Three Abandoned Books

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

I initially struggled with this book – the Spanish, the swearing and the numerous footnotes all combined to distance me from the characters. I persevered and after about 30 pages I adjusted to the writing style and began to enjoy it. Unfortunately things went downhill after that. The plot moved very slowly (if at all) and I became bored. It seemed like the same old coming-of-age tale that I’d read hundreds of times before, but mixed up with side stories from all sorts of other family members that I struggled to connect with. After about 100 pages I realised I had no interest in finding out what happened next and so I abandoned it.

The Flame Alphabet

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus

Five words from the blurb: epidemic, children, speech, lethal, disappears

The Flame Alphabet was recently selected by Flavorwire as one of the 10 of the Strangest Apocalypses in Literature; I think you’ll struggle to find a weirder premise than this. The book is set in a world where the sound of children is toxic to adults.  One couple, Claire and Sam, become physically unable to live with the speech of their daughter and so decide to abandon her. The plot gets increasingly weird and after 100 pages I could no longer cope and so abandoned it.

The writing was of outstanding quality and there were moments of genius sprinkled throughout the text, but the narrative was disjointed and I became increasingly frustrated by the bizarre plot twists. I think some of the more profound sections of the book went over my head because I do not have a strong knowledge of the Jewish religion.

We endured lurid speculation on what we might be doing in the woods. We were called forest Jews and in the newspapers cartoons depicted what awful work we’d undertaken. The Jew, in these images, sits on a jet of steam that charges him with a special knowledge. God’s air, heated to a vapor, is blown over the mystic. The Jew fits his sticky red mouth over the nozzle and sucks. Into a vein in the Jew’s leg comes the cold, clear liquid.

If you’re willing to put the effort into trying to piece together the complex message of this book then I’m sure you’ll be rewarded, but it was all a bit too much for me. 

Little Women (Oxford World's Classics)

Little Women by Louisa M Alcott

Five words from the blurb: delightful, girls, womanhood, world, romantic

I know that this is a classic, loved by millions, but I’m afraid it annoyed me from the start. It falls into that ‘charming’ category that has me running away screaming!

“How nice my handkerchiefs look, don’t they? Hannah washed and ironed them for me, and I marked them all myself,” said Beth looking proudly at the somewhat uneven letters which had cost her such labor.

I found the girls irritating. Their discussions were childish and shallow and their “problems” were so insignificant that I felt annoyed at having to hear about them.

I abandoned it after about 40 pages.