a society undergoing change. Cold Mountain recreates a world gone by that speaks to our time.

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Historical Fiction

Doom Castle by Neil Munro

Added 26th January 2020. 31 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.48 average. 360 pages.

The Blurb says: “No pomp, no pleasant amenities; the place seemed to jut into the sea, defying man’s oldest and most bitter enemy, its gable ends and one crenellated bastion or turret betraying its sinister relation to its age, its whole aspect arrogant and unfriendly, essential of war. Caught suddenly by the vision that swept the fretted curve of the coast, it seemed blackly to perpetuate the spirit of the land, its silence, its solitude and terrors.”

This was the Count Victor’s fist sight of Castle Doom. His mission to Scotland from France in 1755 brought him into this wild land of danger and mystery, where he met the haunting Count Doom, the lovely Olivia, the dastardly Simon MacTaggart – and gothic jeopardy armed with claymores, dirks, and bagpipes.

Here is the most unusual historical novel you will ever read, by a Scot worthy to sit at the right hand of the throne of Sir Walter Scott!

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Historical Fiction

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Added 29th January 2020. 45,879 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.12 average. 1553 pages. 

The Blurb says: Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find—through love or through exacting maternal appraisal—a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multi-ethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humour and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.

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

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VOTE NOW!

(Click on title and then remember to also click on Vote, or your vote won’t count!)

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56 thoughts on “TBR Thursday (on a Tuesday) 345 – The People’s Choice…

  1. I really loved The Sealwoman’s Gift and I say that as someone who doesn’t really like historical fiction – I was given it in a not so secret santa, I think. I LOVE A Suitable Boy and have read it twice (once in a week in Montpellier) but it is long and a commitment. So I voted for the Sealwoman. And well done for getting to 2020! I am reading books from July 2021 at the moment – can’t believe I’m nearly “only” a year behind again, but also can’t believe all those books on my shelf are from the past year!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Sealwoman’s Gift seems to be in a stron lead at the moment, so I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it! I like the sound of Doom Castle too – it’s rather lower rated on Goodreads, but I think that may be because the reviews suggest it’s heavy on Scottish dialect.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. They all do sound appealing, FictionFan. As you know, I do enjoy historical fiction, especially when I actually learn some things as I read it. Hmm…spoilt for choice here, but I think my vote will go to The Sealwoman’s Gift. I hope The People steer you right!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoy historical fiction too, when it’s done well. A much easier way to learn a bit of history than reading history books! And all four of these sound intriguing in different ways. The Sealwoman’s Gift is in quite a strong lead at the moment – I’ll be quite happy if it turns out to be The People’s Choice!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a really tough choice. I read Cold Mountain probably back when it debuted in the late 90s, when people begged me to read it. But there were others on the list that were very compelling as well! Oh this is so hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s good to hear! I certainly enjoyed his Nightwoods and all the reviews seem to suggest that Cold Mountain is even better. I must get around to reading it some time even if it doesn’t win…

      Like

  4. I’ve not read any of these but chose Doom Castle because I’d like to see if it really compares to Sir Walter Scott, as the blurb asserts! The Sealwoman’s Gift sounds too sad for me. But the others are appealing as well, a nice group of choices!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I laughed at the Sir Walter Scott claim! It seems to be a Scottish thing, like every book by an English writer being compared to Dickens! 😂 However, I do think Doom Castle looks good so I’ll be quite happy if it wins, though I agree – they’re all quite appealing this month!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The only one of those I’ve read is The Sealwoman’s Gift, which I found interesting but didn’t love as much as most other people have done. I voted for Doom Castle because it sounds entertaining and hopefully you’ll enjoy it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, that’s a pity – especially since The Sealwoman’s Gift seems to be in quite a strong lead at the moment! Doom Castle really appeals – it’s a bit lower rated on Goodreads but I suspect that’s because a lot of readers struggled with the Scottish dialect. Hopefully that shouldn’t be too much of a problem for me though!

      Like

  6. This was a tough one. I read Cold Mountain many years ago, and have a vague memory of liking it. But the others all sound quite intriguing. I see that The Sealwoman’s Gift is winning right now. It doesn’t sound like you could lose with any of these.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think they all sound good this month and will be quite happy with any of them. (Although 1553 pages of A Suitable Boy might make me quiver a bit! 😉 ) The Sealwoman’s Gift still has a strong lead, but there’s still time for it to change…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The Sealwoman’s Gift sounds very good and that’s what I voted for. However, Cold Mountain sounds awfully good, too. I read Varina by the same author and loved it.

    So what happens to the losers on these posts? Do they ever get read?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Sealwoman’s Gift is in quite a strong lead at the moment, though there’s still time for it to change! I enjoyed Frazier’s Nightwoods and all the reviews suggest Cold Mountain is even better, so I must read it some time even if it doesn’t win!

      Ha, yes, they all stay on my TBR and in theory will all get read… some day! I’ve probably read as many of the losers over the last year as the winners, so it does happen sometimes!

      Like

  8. My pick is Cold Mountain because of its blurb (I haven’t read it). I didn’t have the heart to saddle you with A Suitable Boy. For pity’s sake, the thing is 1500-plus pages!!! Either it’s brilliant, or it’s in sore need of heavy editing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, thank you! I was scared The People might decide A Suitable Boy was their Choice – 1553 pages is like two Dickens novels! 😂 It does sound good but will need some careful scheduling some time! Cold Mountain sounds good too, and I enjoyed his Nightwoods, so I’ll be quite happy if it wins!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Good to hear you loved Cold Mountain – I loved his Nightwoods, so I really must find a way to fit Cold Mountain in even if it doesn’t win. The Sealwoman’s Gift is in quite a strong lead at the moment, but there’s still time for it to change…

      Like

  9. I can’t vote, but I would have picked The Sealwoman’s Gift. It’s quite an unusual topic, but it did happen, as in slaves were taken from the British Isles and sent to Africa. I did not know about Icelandic slaves, although if they could reach by boat then they could take women by boat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve recorded your vote! Yes, when we think of slavery we tend to think of the slave trade from Africa to various outposts of Empire, but of course it’s been going on throughout history. It will be interesting to read about this episode, which I also didn’t know about before.

      Like

  10. Each of these have some depth and sound like books I’d like to read. I’ve added The Sealwoman’s Gift to my list, the historical circumstances and the underlying theme of narrative both greatly interest me. However, since it’s already in the lead, and because I enjoyed The New Road, I’ve voted for the Scottish connection 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow The Sealwoman’s Gift looks very good. I just ordered a book, a memoir all about facing life’s difficulties and finding the personal strength to get through. It’s a bestselling book so once I post about it you will recognize what I’m talking about – one clue for you, it’s by Victor Henkel…

    Liked by 1 person

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