TBR Thursday 347…

Episode 347

I’m racing through books at the moment, with the result that my TBR is still shrinking despite the arrival of new books – down 1 again this week, to 171! –  and my list of unwritten reviews is getting out of control! Still, between this week’s rather heavyweight selection of books and the US Open starting next week I think it’s safe to assume I’ll be slowing down!

Here are a few more that should reach the final round soon…

Winner of the People’s Choice

The winner took a huge early lead this week and although the other books fought back gamely they were never able to catch up. They all looked good this time which always makes for fun voting! And the one You, The People, have chosen looks like it could be excellent – good choice, People! Since I like to run three months ahead with these polls, the winner will be a November read. And the winner is…

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

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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Lit-Crit

Honoré de Balzac: My Reading by Peter Brooks

Courtesy of Oxford University Press. Regulars will know from my scrappy reviews that I don’t really research the classics I read to any great extent, nor do I read much literary criticism. But, since I have included my first Balzac on my new Classics Club list, when I spotted this in the OUP’s latest catalogue I thought it might be fun to read it first. Apparently there’s a whole series of these for different classic authors…

The Blurb says: A book on the experience of reading Honoré de Balzac’s La Comédie humaine which recounts the process of Peter Brooks’ own discovery of Balzac.

A personal account of coming to terms with Balzac: moving from more classical and restrained authors to the highly-coloured melodramatic novels of the Human Comedy, which give us the dynamics of a new and challenging world on the threshold of modernity. This volume shows readers how to read, and to love reading, Balzac, and how to engage with his vast work.

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Classic in Translation

Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

So obviously I’ll then have to read my first Balzac before I forget everything I’ve just read! No idea how I’m going to fit this in, to be honest, but at least it doesn’t look like quite as much of a brick as I feared it might be!

The Blurb says: Monsieur Goriot is one of a select group of lodgers at Madame Vauquer’s Parisian boarding house. At first his wealth inspires respect, but as his circumstances are reduced he is shunned by those around him, and soon his only remaining visitors are two beautiful, mysterious young women. Goriot claims that they are his daughters, but his fellow boarders, including master criminal Vautrin, have other ideas. And when Eugène Rastignac, a poor but ambitious law student, learns the truth, he decides to turn it to his advantage. Père Goriot is one of the key novels of Balzac’s Comédie Humaine series, and a compelling examination of two obsessions, love and money. Witty and brilliantly detailed, it is a superb study of the bourgeoisie in the years following the French Revolution.

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Vintage Crime

Crook o’Lune by ECR Lorac

Courtesy of the British Library. I’m always delighted when a “new” ECR Lorac pops up in the BL’s Crime Classics series, and this one sounds as intriguing as always…

The Blurb says: It all began with sheep-stealing. A hateful act among the shepherds of the fells, and yet not a matter of life and death. Then came arson and with the leaping of the flames, death and disorder reached the peaceful moors.

Holidaying with his friends the Hoggetts in High Gimmerdale while on a trip to find some farmland for his retirement, Robert Macdonald agrees to help in investigating the identity of the sheep-stealers, before being dragged into a case requiring his full experience as Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard.

Drawing on her own experience living in Lunesdale, Lorac spins a tale portraying the natural beauty, cosy quiet and more brutal elements of country living in this classic rural mystery first published in 1953.

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Gaskell on Audio

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell read by Juliet Stevenson

Another one for my Classics Club list. I may or may not get on with the audiobook – I’ve struggled a bit with Juliet Stevenson’s narrations in the past – so if it doesn’t grab me I’ll abandon it and read a paper copy later. But fingers crossed – maybe this will be Stevenson’s chance to win me over! And after galloping through the books on the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge, I intend to take plenty of time over this one!

The Blurb says: Written at the request of Charles Dickens, North and South is a book about rebellion; it poses fundamental questions about the nature of social authority and obedience. Gaskell expertly blends individual feeling with social concern, and her heroine, Margaret Hale, is one of the most original creations of Victorian literature.

When Margaret Hale’s father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience she is forced to leave her comfortable home in the tranquil countryside of Hampshire and move with her family to the fictional industrial town of Milton in the north of England. Though at first disgusted by her new surroundings, she witnesses the brutality wrought by the Industrial Revolution and becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers. Sympathetic to the poor she makes friends among them and develops a fervent sense of social justice. She clashes with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, who is contemptuous of his workers. However, their fierce opposition masks a deeper attraction.

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

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

47 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 347…

    • For some reason I never got around to reading Gaskell in my youth – a major omission I shall now begin to put right! I’ve read a few of her short stories in various anthologies though, and have loved her writing, so I’m confident!

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  1. Le Pere Goriot is brilliant, but I think it is important to pick up the right translation (for example, the one I got by Oxford World’s Classics does not really do a proper job, in my opinion).The great thing about Balzac is that to delve into his world and topics one does not have to pore over huge tomes. Eugenie Grandet and Colonel Chabert are very short books, but their themes and characterisations are just as heavy as in Balzac’s bigger ones.

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    • Oh, I’m sorry to hear you didn’t think much of the OWC translation since that’s the one I’ve gone for! I really liked his translation of Notre-Dame de Paris. Yes, I was pleased to discover that not all of his books are massive tomes. Not that I object to big books but they’re more difficult to fit in to a crowded reading schedule.

