I just finished a book that had SO MUCH POTENTIAL and here I am, 18 hours later, still stewing about it.
It’s no secret that I read, a lot. I prefer fiction, but I enjoy non-fiction, too, especially in the history genre. I like literary fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance… really, anything from the highfalutin classics to honest trash. And yeah, I judge the books. I’m a critic, even though I’m pretty sure I couldn’t write a novel worth shit. But I choose books to fill a certain need in me, and I’d say that because of it, I’m pretty well-read. I read romance when I’m feeling lovey, or weepy, or (let’s just call it what it is) PMSing. I read history and other non-fiction when I feel like my brain is turning to mush from dealing with the quotidian tasks of a wife/mother/employer so that I can flex my mental muscle, so to speak. I read most everything else for escape – because it’s fun to lose myself for an hour each evening in a world of someone else’s creation.
And not all books are great; I know that. I recently recommended Outlander to a friend and she expressed frustration that the main character, while plucky, was also incredibly stupid about some things. Well, yes, and unfortunately, by the fourth book in the series, I find that she is almost too dumb for words. Would you take it on faith that the love of your life had died in a famous battle two hundred years previously even if you didn’t see it with your own eyes? Would you not even think to research his life to see if anything was left over in the 20th Century? Well, Claire didn’t, and so she missed out on spending 20 years with her husband. And she is supposed to be sensible. Shoot! That’s not just insensible! That’s against human nature! Who could honestly resist looking up all the sordid details of their husband’s gory death in the historical record?
Like I said, sometimes novels are good, not great. Outlander is good. Engrossing, fun, escapism. I liked it a lot and I read the whole series.
But boy does it make me angry when the potential of a book is squandered. I just finished The Peach Keeper and I am pissed off at the author. Oh, I’m sure she’s a perfectly nice lady. But this book! It had everything going for it: plot, mystery, ghosts, love stories, interesting characters… but nothing, NOTHING, was fleshed out. This book could have been twice as long and that would have made it better. I found myself wanting to know the characters more, to understand more of the backstory that was hinted at throughout the novel, to read more about the ghosts and the superstitions and the romances. Instead, it all just fizzled.
I wonder what it would be like to be a publishing editor? I would have asked the author to expound upon just about everything in this story. It could have been good. Great, even? We’ll never know.
I recently finished IQ84, all three volumes, and that had the opposite problem as The Peach Keeper. It was SOOOOOO LOOOONG. I told my sister-in-law that it exemplified Japan as she and her husband had described it: a pace so totally different than that of Western culture that it is unfathomable to those of us not living there. Everyone, EVERYONE, was described in minute detail in IQ84. Everyone had a detailed backstory and there was so much in the book that was superfluous to the plot that I would find myself falling asleep over the book every night. This is not the usual for me – in fact, last year for Lent, I gave up reading past 10:30 pm because my habit is to read “just one more chapter” until it is so late that I have no hope of being well-rested in the morning. But IQ84, as interesting and florid as the writing was, was pretty boring in spots. Does this mean that I do not recommend it? No, not at all. It was a good book. Read it, if you like Japanese literature, or are curious what Japanese literature is like.
I started a Fannie Flagg novel last night and quit after a few chapters. Life’s too short to keep reading a book you don’t like. Now searching for the next good read…