Three Abandoned Books

Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Five words from the blurb: wife, disappears, police, suspect, secrets

Gone Girl seems to be the most popular book in the blogging world this year. I’ve seen raving reviews everywhere and so decided to see what everyone was getting so excited about.

Gone Girl is narrated by an American couple, Amy and Nick. On the surface they appear to be normal, but Amy goes missing on their 5th anniversary and Nick becomes the prime suspect. Amy’s sections are in the form of extracts from her diary; whilst Nick’s chapters focus on the present day.

My main problem was that I found Amy extremely irritating. She was over excited about everything and very spoilt. I found her enthusiasm draining and her “problems” laughable. Poor girl had her trust fund reduced to $100,000 and could only afford to rent a massive house instead of buying one outright.

Their annoying back-story seemed to go on forever, with very little plot development. I became bored and so at p80 I asked Twitter when this book picked up. I was informed that everything got going at p212 so I skipped straight there and was surprised by the events of that page. Unfortunately the excitement didn’t help with my main problems and I quickly lost interest again. I skim read the rest of the book, focusing on the pages Twitter people told me were good. I’ve now read all the major twists and was mildly impressed by their original and surprising nature, but I found all the in-between bits dull/irritating. I seem to be in the minority though, so go ahead and give it a try – you’ll probably love it as much as everyone else.

The White Lie

The White Lie by Andrea Gillies (audio book)

Five words from the blurb: Scottish, family, loch, killed, grave

I first came across The White Lie whilst researching contenders for the Orange Prize. This book had an impressive number of 5 star reviews on Amazon and a range of glowing quotes from famous authors. The overwhelming positive response led me to seek it out and as my library only had an audio book available I settled for that. Unfortunately that might not have been the best format and may have contributed to my disappointing response.

The White Lie is set in a remote Scottish community and is narrated by a man who drowned in the local loch. The exact circumstances of his death remain a mystery, with the truth slowly revealing itself over the course of the book.

The White Lie was wonderfully atmospheric, perfectly capturing the isolated community. Unfortunately the pace of the book was very slow. I know that some people love meandering stories with numerous tangents, but I craved some forward momentum.

I also found that there were too many characters and they weren’t developed enough for me to differentiate between them all. The narrators (from the text and the audio book) lacked enthusiasm and I failed to warm to them. This meant that I didn’t really care what happened next and I eventually abandoned the book after 2 discs.

Recommended to those who enjoy quiet, atmospheric books about family relationships.


PhilidaLonglisted for 2012 Booker Prize

Philida by Andre Brink

Five words from the blurb: slave, Cape Town, family, freedom, journey

Philida is set in Cape Town during 1832, a turbulent time during which slavery was coming to an end. The book focuses on a Philida, a strong woman who is determined to gain freedom for herself and her children.

The premise of the story was great, especially as it covered a period of history I was unfamiliar with. Unfortunately I didn’t like the style of the book. There were too many narrators, giving the book a disjointed feel and making it difficult for me to connect with any of the characters.

The writing was fantastic, but some of the scenes were distressing due to the vivid descriptions of events:

I was nine, remember – sobbing snot and tears because our feet are bleeding and the Oubaas refuse to stop or rest except for a few hours’ sleeping at night, he is always right there beside you or behind you on the big black stallion, the riding crop in his hand to spur you on whenever he think you are malingering, bleeding welts on your back and your dusty bare buttocks, nine years old, and at that time there’s some even younger children walking too, all the way.

This is normally the sort of book I’d love, but it failed to hold my attention. There was no narrative thread to drive the story forward and I found it increasingly difficult to pick up once I’d stopped reading. I also became frustrated by the excessive references to penises.

This book may well come together in the end, but I wasn’t engaged enough to want to invest that much time finding out. I gave up after about 80 pages.


