Within the last few weeks, I’ve started and then abandoned three books. This is quite unusual for me. I choose my reads carefully, previewing where possible, to ensure they’re books I’m likely to enjoy. But sometimes I just have to give up on them. I then feel guilty for not finishing. The author has worked hard to craft the writing and I’m not honouring their labour. Yet my reading time is limited and too precious to waste on ploughing through books which I really dislike. It’s also fascinating that people can have such different experiences of books. What’s troubling is when new books are hyped so much and then they’re inevitably disappointing. The three books below were overhyped, and I knew this, but I wasn’t expecting to actually dislike them…
Different Class by Joanne Harris. This is the sequel to the school themed thriller Gentlemen & Players. It started off well, with the twisty plot and vaguely menacing school atmosphere of its predecessor. But it kept swapping between the present day and twenty years ago, in the same location, which confused me as I couldn’t always tell which time it was. And then there were the acts of animal cruelty by one of the main characters. That was a major turn-off and I flicked through the (long) book and realised I didn’t care at all what the ending was. Maybe I’ve outgrown Joanne Harris too. Anyway, this book was from a charity shop and back it went about a quarter-read.
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. I already knew that opinion on this one was mixed. I’d read The Girl on the Train, another book which doesn’t deserve the hype but has become what I call a ‘bandwagon book’… even people who don’t normally read, aim to read it because it’s trendy (see also, Fifty Shades and The Da Vinci Code). I thought there were some good aspects to Hawkins’ debut though so I was curious about the second novel. Unfortunately it’s not great, with confusing characters who have similar voices, some clunky writing and yes, more animal cruelty (seriously why do authors have to put that in?) – I returned the e-book to the library after reading about a third of the story. I wasn’t motivated enough to find out the ending, which means the book basically fails at being a psychological thriller.
Vox by Christina Dalcher. Now this is a controversial choice. I heard so much about this book and saw so many rave reviews that I reserved the library e-book. When I finally got to borrow it, I was really looking forward to it. The first few chapters were compelling. Immediately we’re drawn into a world which seems to be a descendent of Trump’s America, in which society has become more conservative particularly regarding the role of women. The concept of only being allowed to speak a hundred words a day is an intriguing one. The pacing was also just right. So why didn’t I finish it? Well, sorry to say, the writing started to bore me. I got to the point where the narrator is working in a lab with her colleagues and it all goes a bit neuroscience-y (the author has a specialism in phonetics and theoretical linguistics), with flashbacks to a boring affair from before the government changed. I kept checking how many pages I had to get through, which is not a good sign. The book also seemed too much like a watered-down version of The Handmaid’s Tale. I just had no impetus to carry me through the mediocre writing and I assumed the government was brought down anyway (as hinted in the opening lines of the novel) so I wasn’t curious as to how it ends.
I don’t normally review books I didn’t finish, but I suppose in a way I’ve just done that… and I still don’t know the endings.
How often do you abandon a book and for what reasons? How do you feel when you DNF it?