Read or Reject #5

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?


Sorry by Gail Jones

I loved the beginning of this book. The writing was outstanding – perfectly capturing life in the Australian outback. But after about 80 pages it lost some of its initial momentum and I found that other books called to me more loudly. It has been two weeks since I last picked up this book and as time goes on I’m wondering if I should make the effort to get back into it. Does this book have more to offer than fantastic writing? Will I be surprised and gripped by the plot later in the book?


Pilcrow by Adam Mars-Jones

A few people have been suggesting that Adam Mars-Jones’ latest book, Cedilla, will make the Booker long list this year and so I thought I should try the first book in the series so that I’m not left with two enormous chunksters to get through before the short list is revealed. Once again I fell in love with the writing, but after about 150 pages without any hint of a plot I became frustrated. I need more than random observations about life to keep me entertained, but I suspect that this book isn’t going to provide me with any. Does this book change in style a bit further on?

When the Killing's Done

When the Killing’s Done by TC Boyle

I had been looking forward to reading TC Boyle’s latest book, but I wonder if it is a victim of my high expectations. There were some great sections explaining how the introduction of species to non-native areas has caused havoc, but the fiction elements were disappointing. I didn’t connect with the characters and found the plot weak. I stopped after about 80 pages. Should I persevere?

Time's Arrow

Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis

I had heard amazing things about this book. The central character is a Nazi war criminal and the book tells his story backwards, so that whenever you see him healing someone you know that he actually killed them. Having a book that is able to be read both forwards and backwards is a very clever idea, but the problem was that this book often didn’t make sense when read forwards. I found myself having to read whole sections (especially the conversations) backwards in order to work out what was happening. I guess I’m just frustrated by all these books that try to make reading about the Holocaust palatable. I prefer to read something like The Kindly Ones that tells you exactly what happened without the use of fancy metaphors. Will reading to the end reduce my frustrations with this book?

Other books abandoned recently:

The Book of Human Skin – Michelle Lovric

Repeat it Today with Tears – Anne Peile


21 replies on “Read or Reject #5”

I’ve not read any of these but I think you’ve given them enough pages to get going. It’s quite rare for a book to get suddenly brilliant half way through.

Ellie, I have occasionally found a book to suddenly become gripping after pages of averageness, but agree it is rare. I used to hate abandoning any book for this reason, but hopefully this post will solve that problem.

I’ve not read of these (or even heard of them). But I like this strategy. There have been many books I probably should have abandoned but was afraid I would miss something good!

I tend to be more monotonic about books, pick it up, start it and slog on if it does not seem good. If it gets worse I just give up and take to charity shop, unless I am committed to review it in which case I womanfully struggle on! It is a pain though as there are so many books to read… a pity to waste the time. I have not read these titles you illustrate but have hurled books by Adam M-J and Martin A across the room unfinished before, and vowed never to pick up another one!

Maxine, I think I’ll join you in vowing to avoid AMJ books in future. I think I might try another Amis, but if that is similar then I think I’ll add him to my avoid list too!

I’m a huge Gail Jones fan but I’m afraid I struggled with Sorry when I read it a year or two ago. Like you, whenever I put it down I could not pick it up again. I finished it (I very rarely abandon books in the belief that they just might get better) but it was hard work.

I read Times Arrow about 20 years (!!!) ago and remember enjoying it very much; I’d never read a book like that before and found it quite a profound story about one man’s culpability of horrendous crimes against humanity.

kimbofo, Sorry was my first Gail Jones, but I can see how I could love her other books. Thanks for letting me know that Sorry continues in the same way. I’ll try to find a copy of Five Bells and hope I have better luck with that.

I wonder if I might have enjoyed Times Arrow more when I was younger? I think at that age I might have appreciated the less direct approach.

I couldn’t get beyond the first chapter of the House of Human Skin – shame as if you skip on a bit, it gets more normal dialect-wise.

Pilcrow has been on my TBR pile since the paperback came out too. Everyone seems to have raved about it, so it will remain there for a bit.

Annabel, I didn’t get much further than you did. I skim read a bit, but it did nothing to pull me into the story. Shame as the premise sounded interesting.

I look forward to your thoughts on Pilcrow – I hope you have better luck than I did.

I haven’t read any of these, but I really want to read Time’s Arrow. It’s on my shelf and I had forgotten about it. So I guess I can’t really be of any help, but I will be interested in what you have to say about it if you do finish.

Alyce, I’ve been wanting to read Times Arrow for ages too. It is a shame that it didn’t live up to expectations, but I hope you have more success than I did.

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