Read or Reject? #2

My New Year’s Resolution is to give up on books that aren’t outstanding. I don’t want to miss out on a gem that happens to have a poor beginning, so I hope that you can help me sort the wheat from the chaff.

Should I continue reading any of these books?

Searching for the Secret River by Kate Grenville

Five words from the blurb: Thames, Australia, memoir, writing, generations

I loved The Secret River and so was excited about reading this little book in which Kate Grenville explains the research that she did before writing that amazing piece of historical fiction.

Searching for the Secret River was easy to read and quite interesting, but I found that all the particularly interesting facts had been included in The Secret River and so I felt I was reading things I already knew. The process of research doesn’t really interest me – I much prefer to have all the detail coated in a fantastic plot and acted out by wonderful characters. I suspect that this book might to useful to anyone wanting to learn about researching historical fiction, but I am far more interested in reading the finished product. I gave up after about 70 pages.

And This is True by Emily Mackie

Five words from the blurb: van, father, kiss, unpredictable, love

This book is different! It begins with a son kissing his sleeping father. The sexual desire of a son for his father is something I haven’t read about before, but for some reason this book didn’t quite ring true. I never felt any emotional connection to the characters and although it was packed with graphic descriptions of naked men they didn’t feel realistic. Perhaps I’ve just read too many extreme examples of the male mind recently (eg. The Slap, A Life Apart), but this felt too gentle. My mind kept wandering from the page and so I gave up after around 100 pages.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Five words from the blurb: women, marriage, motherhood, shocking, elegant

I know a lot of people love this book, but I’m afraid that I have a lot of issues with it and thought I’d better stop reading it before it wound me up too much. The flowery language annoyed me straight away and the whinging women quickly drove me mad. I don’t know why I have such a problem reading about these privileged people, but I’m quite pleased that I now have the power to banish them from my reading life. If you enjoy books like The Victorian Chaise-longue or The Yellow Wallpaper then I know you’ll love The Awakening, but I struggled to get through 20 pages of it.

Was I wrong to give up on any of these books?

Is there magic lurking in the final pages?

42 replies on “Read or Reject? #2”

As I haven´t read any of these I have no business commenting but…

I have the WORST time giving up on a book. I´ve only done so twice. One book is Dave Eggers “What is the What”. 5OO plus pages of what I call bible-print and twice i got to page 80 and had no idea what I had just read. It´s still by my bed-side table collecting dust hoping i´ll get back to it , knowing i never will. I´m not a fast reader…(i don´t know how you read an average of 12 books a month!!!!) so it really should be easier for me to give up and save my precious time.
Yes, I know this did´t add to the discussion. Sorry

Ifi, I used to be exactly like you. It is only in the last year that I’ve started abandoning books. It is hard at first, but gets much easier with practice. I now realise that I can spend all that time I would have wasted on books that weren’t exciting me on much more enjoyable books. I urge you to try it – ten minutes after starting a fantastic book you’ll have forgotten about that dull one you just abandoned 🙂

Do you know how The Awakening ends? If you do, you might as well give up on that one. But if you don’t, I wonder if you might find it worthwhile to finish? It’s a short enough book that it won’t be such a big time investment, in case it turns out that I’m wrong. I’m not promising a big twist or amazing revelation, but it is the sort of ending that made me kind of drop the book to my side and stare off into space for a while.

Kathy, Thanks for the advice. I’m afraid that I knew how it ended before I began. Those Amazon reviewers need a good slap because most even have it in the title of their review and so I couldn’t help spotting when I just popped by to get a photo for my sidebar 🙁 I can see why it affects others greatly, but it just is’t for me.

I am of no help. I loved The Awakening but read it so long ago I can’t tell you why or how far you have to read! All I remember is that I still have a positive feeling about it.

I adored The Awakening (which oddly, I thought was refreshingly free of flowery prose…), but I suppose if you’re not feeling it and you know what’s going to happen already, there’s no point in reading it.

I spent the weekend trying out books on my shelves, reading 15 pages of each, and purging. I got rid of nearly 45 books. Very excited about that.

Amanda, You maybe right – perhaps flowery isn’t quite the right word. (I am normally quite tolerant of flowery prose anyway). My problems included an excessive number of long words and over explanations of everything. It verged on flowery, but perhaps didn’t quite make it. Or perhaps I’m just in a funny mood when it comes to these books!

Congratulations on the purge! Perhaps I should make a similar effort – I wish I could get rid of 45 books in one weekend!

