I just finished reading a novel – a really loooooong novel – one that I started about a week ago and should have put down after the first chapter, only I kept telling myself "surely this is going to get better”. It didn't. Meanwhile, last night I stayed up reading until way past midnight. Ditto the night before. And this morning I did something I almost never do – I sat down in a comfy chair (never mind the pancake syrup turning to epoxy on my breakfast dishes; or the unmade bed; or the piles of dirty laundry on the utility room floor; or the stack of bills waiting to be paid) where I spent almost two full hours slogging my way through page after page, doggedly determined to get to the end of this stupid book.
When I finally read the very last word on the very last page I literally said outloud "Well. That wasn't so good, now was it?” Then I tossed it aside, feeling totally blah and unsatisfied, as if I had just gone out and completely blown my diet on a meal I didn't even enjoy – or worse, like I'd gone on a cruise and ended up spending the whole time stuck in my room with a stomach virus.
I realize, of course, that there is a way to avoid this kind of literary disappointment. It's called a Book Review – whereby you select reading material based on feedback from others. Sounds like a good idea, right? Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out for me. Such was the case a year or so ago, when everybody and her dog was reading this huge – and I mean MEGA-huge – bestseller. Not wanting to be left out of conversations about it, I dutifully bought a copy and prepared to be "moved, enthralled, inspired, and riveted”. Instead I was unmoved, bored, irked and at times revolted.
As for the novel I just finished (and no, I won't give you the name, lest I be sued. Besides, for all I know you're reading it yourself right now and are completely "moved, enthralled, inspired, and riveted”) the only reason I was even remotely inclined to tackle it in the first place was because the jacket promised me that I'd be reminded of a famous book by another author who just happens to be one of my all-time favorites. Well, I was certainly reminded alright – reminded of how awful this one was by comparison.
Let's me give you just a few examples. Chapter One: the author sets the stage by describing the protagonist's surroundings. Chapter Four: Ninety-three pages into the book, nothing has happened to the protagonist (who remains strangely nameless throughout the entire book), nor has she moved an inch since Chapter One, but thanks to paragraph after paragraph of flowery prose we sure do know a heck-of-a-lot about how the earth smells after it rains, and what she has eaten for every single meal (figs, mostly.) By Chapter Seven there's this guy, who may or may not be a romantic interest – and the reason we can't be sure is that the author keeps bouncing back and forth between the present and the past, so it's really confusing. One minute the beautiful young lass dashing through the gardens on her way to a romantic rendezvous is our girl-with-no-name; and the next it's her grandmother as a young girl (I think).
There was also some sort of deep, dark "secret” that kept weaving in and out of the storyline, but by the time the skeleton was unearthed below the kitchen stairs or the brittle birth certificate was discovered stuck between pages of an old book (I forget which) I was so disoriented and uncertain about why it mattered, that quite frankly...it no longer did.
The thing that drives me batty about the whole ordeal is that I didn't have to finish this book. There was no gun to my head. Nor was there a proclamation chalked across the blackboard "THIS WILL BE ON YOUR FINAL EXAM!” Nobody would have known or cared if I'd tossed the whole tome into the trash. But I didn't. Instead I spent – no, make that wasted – far too many hours of my life (not to mention dollars from my wallet) reading a book filled with vapid, one-dimensional characters, and a plot that never thickened.
Oh well, there's no point in worrying about that now. I've already moved on. In fact, resting on my nightstand as we speak is a brand new novel that everybody is positively raving about, and I'm already three chapters into it. So far it's a little slow and I fail to see what all the fuss is about, but hopefully it'll pick up soon. And even if it doesn't, well you know me – I'll just keep on reading it, and won't stop until I get...all the way…to…