TBR Thursday 111…

Episode 111…

Oh, dear, oh dear, oh dear! The TBR has gone up again – how??? I’ve been so strict with myself!!! But I’m still managing to avoid going over the 200 watershed – this week’s total is 198…

Time to get some reading done – quickly! Here are some that are coming up soon…

Factual

a-peoples-tragedyFor the Reading the Russian Revolution Challenge. It’ll be ages before I get to this (I need to get through Trotsky first) but I thought I’d give it a mention now, since The Bodley Head have issued this special centenary edition and kindly let me have a copy. Another 900+ pages – whose idea was this challenge?? But it’s lavishly illustrated so that’s always a bonus… and it’s a nicely designed, good quality paperback with what I think are called French flaps on both the front and back covers.

The Blurb says: Opening with a panorama of Russian society, from the cloistered world of the Tsar to the brutal life of the peasants, A People’s Tragedy follows workers, soldiers, intellectuals and villagers as their world is consumed by revolution and then degenerates into violence and dictatorship. Drawing on vast original research, Figes conveys above all the shocking experience of the revolution for those who lived it, while providing the clearest and most cogent account of how and why it unfolded.

Illustrated with over 100 photographs and now including a new introduction that reflects on the revolution’s centennial legacy, A People’s Tragedy is a masterful and definitive record of one of the most important events in modern history.

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Fiction

the cone gatherers 2This one appeared on a TBR post a couple of years ago but I didn’t get around to reading it at that time, and it’s been gazing at me accusingly ever since. So to make it feel better, I stuck it on my Classics Club list under the Scottish section…

The Blurb says:  Calum and Neil are the cone-gatherers – two brothers at work in the forest of a large Scottish estate. But the harmony of their life together is shadowed by the obsessive hatred of Duror, the gamekeeper.

Set during the Second World War, Robin Jenkins’ greatest novel is an immensely powerful examination of good and evil, and mankind’s propensity for both. Removed from the destruction and bloodshed of the war, the brothers’ oblivious happiness becomes increasingly fragile as darker forces close in around them.

Suspenseful, dark and unforgettable, The Cone-Gatherers is a towering work of fiction, a masterpiece of modern Scottish literature.

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Crime

the-bishops-girlA couple of years ago, I reviewed Rebecca Burns’ excellent short story collection, The Settling Earth. So when she contacted me to offer a copy of her new novel, I was delighted. I realise the blurb makes it sound a bit like a romance, but I’m reliably informed (by the author!) that it’s actually a historical fiction/mystery…

The Blurb says: The body had no name. It was not supposed to be there…

Jess is a researcher on a quest to give the one-hundred-year-old skeleton, discovered in the exhumed grave of a prominent bishop, an identity. But she’s not sure of her own – her career is stalling, her marriage is failing. She doesn’t want to spend hours in the archives, rifling through dusty papers in an endless search for a name. And when a young man named Hayden makes clear his interest in her, Jess has to decide what is most important to her.

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Crime

let-the-dead-speakCourtesy of NetGalley. Woohoo! Maeve Kerrigan is back – and it looks like she’s been promoted! It’s been a loooooooong wait for this one!

The Blurb says: The chilling new crime novel from award-winning author, Jane Casey. When an 18-year-old girl returns home to find her house covered in blood and her mother missing, Detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad must navigate a web of lies to discover the truth… When eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home she finds Kate, her mother, missing and the house covered in blood. There may not be a body, but everything else points to murder. Maeve Kerrigan is young, ambitious and determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. In the absence of a body, she and maverick detective Josh Derwent turn their attention to the neighbours. The ultra-religious Norrises are acting suspiciously; their teenage daughter definitely has something to hide. Then there’s William Turner, once accused of stabbing a schoolmate and the neighbourhood’s favourite criminal. Is he merely a scapegoat or is there more behind the charismatic façade? As the accusations fly, Maeve must piece together a patchwork of conflicting testimonies, none of which quite add up. Who is lying, who is not? The answer could lead them to the truth about Kate Emery, and save the life of someone else.

