I ended last year with the feeling that I had started but not finished almost as many books as I had read from cover to cover. This was an exaggeration of course, it was less than half that number. Not that any of the books were badly written, it was simply that they failed to engage me enough to want to continue reading. If I am not hooked by page 50, or I am happy to go to bed without my nightly reading fix, it is time to give up on a book. Time is much too short and there are far too many good books out there to spend time plodding through something I am not enjoying.
There are so many reasons why I do not get drawn into the world created by they author. On rare occasions, even though the writing is brilliant, I can find it hard to continue with a particular book. With Days without End by Sebastian Barry, read this year, I found the squalour and violence almost too much. I persisted in great part because of the beauty and lyricism of Barry’s writing and the fact that it had won the 2017 Walter Scott prize. With writers who have not Barry’s brilliance, I will give up. If I want to read of the horrors of the past, my preference is non-fiction where they do not get to inhabit my imagination so totally and intimately. I did not realize when I started The Story of the Lost Child by by Elena Ferrant that it was the fourth book in a series. I felt that to do it justice I needed to read the first three, something I did not have time for at that point. I have in the past gorged myself on fictionalized tales of Tudor persons of note, to the point where now the storytelling would have to be of Sebastian Barry’s brilliance for me to even pick one up. Yet, strangely, I love reading stories centred on imagined people in this same period provided they are not servants or companions of said persons of note. Then there are books where the premise just doesn’t work for me. I was told that The Bees by Laline Paull was brilliant but I couldn’t get past the fact that they were bees! My father had a similar problem with Lord of the Rings. I knew it was the sort of heroic tale he loved but he couldn’t see past the hobbits’ hairy feet. Most often the reason I fail to be drawn into a story is simply that I am not in the right frame of mind to read it. On the list below of books I didn’t finish, there are at least two books that, after reading the reviews again, need to go back onto my long, long To Be Read pile.
In no particular order, the books I tried but didn’t finish –
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
The Power of Darkness Edith Nesbit
Turning the Stones by Debra Daley
A Strangeness in my Mind by Orhan Pamuk
The Woman in Black : Angel of Death by Martyn Waites
The Blade Artist by Irvine Welsh
The Marriage Game : A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I by Alison Weir
Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
Out of Ireland by Christopher Koch
The Proud Servant by Margaret Irwin
The Confession of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
Outline by Rachel Cusk
The Bees by Laline Paull
Three Brothers by Peter Ackroyd
The Port Fairy Murders by Robert Gott
5 thoughts on “Books I Didn’t Finish”
I’m so glad I’m not alone when it comes to Midnight’s Children! And I’m of the same mind as your father as far as Hobbit-related literature.
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I am ashamed to say that I have never managed to finish any of Salman Rushdie’s books. Every so often I think I should at least read The Satanic Verses (the book that made me throw out my Cat Stevens’ records when he came out in favour of the fatwa) but I suspect, with so much else to read, the time has passed.
It took me many, many attempts to finish Lord of the Rings. Only the fact that it was cultural bedrock for modern fantasy made me persevere.
There are many books on my goodreads ‘currently reading’ shelf that really ought to be on a list like yours.
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I remember it was a slow read but no where near as slow as Ulysses by James Joyce which I read because I thought I should.
Some of the books I have the most difficulty with these days are those where the author is being far too clever such as Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake (some sort of phonetic hybrid language) and the Booker Longlisted Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (one single sentence). I am waiting for the audio book for these (the only way I will ‘read’ anything by Will Self).
The Wake is one of the ones I’ve part read. I enjoyed it, but it took more mental effort than was strictly necessary.
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