Down the TBR Hole #11

This meme was created by Lia at Lost in a Story as a way to tackle the gargantuan To-Read shelves a lot of us have on Goodreads.  Like other people, I’ve long ago forgotten what prompted me to add some of the books I have shelved.  This meme is the perfect excuse to start taking back control…

The rules are simple:

  1. Go to your Goodreads To-Read shelf.
  2. Order on ascending date added.
  3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  4. Read the synopses of the books
  5. Decide: keep it or should it go?
  6. Repeat every week until the entire list has been filtered (hmm, quite a few weeks then!)

The ten who need to demonstrate their worth this time are:

BTBR11 Behind the Scenes at the Museumehind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (added 11th September 2013)

Ruby Lennox begins narrating her life at the moment of conception, and from there takes us on a whirlwind tour of the twentieth century as seen through the eyes of an English girl determined to learn about her family and its secrets.

Verdict: Keep – I loved the author’s Life After Life and I have A God in Ruins on my wishlist.  This sounds like a similarly inventive premise.

TBR11 Case HistoriesCase Histories (Jackson Brodie #1) by Kate Atkinson

Case one: A little girl goes missing in the night.
Case two: A beautiful young office worker falls victim to a maniac’s apparently random attack.
Case three: A new mother finds herself trapped in a hell of her own making – with a very needy baby and a very demanding husband – until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape.

Thirty years after the first incident, as private investigator Jackson Brodie begins investigating all three cases, startling connections and discoveries emerge . . .

Verdict: Keep – I wasn’t sure about keeping another book by the same author but this just sounds so intriguing.

TBR11 TieflandTiefland by Calvin Glover (added 20th September 2013)

Swing era Germany. A young Leni Riefenstahl is acclaimed as the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century. Dancer, actor, screenwriter, and director, she is renowned as a consummate artist. Then come the atrocities of the Third Reich and suddenly she is dismissed and despised as a Nazi whore. Tiefland is a fictionalized account of her struggle to restore her reputation and her desperate attempt to regain the adoration she once enjoyed.

Verdict: Remove – This is one of those occasions where you become convinced Goodreads is randomly adding books to your To-Read shelf. OK, it’s historical fiction and set in the 1930s but it just doesn’t appeal for some reason and has average reviews.

TBR11 Monsieur Le CommandantMonsieur Le Commandant by Romain Slocombe (added 20th September 2013)

French Academician and Nazi sympathizer Paul-Jean Husson writes a letter to his local SS officer in the autumn of 1942.  Tormented by an illicit passion for Ilse, his German daughter-in-law, Husson has made a decision that will devastate several lives, including his own.  The letter is intended to explain his actions. It is a dramatic, sometimes harrowing story that begins in the years leading up to the war, when following the accidental drowning of his daughter, Husson’s previously gilded life begins to unravel.  And through Husson’s confession, Romain Slocombe gives the reader a startling picture of a man’s journey: from pillar of the French Establishment and World War One hero to outspoken supporter of Nazi ideology and the Vichy government.

Verdict: Remove – Some reviews has described this as ‘harrowing’ or ‘disturbing’ and I’m just not sure I want to put myself through that.

TBR11 The Hurlyburly's HusbandThe Hurlyburly’s Husband by Jean Tuele (added 20th September 2013)

The Marquis de Montespan and his new wife, Athénaïs, are that very rare thing: a true love-match. But love is not enough to maintain their hedonistic lifestyle, and the couple soon face huge debts. Then Madame de Montespan is offered the chance to turn their fortunes round, by becoming lady-in-waiting to the Queen at Versailles. Too late, Montespan discovers that his ravishing wife has caught the eye of King Louis XIV. Everyone congratulates him on his new status of cuckold by royal appointment, but the Marquis is broken-hearted. He vows to wreak revenge on the King and win back his adored Marquise. At once comic and poignant, Jean Teulé’s extraordinary novel restores a ridiculed figure from history to his rightful position of hero: a man who loved his wife and dared challenge the absolute power of the Sun King himself.

Verdict: Remove – I was slightly tempted to keep this as it’s a period I haven’t read much about but I’ve been deterred by the low average rating of 3.2 with quite a few DNFs.