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NB All blurbs taken from Goodreads.

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

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The Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns

the settling earthRed ribbons…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

This short collection of ten interlinked stories tells of the experiences of the British women who came as settlers to Auckland in New Zealand in the late 19th century. From farmer’s wife to prostitute, baby-farmer to temperance campaigner, each story stands on its own. But there’s a red ribbon running through them, binding these women to each other even when they are unaware of it, their lives as linked as the stories about them. Themes run from story to story, of loneliness and belonging, of motherhood, of the gradual change from immigrant to settler.

The book starts with a new immigrant, a girl married off to an older man she barely knew, and uprooted from her life in England to live on an isolated farm in this new land. Through her, we see the strangeness of this new landscape and feel the nostalgia of the early settlers for the land they still think of as home. The second story takes us to her husband, but even in the rare circumstance that one of the stories focuses on a man, it’s still there primarily to cast light on the lives of the women. Burns portrays this as a very male-dominated society where women are still almost entirely subordinate. In fact the theme of prostitution runs strongly through the book, both overtly when we are taken inside the brothel, and more figuratively, when many of the women are defined by their value as sexual objects to men. The one weakness of the collection for me, in fact, is that all the men are portrayed very negatively – while Burns is not suggesting she is showing every aspect of this immigrant society, the slice she shows us is perhaps a little unbalanced.

Scottish_poster_advertising_emigration_to_New_Zealand

(Attempts to attract women to colonial New Zealand began early. In this 1839 poster advertising the first sailing of a shipload of Scottish settlers, single women are offered free passage. From the collection of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland.)

Motherhood plays a major role in many of the stories, but not at all with a rosy glow around it. There is the prostitute who becomes pregnant and hopes against reason that the father will take responsibility. The woman who gives up her illegitimate child to a baby-farmer in order to marry another man. The baby-farmer, who takes in unwanted children for money, and then kills them, until one day a child steals through her defences. The childless widow, doing good works to keep her loneliness and longing at bay. The daughter, sexually brutalised by her mother’s new husband. But through it all, there is a sense of the strength of these women, surviving despite all that life throws at them.

The tone, however, is not irredeemably hopeless – it feels as though these women are on the cusp of change, that a new generation, native to this land as their mothers weren’t, may play a different role. Burns very subtly shows how attitudes change as people settle and communities form – the new immigrants filled with nostalgia for ‘home’, while the settlers are beginning to feel themselves to be New Zealanders and resenting newcomers making comparisons that are always to the detriment of the new country.

Parnell and Auckland Harbour c.1870 by John Barr Clarke Hoyte
Parnell and Auckland Harbour c.1870
by John Barr Clarke Hoyte

The final story is written by a Maori author, Shelly Davies, giving a different perspective. In truth, I’m not sure that this works well. It feels a little contrived – in fact, each time the Maoris were mentioned I couldn’t help feeling that the book was straying too far into ‘politically correct’ territory. There is a clear suggestion that Maori men treat their women far more respectfully than white men do theirs, and while there may be truth in this (I don’t know) the comparison feels a little too slick and overdrawn, and depends on acceptance that all white men behave as appallingly as the ones in these stories.

The quality of the writing is excellent, as is the depth of characterisation, especially given the limitations of length. The links between the stories are often loose but overall there is a kind of completion of a circle, taking us back almost to where we began. Individually I found most of the stories absorbing and intriguing, and some are intensely moving. But it’s when taken as a whole that the book has its full effect. Certainly recommended, and I look forward to reading more of the author’s work.

NB This book was provided for review by the author via NetGalley.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

TBR Thursday 52…

Episode 52

 

Woohoo! The TBR is down 1 to 141! I might throw a party to celebrate!!

