Spring Cleaning: Should I Take These Books Off My TBR List?

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is a “Spring Cleaning Freebie” which seemed like a good opportunity to clean my TBR list a bit. The following are all books I was interested in reading but I haven’t gotten to them yet, and they have the lowest ratings on my TBR list on Goodreads. Most of them are award winners or nominees so I’d like to give them a chance. Have you read any of these, and do you recommend them?

A Separation by Katie Kitamura (2017). Description from Goodreads: A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it’s time for them to separate. For the moment it’s a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go and search for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she’s not even sure if she wants to find him. Adrift in the wild landscape, she traces the disintegration of their relationship, and discovers she understands less than she thought about the man she used to love.

We That Are Left by Clare Clark (2015). Description from Goodreads: 1910. Jessica and Phyllis Melville have grown up at Ellinghurst, a family estate fraught with secrets. A headstrong beauty, Jessica longs for London — the glitter and glamour of debutante life — while bookish Phyllis dreams in vain of attending university. Into their midst walks Oskar Grunewald, a frequent visitor fascinated by the house but alternately tormented and ignored by the Melville children. Oskar seeks refuge in Ellinghurst’s enormous library.  Meanwhile Theo, the adored Melville brother, eclipses everyone around him. The Great War arrives to devastate and reshape their world. In a country unrecognizable from the idylls of their youth, the Melville sisters struggle to forge new paths without the guidance of the old rules. But Oskar’s life has become entwined with theirs once again, in ways—both immediate and unimaginable– that will change all of their futures.

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (2018). Description from Goodreads: The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Virgin Suicides in this dystopic feminist revenge fantasy about three sisters on an isolated island, raised to fear men. King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has laid the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or viewed from another angle: Not safe to leave. Here women are protected from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland. The cult-like rituals and therapies they endure fortify them from the spreading toxicity of a degrading world. But when their father, the only man they’ve ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day three strange men wash ashore. Over the span of one blistering hot week, a psychological cat-and-mouse game plays out. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent. Can they survive the men?

First Love by Gwendoline Riley (Women’s Prize shortlist 2017). Description from Goodreads: From “one of Britain’s most original young writers” (The Observer), a blistering account of a marriage in crisis and a portrait of a woman caught between withdrawal and self-assertion, depression and rage. Neve, the novel’s acutely intelligent narrator, is beset by financial anxiety and isolation, but can’t quite manage to extricate herself from her volatile partner, Edwyn. Told with emotional remove and bracing clarity, First Love is an account of the relationship between two catastrophically ill-suited people walking a precarious line between relative calm and explosive confrontation.

Little Deaths by Emma Flint (Women’s Prize longlist 2017): Description from Goodreads: Inspired by a true story, Little Deaths, like celebrated novels by Sarah Waters and Megan Abbott, is compelling literary crime fiction that explores the capacity for good and evil in us all. It’s 1965 in a tight-knit working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, and Ruth Malone – a single mother who works long hours as a cocktail waitress – wakes to discover her two small children, Frankie Jr. and Cindy, have gone missing. Later that day, Cindy’s body is found in a derelict lot a half mile from her home, strangled. Ten days later, Frankie Jr.’s decomposing body is found. Immediately, all fingers point to Ruth.

Ordinary People by Diana Evans (Women’s Prize longlist 2018). Description from Goodreads: In a crooked house in South London, Melissa feels increasingly that she’s defined solely by motherhood, while Michael mourns the former thrill of their romance. In the suburbs, Stephanie’s aspirations for bliss on the commuter belt, coupled with her white middle-class upbringing, compound Damian’s itch for a bigger life catalyzed by the death of his activist father. Longtime friends from the years when passion seemed permanent, the couples have stayed in touch, gathering for births and anniversaries, bonding over discussions of politics, race, and art. But as bonds fray, the lines once clearly marked by wedding bands aren’t so simply defined. Ordinary People is a moving examination of identity and parenthood, sex and grief, and the fragile architecture of love. 

Little Gods by Jenny Ackland (Stella Prize shortlist 2018). Description from Goodreads: The setting is the Mallee, wide flat scrubland in north-western Victoria, country where men are bred quiet, women stoic and the gothic is never far away. Olive Lovelock has just turned twelve. She is smart, fanciful and brave and on the cusp of something darker than the small world she has known her entire life. When she learns that she once had a baby sister who died — a child unacknowledged by her close but challenging family — Olive becomes convinced it was murder. Her obsession with the mystery and relentless quest to find out what happened have seismic repercussions for the rest of her family and their community. As everything starts to change it is Olive herself who has the most to lose as the secrets she unearths multiply and take on complicated lives of their own.