34 replies on “Three Abandoned Books”

I’ve sampled both ‘The White Lie’ and ‘Philida’ and whilst I haven’t abandoned them (hardly really started them) I have put both back on the TBR pile for another time. For whatever reason I just failed to engage with either at the times I tried them, though they both seem promising.
As you point out, ‘The White Lie’ introduces far too many characters in its opening few pages and expects you to keep track of who all these people are in relation to each other. Loved the first chapter of ‘Philida’ and found her voice wonderful, but the second voice just didn’t hold my interest as much. But I’ll probably return to both when I’m in the right mood for them. I do that quite often – for instance, I picked up and put down after a few pages ‘The Deadman’s Pedal’ on a couple of occasions, completely unable to get into it, before one day it finally felt like the right book (and turned out to be one of my favourites of the year so far).

David, The only time I’ve managed to go back to a book and enjoy it is when a large number of years have passed and I’m reading it in a different stage of my life. I’d be interested to know if you do enjoy either of these books at a second sitting, but both lacked that emotional connection I need to fall for a book. I highlighted them in this post as I can see the quality and I’m sure they will appeal to people with a different taste in books. Good luck with your secong attempts!

Oh dear, that is sad. I would completely agree with you…both characters of Gone Girl are annoying as hell. I HATED both of them! But as the book progresses, it just gets more and more twisted (the twist at page 212 is just the tip of the iceberg). To the point where you put the book down and say “how in God’s name did Flynn come UP with this stuff?”. It was a fun, mind-blowing read. If you get in a tolerant mood, and make peace with the idea of hating these two characters, you should keep reading!

Sandy, I’ve read enough to know all the twists in the book and do appreciate Flynn’s imagination, but I’m afraid I couldn’t tolerate those characters – I wanted to slap them both! Perhaps having exposure to young people would build up your resistance to their language, but I found their dialogue and attitudes unbearable. What an old fuddy duddy I am!

I agree with your Gone Girl irritations and while I rated it higher than you probably would have, based alone on the imagination of the author, I found almost everyone in the book (save margo) completely annoying. I skipped to the end because I just was so overwhelmed with the crazy back story and the who really cares of it all that I settled for that.

Erin, I seem to have a strange aversion to rich characters – especially those who don’t realise how lucky they are. I’m going to try to stick to reading about poor people now! Glad to know I’m not alone in my thoughts.

Actually, I felt it moved pretty quickly throughout the book. I loved it! But it’s definitely not for everyone. Give it a try, but I’d say if it doesn’t grab you within 50 pages or so, so don’t force yourself.

For one reason or the other seeing Gone Girl among your DNF made me laugh out loud. Like you I have only seen rave reviews and your comments were sort of refreshing. I’m still a bit tempted to read it though.
As for the others…not so sure. Sometimes I love slow stories at the moment not so much.

Carolin, I’d love to know your thoughts on Gone Girl – I suspect they might be negative in a different way to mine (complaints about poor writing quality?) but it would give me more insight into your reading preferences – go for it!

I’m basically with Sandy on Gone Girl, though she liked it much more than I did. I don’t mind annoying characters now and then as long as the book is good. I’d put Gone Girl in the excellent airplane read category. The twists went too far in my view, beyond what I could believe.

I lot Andre Brink’s novel A Dry White Season, but I’ve never been able to finish anything else by him. I’ve not tried the one you mention above, and probably won’t. But everyone should read A Dry White Season.

cbjames, I don’t mind annoying characters if there is something else to fall back on. Unfortunately the pace of the book was too slow, the writing wasn’t amazing and the plot was too far fetched…I do like some lighter books for public transport etc, but this wasn’t one of them. 🙁

On a positive note. Thanks for letting me know about A Dry White Season – I’ll keep an eye out for a copy.

I have been in the habit lately of disagreeing with the books everyone loves most so I’m not going to be running out for Gone Girl even thoguh so many people have told me to read it. If I get round to it later, I might not expect so much. I would rather be pleasantly surprised by a book than start with too high expectations 🙂

Ellie, I’m normally the one who goes against the crowd. The problem is that sometimes I love the books everyone else does (eg. The Hunger Games) and sometimes I don’t. I can never work it out in advance. Hopefully I’ll enjoy the next popular book a bit more.

