Three Abandoned Books

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The Bronze Horseman

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

Five words from the blurb: Leningrad, sisters, siege, love, spirit

A few years ago I read The Siege, an amazing book about the siege of Leningrad. At the time a few people suggested that The Bronze Horseman was even better. I struggled to believe that anything could top the perfection of Helen Dunmore’s book, but I was curious enough to give it a try. Unfortunately I was right. The two books are very different in style and if you prefer lighter reads, focusing on romance, you’re sure to love The Bronze Horseman. 

The book started well, with the introduction of a family living in Leningrad. All the characters were well defined and the two teenage girls, Tatiana and Dasha, were immediately engaging. Unfortunately as the book progressed I became increasingly frustrated with it. The war seemed more like a convenient plot device, capable of removing people from each other at exactly the right moment, than the serious subject it should have been. The plot focused on romance and I felt the horrors of war were glossed over. After about 100 pages I realised that I no longer cared what happened to the characters and I abandoned it.

Recommended to fans of light romance novels.

 

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Five words from the blurb: family, America, heartbreak, fate, together

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie has been getting a lot of positive press recently. Oprah is a big fan and positive reviews are everywhere. Unfortunately I found the book too fragmented and so abandoned it after about 80 pages.

The book centres on Hattie, a black woman who migrates to Philadelphia in the hope of a better life. Hattie is just a teenager when she gives birth to twins and battles to keep them alive. Each subsequent chapter is then told from the view point her other 9 children. This means that the book feels more like a collection of short stories and, apart from the occasional mention of Hattie, there was nothing to link the chapters to each other. I found it impossible to connect with the large number of characters and there was no momentum to carry the story forward.

The first chapter was outstanding, but I’m afraid the rest of the book was unable to live up to this early promise.

Recommended to those who enjoy short stories.

 

Herzog

Herzog by Saul Bellow

Five words from the blurb: mind, thoughts, raging, letters, survive

Herzog has been mentioned in the press a few times in recent months as it is being recommended as a treatment for depression. I happened to own a copy (mainly because I liked the title!) and so decided to give it a try.

Herzog is in his early sixties when his second marriage breaks down. In an effort to cope he decides to write letters (most of which he never sends) to a large number of people, both living and dead.

He was an interesting character, but after a while I found his letter writing tedious. His confused, meandering thoughts bored me and there wasn’t enough plot to entertain me. I can see why this is a classic, but it was too slow for me.

Recommended to those who like bleak books without a plot.

Have you read any of these books?

Did you enjoy them more than I did?

 

 


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26 Comments

  1. Shan says:

    I liked the way Twelve Tribes of Hattie was written, like you said it’s good for people who like short stories, because I kind of treated it that way. Opposite of a lot of people, I found the book started out a bit slow for me but really picked up.

    1. Jackie says:

      Shan, “I found the book started out a bit slow for me but really picked up.” Really? I thought that first chapter was amazing, but then I found myself comparing everything else to that emotional scene and being disappointed. It is amazing how we all read the same book in different ways.

  2. I, too, loved The Siege and was intrigued by The Bronze Horseman, but I fear I’d react as you did, so I’ll avoid that one. I managed to finish The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, but I did find it disjointed. I liked several of the chapters but several were underwhelming. After I finished, I read that Mathis didn’t write them in order and in fact debated which order to publish them in. I loved the idea, but the execution left me wanting more.

    1. Jackie says:

      Carrie, It is good to know you share some of my thoughts. I can believe that the chapters weren’t written in a linear fashion – I think it shows :-( If only I enjoyed short stories, I might have had better luck with it.

  3. stujallen says:

    I ve read the Bellow but was a long time ago can’t see why it is mention in those piece always struck me as strange ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I don’t know why it is seen as a cure for depression either – perhaps I should have read to the end!

