Have you noticed that I started giving up on books a little easier lately? I really have-especially when the books are library books and I don’t have money invested into them.
The first book I gave up on was The Summer Before the War: A Novel by Helen Simonson.
All of you who know me and my reading taste are likely shocked that I’d give up on this…It’s historical fiction that happened over the time of WWI. I should have loved the book. I didn’t though. I am 3/4 of the way through and there is no plot….nothing interesting. Nothing caught me. It’s so slow and frankly boring. There are no hints…no nothing that is making me care about any of these characters at all. I gave up.
Here’s what Amazon had to say, “East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master.
When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking—and attractive—than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.
But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.”
Amazon readers say the book gets a 4 star rating…ugh. No. Don’t bother with this one!
The next book I gave up on is LaRose: A Novel by Louise Erdrich
This one I could get into from the very beginning. A man out hunting accidentally shoots the neighbors kid-then gives them his kid as a replacement because it was an old Indian custom. Them premise doesn’t get me from the very beginning. Custom or not, I wouldn’t want someone else’s kid if this happened to me and I wouldn’t give my kid away no matter what. It just doesn’t work for me…so much so that I didn’t get past the fourth chapter. I tried by couldn’t do it.
Here’s what Amazon had to say, “In this literary masterwork, Louise Erdrich, the bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning The Round House and the Pulitzer Prize nominee The Plague of Doves wields her breathtaking narrative magic in an emotionally haunting contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in Native American culture.
North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence—but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich.
The youngest child of his friend and neighbor, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have always been close, sharing food, clothing, and rides into town; their children played together despite going to different schools; and Landreaux’s wife, Emmaline, is half sister to Dusty’s mother, Nola. Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition—the sweat lodge—for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them.
LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Nola dotes on him, keeping her darkness at bay. His fierce, rebellious new “sister,” Maggie, welcomes him as a coconspirator who can ease her volatile mother’s terrifying moods. Gradually he’s allowed shared visits with his birth family, whose sorrow mirrors the Raviches’ own. As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal.
But when a vengeful man with a long-standing grudge against Landreaux begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole.
Inspiring and affecting, LaRose is a powerful exploration of loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart, and an unforgettable, dazzling tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished literary masters.”
Amazon readers also gave this book 4 stars.
I think both of these books are considered more of the “literature” side of things. For me that typically means they are like “Oscar” movies. They are “artistic” and “deeper”….none of that is to my liking. Give me a good story and some average people without any “artistic” meaning and I’m happy.
Did any of you make it the end of these books? Did I miss something?
I started the Helen
Simonsonboo book and gave up after a couple of chapters. I couldn’t get into it either. I haven’t run across the other but I’ll skip that one too! Too many books out there I really want to read to waste time on ones that don’t interest me!
Try Everyone brave is forgiven by Chris Cleave. I loved his first book, Little Bee, and this new title was also to my liking.
First of all…thank you for the wonderful blog and all your charitable works. Second…please read Maisie Dobbs by Jaqueline Winspear. If you like WWI and an interesting take on the post war struggles…she’s your gal.
I thought I recognised Helen Simonson’s name but had to look it up to see what else she had written. Her first (and only other ) book was ‘Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand’, written in 2010, which I remember enjoying. It’s rather quaint and rather ‘English’ if that can be used as a description. As I am English I might seek out this new title anyway and see how it compares to her first book. It might be one of those books that just doesn’t travel well.
I will probably try the Erdrich book eventually. I’ve read or listened to a lot of hers, and they stick with me. Where I live, we don’t have huge a native American population, and I am interested in their culture.
Have you read Five Quarters of the Orange? It is a WWII novel that I really liked.
I gave up on the Simonson book as well…moved too slow for me…try Kate Morton (The Forgotten Garden, The Lake House), or “Sing Them Home” by Stephanie Kallos (esp the audio version), for really light listening try “Fair Weather” by Richard Peck or for more period pieces – The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones…The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty, or The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline ( a not very well known fact that thousands of orphans were place on trains in New York, etc and sent to the midwest, even as early, I believe as the late 1950’s, to be “adopted” by families…many were really subjected to a life of hard farm labor or used as workers in home industry such as sewing, etc)…for complete descriptions of these books look them up on “GooodReads”..a favorite web site of mine…descriptions, reviews etc…hope you find something you enjoy!
I give up on books very easily too. If I’m not enjoying it there isn’t any point forcing myself to carry on, there are so many other books I could be reading and loving instead.
I am usually plot driven-why I read a lot of mysteries. I liked the Summer Before the War. It was a good reminder of how attitudes about women have changed. The pregnancy part was especially horrifying. To be pregnant because your father let a German “use her” and then it was her shame.!? I was ready to slice up dear old dad. I would recommend it.
I haven’t read either , but have The Summer Before the War on my to-read list. I will let you know if I like it better than you did.