Did-not-finish book thoughts: ‘Longbourn,’ ‘Dressmaker’

LongbournLongbourn by Jo Baker
Source: Borrowed from library
Where I stopped: Audio disc 5 (of 11?)

Dull. There’s just no other way for me to describe my experience with this one. I went into it with high hopes, expecting a cross between Pride & Prejudice and “Downton Abbey,” and I suppose that’s what I got . . . but I just couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm for Longbourn.

I didn’t need a damp-shirted Darcy skipping between the pages or anything, but the lack of page time for the Bennets was disappointing. Putting that aside, I just wasn’t interested in housemaid Sarah, the mysterious James or the formidable Mrs. Hill. If I’d stuck it out a little longer, I may have been rewarded with a wee bit of romance . . . but when I found my mind drifting repeatedly while listening to the audio book, I knew it was time to cave.

Sorry, Longbourn; I barely knew ye, but I didn’t like what I knew.

Other thoughts:
Dear Author

Dressmaker Khair The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe
by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Source: Borrowed from library
Where I stopped: Audio disc 3 (of 7?)

Another doomed audio! Non-fiction centering on a brave, entrepreneurial woman in Taliban-controlled Kabul, Afghanistan, I thought this one would be an interesting and inspiring read (listen?) last fall.

Unfortunately, I never emotionally connected with the principle players — and the audio book’s narrator had a distracting, WASP-ish accent that didn’t mesh at all with the strong-willed women she described. I might have enjoyed this one better in print, but I doubt I’ll take that chance.

Other thoughts:
Booking Mama
Reading on a Rainy Day


28 thoughts on “Did-not-finish book thoughts: ‘Longbourn,’ ‘Dressmaker’

  1. With audios, it’s always hard to tell if it’s the book or the narrator. Some narrators are so dull that my mind wanders and then I have no idea what’s going on in the book.

    • Completely agree, Kathy! Honestly, I didn’t care for either narrator with these — though the stories did nothing to grab me, either.

  2. My experience with P&P spin-offs is always risky (Emma Tennant, Zombies argh!). I find I have much more fun when the authors just take inspiration, like Bridget Jones, Jane Austen in Boca, Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field.

    • I can definitely appreciate that, Alex. I tried to “divorce” the story from Pride & Prejudice, as a friend recommended through Twitter, but it just wasn’t doing enough to keep me going. At some point I ask myself, “Am I actually curious about what happens to any of these people?” And if the answer is no, well . . .

    • It has been a few years but I remember really enjoying ‘The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen” by Syrie James (good for the Austenites out there) and an interesting spin-off is “Death comes to Pemberley” by P.D. James. P.D. James is an excellent mystery writer so it is a very different perspective than other Pride and Prejudice spin-offs.

  3. I don’t know if it is a jaded palate after years of reading but I find if I don’t get hooked in within the first couple of chapters I lose interest. It is the same with some films these days – they are so slow off the mark that about 15 minutes in I am planning my weekly shopping list. It seems insulting to people who have poured their heart and soul into their creative work but I also blame those who have read or edited the books and films for not doing something about it.

    • Completely appreciate what you mean. I definitely subscribe to the 50-pages-and-you’re-out philosophy: hook me in that time and I’m in; don’t and, well . . . there are just too many books out there to waste your time with mediocre ones.

    • Don’t be scared, Peter! I try to be fair, honest and balanced in my reviews. Sometimes books just don’t work for me, but I try not to be unkind . . . or mean-spirited.

  4. I stopped reading Longbourne too — it wasn’t *bad* it just wasn’t what I *wanted* … I did skip ahead (since it was a physical book) to get a sense of what was in the rest of the story – but it didn’t keep me interested enough to finish at the time … Maybe one day? Or maybe not.

    • If I’d had a physical copy, I think I would have done the same thing! That’s often what I do with “meh” reads. Once I’ve passed the point at which I no longer care what these folks are up to, I decide to learn their fates immediately and then move on with my life. I’ve rarely thought, “Oh, man, if only I’d hung on just a little bit longer.” In fact, um, I’ve never thought that!

  5. Interesting reviews. Most people don’t spend time commenting on the books they quit on, but that’s kind of refreshing.

    Did the first book have a dry narrator? That’s why I quit with audiobooks. Except for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeal Hurston. The southern slang was brought to life by the skilled narrator. Also, I can’t complain about Whoopi Goldberg providing the voices of the Delaney sisters in their story.

    Did I just counter myself? haha.

    • Yes, Kylie, I’d say the narrator of Longbourn was a bit dry for my tastes — and the quality of a reader’s voice can definitely dictate the experience for me. I’ve struck with books on less-than-interesting subjects because I simply loved the narrator (like Joshilyn Jackson narrating Shine Shine Shine).

  6. Hmm? Sorry that Longbourn did not prove to be engaging! I liked it, though I was put off by the drudgery of housework, mention of Lizzy Bennet’s arm hair and James’ sojourn into the Napoleonic War. I did get all the way through and would give it a solid 4 stars. It might be better as the movie, which is now in production. We shall see Meg!

    • I didn’t know a movie was in the works, Laurel Ann — I find that to be a much more intriguing prospect! And yes, I was quite put out by the mention of the arm hair . . . shudder. While I appreciated that Baker wove in so many realistic accounts of what that daily drudgery must have been like, it got boring after a while. There just wasn’t enough happening for me.

  7. Audiobooks are always a tentative choice for me. I usually go for nonfiction, although that’s not a sure bet as you saw with The Dressmaker…

    • I tend to do well with non-fiction, too, Lindsey; something about the reality of it all makes it a more interesting listen. I sometimes find I don’t need to concentrate quite as hard as with fiction, too — important when I’m driving, of course!

  8. I actually bought the book with my Christmas money since the books had appeared on a few best books of 2013 lists (and I’m a huge Jane Austen fan). I’m hoping that reading the book is more catching than your experience of listening to it; I hate wasting good Christmas money on a so-so book. I’ll let you know in the next couple of months!

    • Oh, I hope so, too! I’ve heard from quite a few folks who loved Longbourn, so hopefully I’m in the minority. Totally know what you mean about not “wasting” gift cards and Christmas funds on mediocre reads.

  9. I admire anyone who admits they don’t always finish a book they’d expected to like. When we write, we know how important reading is and I think, sometimes, it almost feels like an assignment we *must* finish. But I love reading as much as I love writing, and I don’t want what I read to feel like work.

    • I agree, Elizabeth. It took me a while to reach a point where I didn’t feel overwhelming guilt for “abandoning” a book, but I realized my time is precious — and my time to read is sacred! No sense in suffering through something I’m not enjoying.

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