26 December 2011

Finished, abandoned, postponed, and started

Photo credit: Senate House Library
University of London
A House in the Country by  Jocelyn Playfair - Finished
I finished reading this some time ago, but was a little underwhelmed and couldn't really muster the energy to review it. Parts of it were enjoyable, but overall I was bored and a little annoyed. I didn't really care for the structure of the narrative and I had a hard time caring about any of the characters.

The Vicar of Bullhampton by Anthony Trollope - Finished
You may recall my angst over finishing up the final four books in my nightstand by the end of the year. Many of you pointed out that life is too short and that I should set them aside and move on. Normally that is advice I would accept, but I really felt compelled to make an effort to finish them up. I am glad I made that effort because this Trollope was definitely worth finishing. I think I was in a bit of a slow patch in the book when I wrote that blog post, but soon after it picked up and I enjoyed the rest of it. I definitely like Trollope's vicars more than I like his MPs.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson - Abandoned
I loved Jansson's book of short stories Travelling Light. I thought they were beautiful and atmospheric. But they also had some bite to them. The Summer Book is a collection of linked autobiographical fictionalized scenes about summer. I can understand how they would be interesting and compelling and beautiful. In fact, I kept pushing on for that very reason. Intellectually I could tell that The Summer Book was all of those things. But emotionally I just didn't care. The chapters didn't have enough arc to them and I found the main character Sophie (the young Jansson?) to be a bit of a brat--and not even a clever one. Half way through, I decided I was getting nothing out this book and put it down. Probably forever.

Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde - Abandoned
This collection of fairy tales is imaginative and brilliantly written, but I just don't think I have room in my reading life to spend any more time on it. If I had a kid I think it would be fun to read them outloud, but I wasn't getting much out of them. Time to let this one go.

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot - Postponed
I started reading this thin novella about a million times but  could never seem to focus on it. I had this trouble with another Eliot novella which I did eventually finish and find worthwhile. So this one gets set aside for now.

Howards End - E. M. Forester - Started
In the end I took the advice from some of you who suggested that I read an old favorite. I first read Howards End in college and since then I have seen the Merchant Ivory film about 5,000 times. It has been fascinating to pick this one up again after so much time and so much exposure to the film version. It is a bit like reading it for the first time. And it is still totally brillant.


  1. I was also a bit underwhelmed by A House in the Country. It wasn't what I expected at all. I have two by Tove Jansson and I started both but never got excited enough about either to keep going, maybe there's a reason for that.

    And I'm very glad to hear about Trollope, I've only read a few of his but I have a big stack on the TBR shelf. It doesn't include Vicar of Bullhampton but it's so nice to know there's lots more Trollope waiting for me someday!

  2. How interesting! "Summer book" by Tove Jansson was one of my reading highlights of 2011, so it fascinates me that you had opposite feeling.

    Do you live by the sea? Do you live in North? (as I guess these are reasons that influenced my reaction to the stories)

  3. Karen: Definitely one of my least favorite Persephones to date.

    Toomas: I don't live by the sea, although I have lived in the North for most of my life. I can understand how Summer Book is evocative of some wonderful memories, but I wanted more than that.

  4. The Summer Book seemed a book that was right up my street, but I had the same response as you did. I did finish it, but was somehow disappointed with myself for not liking it better and still can't quite figure out why I did not love it as much as everybody else did.

  5. Oh, I loved The Summer Book. But I've had the 'understand how it would be appealing but personally not connecting' reaction to a well-loved book before so I know what you mean.

    Love that cover of Howards End. I read that with pleasure for the first time last year.

    - Christy

  6. Great idea for a post. I'm intrigued by the Eliot novella. Won't rush to it but might try it one day. I have been feeling for some time that I want to read Forster again, but I think I"d reread A passage to India.

  7. I'm planning to re-read old favorites this year and Howards End is a great idea (or possibly A Room With a View).

    I'm glad you though it was great great, re-reading is always a risk :)

  8. Anna: You sum up my experience as well, except for the finishing part.

    Christy: I think if I had been in Maine or something like that I may have faired better.

    Whispering: I think that Passage may be my next Forster re-read.

    Alex: I really like to re-read usually but I don't do it because of all the other things I haven't read. Maybe old age will be nothing but re-reads.


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