I very rarely give up on a book. Even when I dislike a book, I will usually finish it out of obligation (like ‘The Immoralist’ by André Gide, for a French literature course) or sheer bloody-mindedness just to say I read it (like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen) or simply to get people to stop hassling me about it (like ‘The Hobbit’ by J. R. R. Tolkien). But occasionally, life is just too short. Here is a list of the books I have given up on in the last couple of years.Everything is Illuminated: Jonathan Safran Foer This was the last book I couldn’t finish a few months ago. To compare the linguistic experimentalism of this book with ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess is a sin of the highest order. To try and stretch out an unfunny joke about Ukrainian attempts at the English language over an entire book is completely unforgivable. Sorry, I just didn’t get it. Possession: A. S. Byatt I sort of skimmed the second half of this book but hand on heart I can’t really say I properly finished it, especially given that I skipped great chunks of it. I always thought that the world of academia was where I truly belonged. This book assured me that this was definitely not true so maybe Byatt did me a favour in some respects. I have a copy of one of her other novels ‘The Children’s Book’ on my book shelf which is still unread – even though I know it will be a different story, I still don’t want to relive my tedious experience of reading ‘Possession’. Howards End: E M Forster I think I got about two thirds of the way through and then finally gave up. I would consider having another go at reading this in about twenty years time but probably not before that. I am too mentally scarred by my first experience. It wasn’t so much the pretentiousness of the writing that bothered me, it was the dullness of the characters and the fact that I didn’t really know (or care about) what was going on. That’s as good a reason as any to stop reading a book. The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes): Henri Alain-Fournier This book was recommended to me as a French version of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, supposedly all about melancholic youth and whatnot. ‘The Lost Estate’ is many things, but that description is certainly not one of them. What disturbs me most is the number of glowing reviews there are on Amazon for this book. I was hoping to find at least one person I could share some solidarity with over this but apparently it’s just me who didn’t see what was so mesmerising about it. Maybe something was lost in translation?
If you have a case to make in support of one of these books, you can try and persuade me to persevere and try again… but your reasons will have to be exceptionally good because I tried, I really did try the first time round. Which books have you given up on?