Do you remember, when you were younger and were always told to finish your food? So, whether or not you liked the food, you felt compelled to clear your plate. This attitude has followed me on my reading journey. Sometimes, I tend not to know when to give up on a book. Once I started to read a book, I felt obliged to complete it.
But, I have now decided that life is too short to waste on a book that is not taking me anywhere. With that in mind, I now quickly decide if I intend to go the long haul with a particular book.
Occasionally, I give the book the benefit of the doubt that it will pick up so I have strayed past the first chapter, hanging on with the hope that it will pick up momentum.
Here are a few books I started but did not finish.
We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
I heard so much about this book when it was published and watched an interview between the author and the famous literary presenter, Mariella Fostrup. The title was quite catchy and I would often quote it by replacing ‘Kevin’ with someone else’s name.
The epistolary technique placed me in the narrator’s mind. However, this technique caused the language to come across as long-winded. I suppose it is difficult to write in 1st person and Shriver used this technique to give a background to the issues. I did something which I do not particularly like to do when reading a book, and that is going to the internet and read about it. But I needed to know whether my loyalty was due. Through my internet search, I discovered the book was about a young boy who went on a killing spree at his school. That put me off. I don’t watch or read these types of books. So, since my opinion on the failing writing technique, it was also the theme that dissuaded me, Or, if I am being honest, what scared me.
Three Strong Women by Marie Ndiaye
Publisher Ediions Gallimard 2009
This book won the 2009 Prix Goncourt, which is France’s most prestigious literary award. Prior to my attempt at reading this book, it had a permanent place on my bookshelf for well over three years.
The novel is a history of three women, Norah, Fanta and Khady, who reject humiliation and embrace life. The unifying theme is that they are threatened or abandoned by men. However, the first paragraph came across as being too much talk …so back to the shelf it went.
Then one day I was desperate for a book to read and going through the bookshelf it popped out at me.
‘I am a strong woman,’ I thought. I’ll give this one a 2nd chance.’
So I waded through the previously conundrum of a first chapter and found it quite interesting. The main character Norah does a lot of inner thinking. But it didn’t get me hooked.
This is another book which I put down in favour of another book. I accidentally walked into our local library and saw a book which I had wanted to read for quite a while. So put this on the bookshelf. It had been there for quite a so I feel that it would feel quite at home if it returned there.
Swing Out by Zadie Smith
I started reading this book for two reasons.
The first was that when I visited various bookshops it always seemed to be in my face.
The second, I thought that I should give Zadie another go, as I had read her book White Teeth. I can honestly say that I persevered with Swing Time. However, I knew it was time to throw down the gauntlet when I was about to renew the book at the library for the 2nd time and I had not even reached halfway.
The short chapters gave the feeling that the story was piecemeal. This style helped her avoid rambling on without a break. Her writing has a sense of depth but, after reading a chapter, you concluded that she had not moved the story forward. She had said a lot, but she did not progress the story forward. The story is about two girls. Tracey and the protagonist. No matter how long I read I did not seem to come to an inciting incident.
I tried with Swing Time, but I was just looking for something which was not forthcoming.
So, I took it back to the library. And I did not renew it.
Sellout by Paul Beatty
This was the 2016 winner of the Man Booker Prize. I am a sucker for award-winning books.
Sellout is about a protagonist who grows watermelons and artisanal marijuana.
When I picked up this book from the library the first few lines of the prologue intrigued me. I started reading and realised that this book had the longest prologue I had ever come across. Between you and me, I skipped the prologue with the excuse that who reads the prologue of a book.
I was tempted in giving up on this book much earlier than I did, but the reason I preserved was I understood the psychological terms which Beatty was referring to.
However, to the lame mind, this reel of Psychologists and psychological theories would be a minefield. If I needed a lecture on psychology I would have retrieved my old university notes. and no aim o get my information from a work of fiction. his technique
If Beatty has a story to tell, then, as well as telling the story, the focus should be paid to how the story is told.
This can make a big difference
So, these are four books that I believe I should not have attempted to read. I may be wrong and they may be quite excellent works of art. If they are, please let me know.
Watch this space and I will come up with more books which I should not have attempted to read