When I committed to book reviewing I knew this particular eventuality would happen. I sometimes start a book and then lose the inclination to finish. It doesn’t happen often but when it does I feel the obligatory sense of guilt for not finishing the book and then eventually frustration with the novel for not living up to its potential.
I read an average of 20 novels a year (I know, that’s a small number compared to some) and I don’t struggle to read. Reading is a joy. Struggling to read, however, or finding the time to read, is often the number one complaint when people cannot get through a novel (I quite enjoyed this article on the subject). But that’s not the case for me. What I experience is something akin to, It’s you, novel, not me. You started out with so much promise only to fizzle out and die. Like I said, it’s you, not me.
A big issue I have is inconsistency. When the energy and pacing of a novel experiences rapid spurts or “good spots” with long stretches of dry spells, well, that experience probably pisses me off the most because I can read for myself how much potential a story has.
I am a huge fan of delayed gratification, such as we might expect in the mystery genre or erotica but delayed gratification is not the yo-yo like experience I’m recounting here. At least when a novel starts out dry you know what you’re signing up for but that teasing of rapid energy immediately followed by a long trip to the Sahara Desert…that kind of pacing is exhausting and is truly a road to nowhere. I wish the novel well and pack it up for donation or resell.
If you are familiar with my series, Get to the Point Book Reviews, it’s not about liking or disliking a novel. I have finished many a novel that I wouldn’t recommend. Not finishing a novel rarely speaks on my behalf in the form of like or dislike, although that is absolutely the case for many. For me, however, the “liking” or “disliking” of a book is rarely the issue.
It comes down to: Is this story worth investing in?
My sticking to a book comes down to sustainability. Does this work sustain me? Does it do something for me? Is it keeping my engaged? Is there enough here to work with? Authors don’t intend to be boring or demonstrate inconsistent pacing but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen even so.
I sling the old truth, life’s too short. And life is decidedly too short to invest a story that is going nowhere – whatever that means to you. If a novel is not working for you, put it down and move on to one that does. The choices are endless and the promise of a new and sustaining adventure awaits.
I will not be reviewing Milan Kundera’s, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I did not finish it therefore I have no business reviewing it; I called it dead at p.182.
The novel stopped sustaining me despite it’s amazing beginning. You could read for yourself on Amazon that there are plenty of people who think and feel to the contrary. This discrepancy in popular reception is why I always state in my reviews: The book may (or may not) work for me personally but that’s not to say it didn’t do wonders for (or fail) someone else.
I will part with The Unbearable Lightness of Being with a sigh of what could have been. I will share some of my favorite quotes from the book:
“He smelled the delicate aroma of her fever and breathed it in, as if trying to glut himself with the intimacy of her body.” Pg. 7
“For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.” Pg. 31
“But man, because he has only one life to live, cannot conduct experiments to test whether to follow his passion (compassion) or not.” Pg. 34
“…but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.” Pg. 52
“She was amazed at the number of years she had spent pursuing one lost moment.” Pg. 86
“…the criminal regimes were made not by criminals but by enthusiasts convinced they had discovered the only road to paradise.” Pg. 176
Christina Schmidt, MA