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Friday, 19 September 2014

Vicky Adin asks - What makes you give up on a book?

How many times have you said, “Oh, I give up. I can’t get into this book, it’s too…” Too what? Slow? Descriptive? Can you even put your finger on what the problem is?

 I rarely give up on a book. Even if I find it initially disappointing I still prefer to give the author some credit and hope that something about the story will captivate me, and I’m usually rewarded by my efforts.

 The one thing that will have me ditching a book is bad grammar and spelling errors. There is no forgiveness for that. An author has a responsibility to their readers to make sure the book is as perfectly presented as humanly possible, even if they have to pay megabucks to achieve that result. Excuses about always being a bad speller don’t wash. The one book that was eventually forgiven for such blatant misdemeanours was Frank McCourt’s “Angela’s Ashes” where the author deliberately didn’t use any punctuation for either narrative or dialogue to make a point.

 There have been times when I’ve put a book aside because I’m not in the mood for that genre or writing style, only to come back to it at another time and really enjoy it. It’s worth a try. So the next time you aren’t sure about a book, give it a rest and try later.  Kerri Hulme’s ‘The Bone People’ fitted that category - gritty but compelling, at times whimsical and self-indulgent but realistic. Janet Frame was another author that fitted my dislike/like mood.

 Having said that there are times when I was right to put it aside. It’s usually the genre that I don’t like rather than the author. Elizabeth Knox’s ‘Vintners Luck’ was one of those. I can’t criticize her skill as a writer, but it was not ‘my thing.’ What books have you tried that are not ‘your thing’?

 At times I just need a light read that will not require too much thought. Sometimes a story like that will resonate, but mostly I will forget large chunks of it, and I’m terrible at remembering the ending of quick and easy reads. I’m like that with jokes. I know I know a good one, but always forget the punch line. Because of that, I like large books with long saga style stories that take me on journeys that I can live through and travel along with. Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ (Cross-Stitch) series and Sara Donati’s ‘Into the Wilderness’ series are two such authors that have long running sagas with the same characters. Monica McInenary is another family saga author I enjoy, although she tends to wraps her stories up within one book.

 Nevertheless, a story that resonates enough will have me re-reading it at a later date never mind how long and involved, or how lightweight it first appeared. I often find a well-written story that is easy to read and I find I’ve reached the end before I’ve really taken in all the characters and their quirks, is the one that lives with me and I need to go back and fill in the gaps I missed.  

 But what I look for most in a book is to feel emotion. I don’t necessarily need to have the adrenalin pumping, I don’t need gore or salacious sex scenes: I want truth. I like a story that either is based on a true story; that is realistic to the time and place, and captures the feelings of the characters, but most importantly, one that is well written.

 What books have you loved and hated, and why?

Vicky Adin





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