  4. Sandy says:

    I have a dark, twisted kind of glee that you DNF’d an Oprah book. Everyone seems to think her books are always so perfect.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, In that case you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve abandoned quite a few Oprah books in my time :-)

  5. Emma says:

    I’m amazed you didn’t finish 12 Tribes of Hattie….I’m reading it now, 20 pages from the end, and I’m in love with it! It’s superbly written and I do feel that the quality of writing in that amazing first chapter does carry through to the rest of the book. I read loads of reviews before reading it on the fragmented prose style, and how it jumps around a lot, but I really haven’t had a problem with it. It’s easy to connect it all back to Hattie, and I feel so much for her through her children.

    Anyway, I love it, and would definitely recommend it :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Emma, It is good to see such passion for a book :-) I agree that the writing quality is fantastic throughout. It is a shame I couldn’t connect with it as much as other people seem to have done.

  6. Ah, three more abandoned books! I can easily imagine that Paullina Simmons isn’t your kind of thing. I read Eleven Hours by her which I enjoyed, but I don’t think it’s your kind of thing.

    I had great hopes of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, but reading your reasons for not finishing it, I fear I might not like it either. I don’t much enjoy stories with nothing to link them up. What a pity!

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, You might enjoy Hattie more than I did. Apparently the stories join up a bit more at the end. Shame I was so frustrated I didn’t want to put the effort into finding out. :-(

  7. David says:

    I haven’t got around to ‘Hattie’ yet, but structurally it sounds remarkably similar to Hanna Pylväinen’s ‘We Sinners’, another American debut from last year. That also was told in short story-like chapters, each from the point of view of a different member of a large family (two parents and nine children). Still, I like short stories, so that aspect of it appeals to me.

    1. Jackie says:

      David, Yes. I think you’ll enjoy Hattie more than I did. The writing is of very good quality and I think that will be enough to engage you.

    2. Jackie says:

      David, Yes. I think you’ll enjoy Hattie more than I did. The writing is of very good quality and I think that will be enough to engage you. Enjoy!

  8. Laurie C says:

    I don’t think I’ve read any of these, although it’s possible I tried and abandoned Herzog when I was younger. I loved your summing-up of each title, especially “Recommended to those who like bleak books without a plot.” :D

    1. Jackie says:

      Laurie, I love bleak books with a plot so there must be lots of people out there who enjoy bleak books without them! Glad you like my summaries. :-)

  9. Sorry Twelve Tribes of Hattie didn’t work well for you. I can’t say I loved it, but was glad I read it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane, The fact that there isn’t universal love for the book makes me feel a little bit better. Glad you enjoyed it more than I did.

  10. Charlie says:

    I think I see now why the Simons was on your sidebar for so long (the cover looked lovely so I was drawn to it when I visited). It’s all well and good to have other stories amongst the history, but especially when it comes to war you don’t want it to become less important. I had this issue recently, and although the book was bad for other reasons as well, it made me wonder what point there was in using such a backdrop.

    1. Jackie says:

      Charlie, Yes. Sorry it lingered on my sidebar for so long. It was a combination of the length putting me off at first and then my inner debate about whether or not to abandon it. Hopefully I’ll have a better flow of books in future.

  11. Ifi says:

    I must say, I do enjoy your DNF entries. Always curious to see why and where you stopped in a book. Herzog…was never on my reading list. Hattie sounded off-putting when Oprah introduced it!!! Not really a fan of her choice of books. I’ve had enough of reading about the plight of black Americans in the deep south and don’t like short stories either.

    1. Jackie says:

      Ifi, I do think negative reviews/DNF ones are very helpful and I often buy books based on them. Glad you’re finding mine interesting.

  12. Athira says:

    I did finish The Twelve Tribes of Hattie but I felt the same as you did – it was too disjointed and there didn’t feel like much there was much of a thread linking them. Even as a book of short stories, I don’t think it delivered well. One thing I liked about the book was the passage of time and culture from story to story.

    1. Jackie says:

      Athira, Glad you know I’m not alone in my thoughts of this one. :-)

  13. Bellezza says:

    All I have to hear is “Oprah is a big fan” and I know I won’t like the book. Just sayin’…her opinions on books are never mine, perhaps because death and despair seem to be her favorite themes.

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