Saturday, 25 April 2009

Three shades of disappointment

I've been avoiding talking about some books that have disappointed me in different ways and degrees. So instead of dedicating a full review to each of them I'll just briefly share why I wasn't so impressed like I had expected (damn those expectations!).

I'll start with the biggest disappointment which is The Owl Service by Alan Garner. In theory, it hit all the right notes:
- Carnegie Medal winner
- Use of Welsh mythology
- Reputation for being a haunting, but lyrical story.
Instead it failed to grip me completely. I kept reading, waiting to be charmed at some point, but it never happened. I feel like I must have missed something, and it bugs me. What I remember instead is a storytelling that was disjointed and confusing. For example the main characters' behaviour was puzzling. Many strange things happen, but instead of them trying to talk about it and understand what is happening straight away, they don't seem immediately concerned.
For this, and for many other reasons, most of what happened was lost on me, until I did some research on line to find answers to my questions.
There was never a moment when I felt really close to the characters, and that was a big factor. And the ending left more questions than answers.
So, in conclusion, it was a frustrating read. I so wished I understood it more, because I feel like I missed out on something special.
For a proper reviews on in and a complete different opinion, read Nymeth's. She obviously saw something in it that I didn't.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was a different kind of disappointment. I didn't dislike it. I thought it was alright. Just alright, that's the problem. After all the magnificent reviews and feedbacks and sales etc...I thought I was in for an unforgettable read. I was sucked into it pretty quickly. I really liked the first third of the book, maybe half. Then it started to decline. I wasn't gripped or fascinated anymore. At times, I was even a bit annoyed at how blatantly dramatic it was.
I have to admit that it gave me a greater understanding of life in Afghanistan before and after the Talibans had taken power and I feel more emotionally connected with the Afghan people's oppression now. I loved being wrapped up in this country's scents, flavours and sounds. But I failed to connect with the narrator, probably because I never forgave him for what he did as a child. I know it's a story about redemption, about how hard it is for the narrator to even begin to forgive himself. But I guess he could have become a saint after and I still wouldn't have forgiven, maybe it's my fault again.
For full reviews and different views see here:
Maw Books Blog

The third and final disappointment is of a different kind altogether. It's a stylistic disappointment toward what announced itself to be an astoundingly beautiful piece of writing: The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry. Shortisted for the Booker Prize. Recent winner of the Costa Book of the Year. It has being received amazingly well by the press and the public. So how come I didn't like it?
Because I thought the writing was pompous, overly metaphorical, and, after a while, tedious, in every sense of the word. There were some very beautiful parts, but the overall feeling was of heaviness, and (I don't like being so harsh but it has to be said) boredom. I read it all, because I was told there was some sort of twist, of big surprise. But again I was disappointed. I had consider the possibility of that twist already, which is never good.
I'm not saying this is utter rubbish. I know plenty of people who are completely enthralled by this kind of writing. I'm just not one of them.
Other opinions:

Please, feel free to agree or disagree with me and give me the link to your review. I'm happy to show different sides of the story!


Amanda said...

Hello Valentina - you commented on my review about The Book Thief and mentioned this post, so I had to come see what books disappointed you. I haven't even heard of the first or for the second, I haven't read that one yet, but i did read A Thousand Splendid Suns and felt it was underwhelming. Rather than being overly dramatic, it had hardly any movement at all. It ended up being just all right, rather than amazing as people say.

It's always hard when books you really look forward to disappoint you.

raidergirl3 said...

Sorry you've had some duds lately - that's what we're calling RecommenDuds.

I reviewed The Secret Scripture and gave it a mixed review -

I remember liking The Kite Runner, but much of that was in learning about Afghanistan and life there.

Hope your next few books are outstanding!

Carl V. Anderson said...

Haven't read any of these, but I think you did a great job discussing your honest feelings about these. Sometimes books can be so hyped that if you are not a part of the initial hype they end up not living up to the potential. And, of course, sometimes a book just doesn't grip us like it grips others.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I just read through the Reader's Bill of Rights on your sidebar and love it! Sometimes I need permission to do some of those skip a page or two in Middlemarch. :)

Sorry Kite Runner was a letdown. That happens to me sometimes when there is so much hype about a book. And I can see not being able to get past Amir's actions--they were pretty horrible. Hope your next bunch of books is better!!

Michelle said...

Sorry to hear your disappointing reads as of late. I just recently read the Kite Runner and really enjoyed it. My review is here:

Melody said...

I'm sorry you were disappointed by these books, but I quite enjoyed reading The Kite Runner partly because of the story and that I'd learnt a little about Afghanistan, their people and their culture. I haven't read the second book by this author yet but I hope it'd be as good.

I hope your next books will be better! :)

Rhinoa said...

So interesting that you didn't like these. I love The Owl Service and my mum loves the other two. It's so interesting when books have such different reactions in different readers, especially when they often share similar opinions :)

valentina said...

Hi Amanda,thanks for stopping by:)
I think one key factor is expectation. Hadn't I heard anything about the kite runner, I probably would have appreciated it more. Not sure about the other two though:P

Raidergirl- RecommenDuds.Nice!:D
thanks for your link. I agree about it being slow. It was extreeeeemely slow!ugh.

Carl,thanks. So true about the hype. It ends up influencing my reading too much for better or for

Trish, I love that part of the reader's right too. It helped me going through reading Anna Karenina when I was 17...loved it but some pages were impossible not to skip!
I'm thinking of reading Middlemarch for the classic challenge. I'm curious to know your final thoughts about it!

Michelle, thanks for the link it's been added! glad to know you enjoyed it. I think I will read his second book one day, some people say it's better than the kite runner!

Melody, I liked that part too, and that's why I will probably read a thousand splendid suns. I'm really interested to know more now!

Rhinoa, it's true! but I really couldn't get into the Owl service, and I tried really hard:( ah well, we can't all like the same things lol

Ana S. said...

Sorry to hear these didn't work for you! Sometimes our expectations can really get in the way of our enjoyment of a book, and it sounds like that was the case with The Kite Runner. And though I loved The Owl Service, I can definitely see why it wouldn't work for everyone.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I have those last two in my TBR and I've just lowered my expectations a notch ;)