Here are some of the ones that are teetering on the edge of the cliff…

Factual

 

fortune's foolCourtesy of NetGalley. I was expecting there to be a rash of biographies of Abraham Lincoln this year given it’s the 150th anniversary of his death, but so far I haven’t spotted any major ones. So this looked like an interesting alternative…

The Blurb says “With a single shot from a pistol small enough to conceal in his hand, John Wilkes Booth catapulted into history on the night of April 14, 1865. The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln stunned a nation that was just emerging from the chaos and calamity of the Civil War, and the president’s untimely death altered the trajectory of postwar history. But to those who knew Booth, the event was even more shocking-for no one could have imagined that this fantastically gifted actor and well-liked man could commit such an atrocity.

In Fortune’s Fool, Terry Alford provides the first comprehensive look at the life of an enigmatic figure whose life has been overshadowed by his final, infamous act. Tracing Booth’s story from his uncertain childhood in Maryland, characterized by a difficult relationship with his famous actor father, to his successful acting career on stages across the country, Alford offers a nuanced picture of Booth as a public figure, performer, and deeply troubled man. Despite the fame and success that attended Booth’s career–he was billed at one point as “the youngest star in the world”–he found himself consumed by the Confederate cause and the desire to help the South win its independence. Alford reveals the tormented path that led Booth to conclude, as the Confederacy collapsed in April 1865, that the only way to revive the South and punish the North for the war would be to murder Lincoln–whatever the cost to himself or others. The textured and compelling narrative gives new depth to the familiar events at Ford’s Theatre and the aftermath that followed, culminating in Booth’s capture and death at the hands of Union soldiers 150 years ago.”

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Fiction

 

the settling earthCourtesy of the author via NetGalley. I very seldom accept review requests direct from authors, but this one appealed – the title, the cover, the blurb and it’s short! It’s also getting very good reviews…

The Blurb says Marriage transplants Sarah thousands of miles from home; a failed love affair forces Phoebe to make drastic choices in a new environment; a sudden, shocking discovery brings Mrs Ellis to reconsider her life as an emigrant — The Settling Earth is a collection of ten, interlinked stories, focusing on the British settler experience in colonial New Zealand, and the settlers’ attempts to make sense of life in a strange new land.

Sacrifices, conflict, a growing love for the landscape, a recognition of the succour offered by New Zealand to Maori and settler communities — these are themes explored in the book. The final story in the collection, written by Shelly Davies of the Ngātiwai tribe, adds a Maori perspective to the experience of British settlement in their land.”

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Crime

 

the defenceCourtesy of NetGalley. I’ve seen so many great reviews of this one around the blogosphere so I’m hoping I’ll love it just as much…

The Blurb says Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different. It’s been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if wants to save his daughter.

Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? Lose this case and he loses everything.”

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the strangerCourtesy of NetGalley. Coben’s plots can be a bit cheesy sometimes, but his thrillers are usually fast-paced rollercoaster rides with likeable protagonists. Here’s hoping…

The Blurb says The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.

Adam Price has a lot to lose: a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream – a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life. Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corrine, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corrine’s deception, and realises that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives – it will end them.

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Sci-Fi

 

the martian chroniclesNext up in my bid to read more sci-fi, a classic I’ve never read. I’ve been very impressed by the few short stories of Bradbury’s that I’ve read recently, so I have high hopes for this…

The Blurb saysThe Martian Chronicles tells the story of humanity’s repeated attempts to colonize the red planet. The first men were few. Most succumbed to a disease they called the Great Loneliness when they saw their home planet dwindle to the size of a fist. They felt they had never been born. Those few that survived found no welcome on Mars. The shape-changing Martians thought they were native lunatics and duly locked them up.

But more rockets arrived from Earth, and more, piercing the hallucinations projected by the Martians. People brought their old prejudices with them – and their desires and fantasies, tainted dreams. These were soon inhabited by the strange native beings, with their caged flowers and birds of flame.”

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NB All blurbs taken from NetGalley or Goodreads.

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