Tuesday, July 31, 2007

When Do You Give Up . . .



. . . on a book? When I was younger and spent more time reading, I would never, ever not finish reading a book, no matter how bad it was. After all, I knew that even if it didn't get any better, I'd be done with it in a day or so. Then, since I started quilting and haven't had as much time for reading, there have been a couple books that I didn't finish. The last one that I remember giving up on--after reading a couple hundred pages because I read a review that said to expect the first 150 pages to be a bit slow--was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It's gotten some good reviews too, but it just wasn't for me. Too bad, because I was just starting to develop some real firm arm muscles from holding the darn thing up! (Note shipping weight is nearly 3 pounds!)

One book that I struggled through and finally finished was The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Critics raved; even OPRAH raved. So I figured it must just be me and my lack of taste. Did you read where I said the other day that I don't like most "LITERATURE"? So I figured this must obviously be Literature. If you look at Amazon now, they only give it three out of five stars. I guess I'm not the only one who found it less than perfect! Of course, that was before Oprah's embarrassment with James Frey and his Million Little Pieces book, so I figured back then that if Oprah thought it was good, it must just be ME. Still, despite the problems with James Frey, I know Oprah gets it right more often than not, so I don't want to give the impression that she's been totally discredited in my book (bad pun intended!).

More recently, I read some raves about a largely unpublicized book written--or partly written since it was never completed after the author died in Auschwitz--in the early 40s about the Nazi invasion of Paris. That book is Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. Have you read it? I found it totally depressing, and since it was translated from French, it seemed kind of stiff. I only made it to around page 150 before I gave up. The fault there was me, I think. I was reading it at the time of my parents' car accident and my dad's subsequent death and I just needed to read something lighter and happier. I still have it on my nightstand, but I'm still not in the mood to be depressed.

Which brings me to the present. Now I'm reading Amy Tan's Saving Fish from Drowning. Amazon shows only three out of five stars. I read the reviews before I got the book, but there were some people who loved it and I fully expected to be one of them. Well, no, apparently I'm siding with the majority on this one. How could AMY TAN be bad?! The writing is actually good, but I'm not getting caught up in the characters. I don't care about them. In fact, I can't even keep them straight. The story is told from the perspective of a dead woman who was to lead a tour group through part of China and into Burma. Her spirit accompanies the group and reports to us what goes wrong along the way. According to one review, it's a love story, a mystery, an adventure story--and maybe that's why it doesn't work for me. It's trying to be too many things at once. I'm on page 108 of 472 pages. I don't think I want to go on. Have any of you read it? Does it get better?

I really don't like to abandon a book I start, but I don't have a lot of time to waste, and there's a whole bookcase of books here that I want to read. In fact, while I was writing this, my husband brought in the mail, and there was the latest book in the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, Messenger of Truth. And I KNOW that's going to be a good one!

So, when do you give up? Have you read any of these books I couldn't finish? Do you think I should go back and finish any of them? Do YOU ever give up on a book? Inquiring minds . . . .

11 comments:

JoAnna said...

I haven't read any of the books you mentioned, but I am a recovering book snob. I think I went years without finishing most books I started - I would get annoyed at something the author did and the book would lose it's magic for me.

I've been getting better at finishing them now, but I still have no problem putting down a book that doesn't hold my attention. You can always go back to it later, right?

My 11th grade English teacher said she always gave a book 100 pages - you've made that mark! Feel no guilt if you want to move on!

Yvonne said...

I have no problem abandoning a book that I'm not enjoying. I love to read and I'm not going to struggle with a book that I don't like. It's not like we have to finish them if we don't want to. I just refuse to...that's my story and I'm sticking to it:-)

Laurie Ann said...

Life is too short and there are too many great books out there to spend time reading one you are not enjoying. Ditch it!

keryn said...

I adore Amy Tan, and have read everything she's written, including this, but it was totally forgettable. I didn't even pass it on to my sister to read, there was nothing that I wanted to share with her. So I'd say give up on it, and read something that holds your interest.

paula, the quilter said...

If you're not enjoying it, then stop. You don't have enough time to read all books. I ditched Life of Pi because I just couldn't get into it.

Carole said...

No, I don't read that stuff. Ya know, life is short, no need to finish a book you don't like. Myself, I stay away from depressing books. I like to be entertained. Of course the rule doesn't apply to school books! ;o) Hey if you like Santa Claus, you might want to check out the book The Legend of Holly Claus. I loved it! Than again, I'm one of Santa's biggest fan! Happy reading!

Sharon said...

My husband is like you and he really does not leave a book unless he's read most of it and it still sucks. He is an avid reader. Now me, I hate to read. Unless it's a quilt magazine or quilt book. I have my priorities. LOL!!It's gotta get my attention right away if I do read something.

Michelle said...

I used to be the same as you - ALWAYS finished a book. Then I got older, had kids, started quilting, had less time - and figured the same thing as you. There are way too many books in the bookcase to read to finish a crappy book!

I haven't read that Amy Tan one (and now, don't think I will). I am, however, still trying to get through Jonathan Strange. After the 150 pages, I really like it - but only in short doses. It's not one that I want to snuggle down with and lose myself in.

Nan said...

I LOVE to read, but find that with quilting and gardening and all those other things life asks of us to do, my reading time suffers. I always try to finish reading a book, but there have been times in my life when I feel like I've been "chewing" through each page, and just can't seem to get into it - that's when I drop it like a hot rock! Life is too short not to enjoy whatever it is you're doing.
I just finished reading "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen. It got rave reviews, and I liked parts of the book, but I don't know that I'd recommend it. Reviewers are a different breed, I'm thinkin'. I have disagreed with them more than once. Give me Harry Potter anytime!

floribunda said...

I find that some books work better for me when I listen to them (unabridged, of course!) on CD -- "Jonathan Strange" was one of those, "The Corrections" and Life of Pi" were others I listened to and enjoyed a lot. I hear a lot of quilt-friends raving about Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series, but I gagged on the first one and put it down after 150 pages. I don't think even an audio version would do it for me!

Nicole said...

A so-so book is like a dying plant. If it looks like it isn't going to make it, your instincts are probably right and you should get rid of it and start something new.
I listened to Suite Francaise on CD in the car while I was commuting. I stuck with it til the end, but agree, it was kind of downer due to the theme.
I put the Amy Tan book down after struggling to get into it for several days. That was a big disappointment to me because I enjoyed her previous books.
I tried getting through both the Corrections and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. Gave up. Luckily I had gotten them from the library!
I like to think that my preferred type of reading is "literature" but the books you mentioned were not easy going for me either.
I just finished a wonderful book called Silent in the Grave, by a new author named Deanna Raybourn. It was a historical mystery, and was splendidly written, with great character development and beautiful writing style.