Everyone has their certain level of “tolerance” for books that just aren’t grabbing their attention. While I’m not the “I absolutely must finish this novel, no matter what!” type, I’m always hesitant to drop a novel like a bad habit.
But sometimes, it must be done.
I usually give the novel a solid 50 pages or so. If by that point, I’m fighting the urge to slam the stupid thing against a wall or can barely keep my eyelids open while wading through the dense or terrible writing, I just have to call uncle. And while I’ve definitely finished my share of bad books, I have my limits.
Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Where I stopped: page 70
I know this one is going to land me in some hot water, mostly because just about every review I’ve read of the novel has been positive. Bloggers I greatly respect have called it one of their favorites of the year, and to that end, I ask . . . did we read the same book?
So far, I’ve found the overtones regarding the Mr. Dodgson/Lewis Carroll friendship with the Liddell girls to be totally creepy and alarming, and I think that might have been the point . . . but I just couldn’t get past that unsettled feeling in my stomach. Seriously, ick. Beyond that, I didn’t connect with any of the characters and felt awkward and sad for Pricks, the Liddell sisters’ teacher/caretaker.
Jen told me if I could tough it out past the chapters regarding Alice’s childhood, things would get better, but . . . I just couldn’t do it, friends. I just didn’t care. I borrowed this one from the library; it’s in the backseat of my Corolla, waiting to be returned. And I only feel a slight bit of remorse about that.
Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk
Where I stopped: page 30
Sweet Lord. After the opening chapter of this British novel, I felt like I could burrow my head under a sea of blankets and never come out. And not in a good way.
Just . . . depressing. There isn’t much more to say than that. From the opening chapter detailing a pouring rain that soaks the London suburb of Arlington Park to the introduction of our main (bitterly unhappy) couple, I couldn’t find anything redeeming here to make me continue reading. I was bored — BORED — and found my mind wandering to anywhere but the page in front of me, and after I’d re-read the same paragraph three or four times — and failed to grasp any meaning from it? I called it quits.
I’ll also point out that while the book was a hit with critics, it ultimately failed to move readers — especially if the low LibraryThing score and negative commentary there is any indication. Basically, it was pedantic and, as a reader, I felt like Cusk was trying to pull one over on me with the dense prose and condescending tone. Next!