Brick Lane by Monica Ali (Booker Prize nominee 2003). Description from Goodreads: A captivating read from a debut novelist, Brick Lane brings the immigrant milieu of East London to vibrant life. With great poignancy, Ali illuminates a foreign world; her well-developed characters pull readers along on a deeply psychological, almost spiritual journey. Through the eyes of two Bangladeshi sisters—the plain Nazneen and the prettier Hasina—we see the divergent paths of the contemporary descendants of an ancient culture. Hasina elopes to a “love marriage,” and young Nazneen, in an arranged marriage, is pledged to a much older man living in London.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (Booker Prize 2005). Description from Goodreads: In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas lives an embittered judge who wants only to retire in peace, when his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep. The judge’s cook watches over her distractedly, for his thoughts are often on his son, Biju, who is hopscotching from one gritty New York restaurant to another. Kiran Desai’s brilliant novel, published to huge acclaim, is a story of joy and despair. Her characters face numerous choices that majestically illuminate the consequences of colonialism as it collides with the modern world. 

The Gathering by Anne Enright (Booker Prize 2007): a moving, evocative portrait of a large Irish family and a shot of fresh blood into the Irish literary tradition, combining the lyricism of the old with the shock of the new. The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him—something that happened in their grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations her distinctive intelligence twists the world a fraction and gives it back to us in a new and unforgettable light. The Gathering is a daring, witty, and insightful family epic, clarified through Anne Enright’s unblinking eye. It is a novel about love and disappointment, about how memories warp and secrets fester, and how fate is written in the body, not in the stars.

Those are ten books to keep or clear off my TBR list. Let me know what you think I should do. Happy Tuesday!

  25 comments for “Spring Cleaning: Should I Take These Books Off My TBR List?

  1. March 9, 2021 at 8:05 am

    I remember reading and enjoying both Inheritance of Loss and Brick Lane.

    • March 9, 2021 at 7:21 pm

      Thanks Deb, several people have mentioned liking Brick Lane, so I’ll definitely give it a read.

  2. March 9, 2021 at 8:21 am

    I absolutely loved The Water Cure but I know it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s very quiet and leaves you with more questions than answers. A strange book but it has stayed with me!

    • March 9, 2021 at 7:20 pm

      That’s good to know about The Water Cure – I know we have similar tastes, and I like a book that leaves me with questions. Thanks!

  3. March 9, 2021 at 9:31 am

    I really enjoyed Brick Lane and would say it’s definitely worth a read. The only other one I’ve read is The Inheritance of Loss which was an okay read but didn’t really grab me.

    • March 9, 2021 at 7:19 pm

      I’m hearing a lot of good things about Brick Lane, thanks for sharing!

  4. lydiaschoch
    March 9, 2021 at 11:05 am

    I hope you get a lot of good advice! I haven’t read any of these books yet.

    My post: https://lydiaschoch.com/top-ten-tuesday-books-about-fresh-starts/

    • March 9, 2021 at 7:19 pm

      Thanks for visiting, and happy Tuesday!

  5. March 9, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    I haven’t read any of these, so I can’t help you! Good luck deciding which to read and which to pass on. It can be super tough to make those choices sometimes.

    Happy TTT!


    • March 9, 2021 at 7:18 pm

      Thanks for visiting, and happy Tuesday!

  6. March 9, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    The only one of these I’ve read is Little Deaths, which I really hated but almost everyone else in blogging land loved. Brick Lane is on my TBR as well.

    • March 9, 2021 at 7:18 pm

      Sorry to hear you didn’t like that one! I find a lot of the Women’s Prize nominees are love or hate for me. I’ll keep in mind that a lot of people loved it! Thanks for the comment.

  7. March 10, 2021 at 7:03 am

    I can’t tell you anything about any of these. I’m reading Actress by Anne Enright now and it’s okay. I would not necessarily pick up another book by her but I think many readers loved The Gathering, it may be better.

    • March 10, 2021 at 4:38 pm

      I find it hard to give up on the award winners! Though today we have the latest longlist from the Women’s Prize, and of course I won’t get to all of them. I will give The Gathering a try at least.

  8. March 10, 2021 at 9:57 am

    I haven’t heard of most of these books although I do have The Water Cure on my TBR too! I was so excited to give that one a try but still haven’t touched it yet 🙈 It’s so hard to get rid of books even when you haven’t looked at or picked them up since you bought and shelved them! Lol

    • March 11, 2021 at 6:28 pm

      The Water Cure sounds like an unusual book that’s worth a try. I do have a lot of books sitting on my shelf I need to read, or maybe I’ll just donate them.

  9. March 10, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    I haven’t read any of these books. I’m interested in Little Gods now though!

    • March 11, 2021 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Crystal! Little Gods does sound really good, doesn’t it. I haven’t read a lot of Stella Prize nominees but would like to read more.

  10. March 11, 2021 at 4:41 am

    Brick Lane and Inheritance of Loss are the ones I’d root for!

    • March 11, 2021 at 6:28 pm

      Thanks Liz, for the recommendation! You are not alone in recommending those two.

  11. A.
    March 15, 2021 at 5:07 am

    First Love sounds like a book that I would enjoy!

  12. March 17, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    Good list here, I read and loved the Water Cure but feel like I was in the minority there. Also read Little Deaths which was okay, but not particularly memorable. Happy reading!

  13. March 20, 2021 at 11:14 am

    Liked The Water Cure and Little Deaths. I’ve read Brick Lane and Gathering a long time ago, pretty good.

    • March 20, 2021 at 3:16 pm

      Thanks for the recommendations! I’m looking forward to reading Water Cure.

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