You know, I’ve been looking at Gone Girl but I couldn’t make up my mind whether to read it or not. People either liked it a lot or hated it. But I couldn’t figure out why people did not like it… yours is the first explanation and that is good enough for me. I can’t stand annoying protagonists (or too many narrators for that matter… The Boy in the Suitecase suffers from that sypmtom too). Too bad these three did not work out for you!

Chinoiseries, I’m glad I was able to help you make an informed decision. I’m afraid I don’t have much tolerance for rich whingers and the plot was too slow for me, but I do seem to be in the minority. You may end up enjoying it one day.

I wonder, if you didn’t like Gone Girl, will I? I heard so much good about it, that I can’t help but think I’d like it. Now, I’m not sure…

The White Lie sounds like a wonderful book, but if it goes off on tangents I’m not too keen either.

Judith, I think you may like it, but I’m not sure. The build up is slow and the two main characters are very annoying. Also depends on how realistic you like your books to be. I’m afraid in this case I can’t predict whether or not you’ll enjoy it. I guess you’ll just have to give it a try.

I just finished Gone Girl and will say that I was definitely disappointed. Every review I saw raved at the originality and the writing. I found it a little too raunchy for my taste, and while I’m not a prude, I just felt it was forced and awkward.
I’ll admit that each turn of events completely surprised me, but I still didn’t think it was the thriller of the year. I’ve seen a lot of reviewers compare Flynn to Tana French and I just didn’t see it aside from the fact that they’re considered in the same genre. I’m a fan of French and her writing, so it may be a bias.

Beth, I’m a fan of Tana French and I can’t see the similarity either. Tana French has a much higher quality of writing, more atmospheric descriptions and charcters that aren’t so immature/annoying! I guess they both could be described as having unlikely plot twists though. Glad I’m not alone in not falling for this book.

I have up on Gone Girl even more quickly than you. There was nothing there to make me care about what might happen. The White Lie also fell by the wayside, but that one might have been right-book-wrong-time and I will give it a second chance.

FleurFisher, I would have given up on Gone Girl a lot earlier if it hadn’t been for the massive number of rave reviews. Next time I’ll try to trust my instincts a bit more.

I can see The White Lie being your sort of book. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to pick it up again.

Wow … I’m surprised about your reaction to Gone Girl. I mean, it isn’t great literature or anythign but it was a fun type of cat and mouse game they were playing. Oh well, you are not alone. I know a few others who havne’t liked it .

Jenners, I know most people love it. Perhaps I’d have got on better if the twists had begun earlier in the book? Shame I didn’t enjoy it, but we can’t love them all 🙁

I enjoyed Gone Girl quite a bit but I definitely didn’t like Amy at all. She was just too nagging, expecting everyone to bow down to her. Her personality would definitely freak me out if I came across it.

Athira, I’m so pleased I don’t know anyone like Amy! Shame she annoyed me so much that I couldn’t even bear to read her conversations – you are far more tolerant than me 🙂

Despite all the praise the synopsis for Gone Girl has never grabbed me.

For the first time ever last night I gave up reading a book I had accepted for review – goes completely against my personality type, but I will get use to it I suppose. There are far too many good books out there to spend precious time reading something that is not working for you.

Jo, Congratulations on abandoning your first book! It gets easier with practise and will enable you to spend far more time on the books you love. Good luck with it!

“A range of glowing quotes from famous authors” – having read recently that those are written mostly by friends and people who haven’t read the book, I no longer trust them. They really are often too good to be true.

The quote you provided from Philida sounds very much in the vein of non-fiction accounts. It is very distressing, as you say, but also important that we read them. A pity if the story itself didn’t work.

Charlie, Such a shame that not all author quotes can be trusted. I’m beginning to learn which authors praise anything and which ones are a little more selective.

I started and abandoned an Andre brink book. I can’t even remember the title but it was so bad I remember his name and have a mental note to not read anything of his again!

I’ve seen so many positive reviews of Gone Girl, but I’m about 99 percent sure that it’s not my thing. It could surprise me, but I just have so many other books that I want to read that I haven’t made time for it. I’ve considered it several times though, just because of all the hype.

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