TBR11 The City of ShadowsThe City of Shadows (Stefan Gillespie #1) by Michael Russell (added 20th September 2013)

Dublin 1934: Detective Stefan Gillespie arrests a German doctor and encounters Hannah Rosen desperate to find her friend Susan, a Jewish woman who had become involved with a priest, and has now disappeared.  When the bodies of a man and woman are found buried in the Dublin mountains, it becomes clear that this case is about more than a missing person. Stefan and Hannah trace the evidence all the way across Europe to Danzig.  In a strange city where the Nazi Party is gaining power, Stefan and Hannah are inching closer to the truth and soon find themselves in grave danger…

Verdict: Keep – This was longlisted for the CWA John Creasy New Blood Dagger Award in 2013 and has had some positive reviews.  I like the sound of the period and the setting.

TBR11 The Testament of MaryThe Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin (added 20th September 2013)

In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son’s crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel—her keepers, who provide her with food and shelter and visit her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was “worth it;” nor that the “group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye,” were holy disciples. Mary judges herself ruthlessly (she did not stay at the foot of the Cross until her son died—she fled, to save herself), and is equally harsh on her judgment of others. This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes, in Toibin’s searing evocation, a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone. This tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.

Verdict: Keep – This was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and, although I can imagine its subject matter provoking strong opinions, I have high regard for Toibin as an author.

TBR11 SPQRSPQR 1: The King’s Gambit by John Maddox Roberts (added 20th September 2013)

In this Edgar Award nominated mystery, John Maddox Roberts takes readers back to a Rome filled with violence and evil. Vicious gangs ruled the streets of Crassus and Pompey, routinely preying on plebeian and patrician alike. So the garroting of a lowly ex-slave and the disembowelment of a foreign merchant in the dangerous Subura district seemed of little consequence to the Roman hierarchy. But Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger, high-born commander of the local vigiles, was determined to investigate. Despite official apathy, brazen bribes and sinister threats, Decius uncovers a world of corruption at the highest levels of his government that threatens to destroy him and the government he serves. Set in 70 B.C.

Verdict: Remove – I love novels set in Ancient Rome but I do have quite a few on my To-Read shelf already so I’m going to pass on this one.

TBR11 The Dante ClubThe Dante Club by Matthew Pearl (added 20th September 2013)

In 1865 Boston, the literary geniuses of the Dante Club—poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, along with publisher J. T. Fields—are finishing America’s first translation of The Divine Comedy and preparing to unveil Dante’s remarkable visions to the New World. The powerful Boston Brahmins at Harvard College are fighting to keep Dante in obscurity, believing that the infiltration of foreign superstitions into American minds will prove as corrupting as the immigrants arriving at Boston Harbor.

The members of the Dante Club fight to keep a sacred literary cause alive, but their plans fall apart when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only this small group of scholars realizes that the gruesome killings are modeled on the descriptions of Hell’s punishments from Dante’s Inferno. With the lives of the Boston elite and Dante’s literary future in America at stake, the Dante Club members must find the killer before the authorities discover their secret.

Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and an outcast police officer named Nicholas Rey, the first black member of the Boston police department, must place their careers on the line to end the terror. Together, they discover that the source of the murders lies closer to home than they ever could have imagined.

Verdict: Keep – Well, if you read the reviews on Goodreads, this one really divides opinions.  Some love it, others hate it.  I’ll give it a chance.

TBR11 Slaughterhouse-FiveSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (added 20th September 2013)

Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Verdict: Remove – This is one of those books that you feel you ‘should’ read.  But I’m going to be honest and say I really don’t feel any strong inclination to do so.


The Result:  5 kept, 5 dumped.  Do you agree with my choices?  Have I dumped any books you would have kept or vice versa?

9 thoughts on “Down the TBR Hole #11

  1. I loved The Testament of Mary so I’m glad you’re keeping that. I’m sorry to see Slaughterhouse-Five go, though. I didn’t expect to enjoy it, but as you say, felt I should read it – and loved it! It’s incredibly powerful and very well-written…

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  2. The Kate Atkinson books are great – I’m glad you’re keeping them! I read The Hurlyburly’s Husband last year and I thought it was entertaining in places, but nothing special. I don’t think you’ll be missing much by removing it.

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