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  2. I’m glad The Sealwoman’s Gift won, FictionFan. Hopefully The People steered you right! And there’s Lorac on your list; you likely won’t go wrong there. The Balzac looks very good; I haven’t read her work in a long time (no particular reason – just one of those things), and it’s good to have a nudge in that direction. But the big thing is that plummet in the TBR! That’s most impressive! *Gives scared sideways glance at own TBR* I hope you enjoy the tennis!

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    • I’m looking forward to The Sealwoman’s Gift! It was a particularly good batch, though, so I’d have been pleased with any of them – but at least The People didn’t pick the 1553-pager! 😉 I feel the Lorac will be a welcome lighter read amid these huge tomes – my scheduling seems to have gone a bit haywire! Not sure why I’m speeding through the books so quickly at the moment – I may have to top up to avoid running out of books completely… 😉

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  3. I loved Balzac’s The Black Sheep, but haven’t yet read anything else by him – I do have Pere Goriot on my shelf though so you might inspire me to pick it up! And I hope you enjoy North and South – one of my true forever-favourite novels.

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    • I’m kinda hoping I hate Balzac so I don’t have to add all his other books to my TBR… 😉 I have high hopes for North and South – it’s odd that I’ve missed Gaskell since she seems to be very much my cup of tea. I’m a bit hesitant about the audiobook though, so I’m prepared for possibly abandoning it and going for a paper copy next year. But hopefully my fears will prove unfounded!

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  4. North and South is one of my favourite books despite its rather abrupt ending. But Lorac’s also on your list and I enjoyed my first experience reading her. And also the one Balzac I’ve read so far turned out very good too; too many enticing options this week.

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    • It’s a very appealing batch this week, I must say, though I don’t normally schedule two heavyweight classics at the same time! Both Gaskell and Balzac are new-to-me, more or less, though I’ve read and enjoyed some of Gaskell’s short stories in various anthologies. I feel Lorac will provide me with some much needed lighter reading!

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  5. that’s a great group of reading/listening! The reading Balzac is interesting because I knew nothing about him when I set out to read Père Goriot and didn’t realise it was part of a huge series! Anyway, even though I ended up reading Eugene Grandet I really loved it and his writing and am looking forward to more! And a Lorac, woo hoo!!

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    • It’s only through blogging that I’ve learned that Balzac had a series! In some ways that makes it a bit intimidating because who has time for all those books? So I decide to just treat them as standalones and pick one that appealed because of the blurb. We’ll see whether the Balzac lit-crit book changes my mind! Thank goodness for Lorac – I feel I’ll need a bit of light relief… 😉

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    • It’ll be my first Gaskell novel but I’ve loved some of her short stories, so I have high hopes! Glad to hear you enjoyed Wives and Daughters so much – maybe I’ll make that my next one… if this one works out! 😀

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  6. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of the two books about and by Balzac! I’ve only read one of his books, Cousin Bette, which I really enjoyed and I’ve been meaning to read more ever since. I’ve read most of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and some of her short stories – North and South isn’t my favourite, but it’s probably a good place to start.

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    • I’m just hoping the book about Balzac doesn’t convince me I have to read his entire output – that would be a TBR killer! 😉 His books sound very much my kind of thing though, so I’m looking forward to Pere Goriot. I’ve also enjoyed a few of Gaskell’s short stories in various anthologies, so I’m looking forward to reading one of her novels at last… too many books in this world!! 😀

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    • It’s always great when a Lorac pops through the door! The next few BL Crime Classics all look good in fact – they’re on a run! I’m looking forward to The Sealwoman’s Gift too – all the comments on the poll from people who’ve enjoyed it have raised my enthusiasm! 😀

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  7. I’m standing strong against temptation this week, but I’m glad to see that the sealwoman won the pick. I may be scarce from now until the first week of October, as I am sitting under a pile of work that includes lots of writing and revising as well as event organizing. Feeling a little in over my head. I think someone needs to send you a couple dozen books to top up your pile.

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    • I’m looking forward to The Sealwoman’s Gift – all the comments on the poll from people who’ve enjoyed it have raised my enthusiasm! 😀 Well, I suppose work has to take priority, but you’ll be missed! Hope both writing and event organising go smoothly! Haha, your wish has almost been granted – four books turned up yesterday… it’s a curse! 😉

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  8. All of them are tempting! I would love to hear North and South read by Juliet Stevenson! She’s marvelous in everything she’s in. I enjoyed reading North and South and especially the adaptation starring the swoon-worthy Richard Armitage!

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    • I’ve never seen an adaptation of it, partly because every time one of her books is adapted I think I’ll read the book first and then I never do! But assuming I enjoy the book, which I expect to, then I’ll see if I can get hold of the Armitage version. 😀

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  9. I suspect the Lorac would be my pick this time (though I have to say the reading slows up tremendously when the major tennis tournaments are being played!) Oh, but that meme is hilarious — just goes to show you shouldn’t buy your racquets at a discount store, hee hee!

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    • Ha, yes, I’m almost looking forward to my reading slowing during the US Open to give me chance to catch up with my reviewing backlog, which is reaching critical mass! I love that meme – it’s the look on her face! 😂

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    • North and South has had a lot of love from commenters! I’m only a couple of chapters in but am enjoying it so far. The Sealwoman’s Gift sounds good, but then they all *sound* good… 😉

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  10. I hope you will enjoy The Sealwoman’s Gift, as I voted for that one, and the audiobook of North and South, after finishing that I recommend a watch of the TV adaptation starring Richard Armitage 😊 Also good luck with the backlog of reviews – I am also woefully behind too! 😅

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