I have to agree about the Awakening. It feels whiny and overdone. In addition to the thoroughly depressing ending, what really turned me off of the book was the abstract quality of it all. I seem to remember all of the protagonist’s “awakening” experiences felt very vague. She was unhappy with the way she was, but she didn’t seem to think about what it was that she really wanted. I understand why it was a classic of literature, because it spoke out about the confining nature of women’s roles in 19th century society. All the same I feel like that purpose would have been better accomplished with a story about a woman who awakens, forms a solid life-affirming plan for herself and follows through. Then it would mean something. Otherwise it’s empty.

Bookechoes, It is great to find someone else who agrees with me about this book! I think you’ve explained exactly my problem with them – they are so whiny. I wish they’d be stronger and find a way through their problems. Suicide doesn’t help anyone. 🙁

I just finished the Awakening and I didnt love it. I can see why its a classic and I can see why its important and yes it gave me food for thought, but the story and the characters themselves were boring I though. I think the problem with The Awakening is that its been done quite alot since.

Jessica, It is good to know that you thought it was a bit dull too. I can see why it is a classic, but agree that many other books have done the same thing better since.

I loved The Awakening, but I read it in high school, so I can’t recall the language. I do recall being rather ambivalent about it until the end (which I see you already know). I hope to read it again this year to see if I still love it. As a teenager, I felt as trapped in my world as Edna did in that one, and I loved the character so much. I haven’t read the other two, so I’m of no help there.

I’ve tried to read The Awakening twice, and never got very far. I finally just decided it isn’t the book for me. I simply couldn’t get interested in it. Glad to know I’m not the only one!

First I thought this was The Secret River and I was going to write how great that book was, bladibla. Then I saw that you also loved the book, just not this research book. I can’t help you there, unfortunately.

But we found yet another book that we both loved.

That doesn’t answer your question. But I would love to know how much our reading interests overlap, so I can just read your 5-star books and you mine, and we don’t have to worry too much about reading inferior books. 🙂

Judith, I’ll start working my way through your five star reads and will let you know when I come across one that isn’t fantastic. I’m sure there will be one or two that we disagree on, but it seems as though we have a very strong match in our reading tastes. It is great to have such a reliable source of recommendations!

Previously I have been firm in my determination to never leave a book I’ve begun unread however, more recently I’ve come to the realisation that sometimes you just can’t finish a book. If it doesn’t excite you, draw you in or capture your attention why waste hours trying to enjoy something you can’t. After all that is what reading is about right, enjoyment.

Don’t feel bad if you can’t finish them, we just aren’t meant for certain stories.

Thomas, I don’t think I’ve found a whiny character I like yet – you must have a higher tolerance than I do! I do understand why you love that book though – it just isn’t for me 🙁

I think based on the reasons you have given you were right to stop reading Secrets Jackie. I love both the novel and the Secrets book detailing her research but as I am Australian and live near the area she is talking about I think that gave me a greater connection to that process and I can see how it might not be as interesting to others.

I felt much the same way about The Awakening until I got to the end which made me really like it. I see that you’ve found out the ending already, but maybe reading it will still make it worth the trouble?

I last read it in high school, so I’m actually planning a reread for this year to see if I feel the same way!

She, I have now read the last few pages and can see why it is poignant, but I don’t think I’d gain much from wading though the rest of the book. It may be less than 100 pages long, but that is dense writing and would take a couple of hours. I’m pleased I have a general feel for the book, but I’m afraid it just isn’t for me. Thanks for sticking up for it though 🙂

I hated The Awakening. I’ve read it twice, both times for graduate school classes. Wouldn’t it be great if the professors could all get together once in a while and compare the syllubi, just to avoid forcing us to read the same thing twice.

I hated it both times. Hated it. Hated it. Hated it.

But many people love it. Love it. Love it.

I think you probably know which camp you’re in by page 20.

When my book group chose ‘The Secret River’ one of our number picked up ‘Searching for the Secret River’ by mistake and was put off reading the actual text as a result, so i think you probably did the right thing there. the Chopin is one I’ve always felt I should read, but never got round to. I can’t see me getting much further after what you say.

annie, That is interesting to know. I hope that your book group member found the actual Secret River book later and enjoyed it. SOmetimes you can have too much information about a subject 🙁

I’m definitely of the school of “if you don’t like it, toss it” but I am surprised to see The Awakening here given the reviews I’ve seen over the years. I have not read it myself, but I do have it on my stacks. I loved her short story, “The Story of an Hour,” so I have high hopes for this one, too.

Andi, Most people seem to love The Awakening, so if you enjoyed some of her other short stories then I think the chances of you liking it are good. Enjoy 🙂

Sadly, I have no advice since I haven’t read any of these. But, I agree that there are too many great books out there to waste your time on the ones that are just “so so”.

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