What are the worst books you've read this year?

(199 Posts)
JiltedJohnsJulie Fri 28-Sep-12 13:51:42

Having read the What is the best book you've read this year? thread I was wondering what the worst book you've read so far in 2012 is?

Mine would have to be either 50 Shades or Before I Go to Sleep.

DuchessofMalfi Fri 28-Sep-12 13:59:31

Without a doubt it would have to be Before I Go To Sleep too, Jilted. Absolutely hated it. If it had been a paperback, rather than on my kindle, I'd have put it in the bin so I wouldn't inflict it on anyone else.

I haven't read the 50 Shades shite but keep seeing copies appearing in charity shops now - the craze must be winding down surely?

DuchessofMalfi Fri 28-Sep-12 14:02:43

I forgot to add Jubilee by Shelley Harris. Not a bad book as such, just nowhere near as good as I'd been led to believe it would be. Massively disappointed by it.

DH has had a couple of bad ones this year too - White by Marie Darrieusecq and The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore.

JiltedJohnsJulie Fri 28-Sep-12 14:07:54

Lets hope the 50 shades craze is winding down then. I share my kindle account and only read it because the other person had got it and I wanted to see why everyone was going nuts about it. Really dissappointed, by about half way through the most exciting thing that had happened was that he had rubbed her left nipple with an ice cube. I've had more exciting first dates grin. As for why the main character is fucked up, I really don't care and I don't care a jot about the woman either. Rant over.

BIGTS was a book group choice, if it hadn't been a book gruop read I wouldn't even have finished it. Actually felt aggrieved that I had taken the time to read it in the end!

Thanks for the heads up on Jubilee. Will add that onto my don't read list smile.

BoerWarKids Fri 28-Sep-12 14:16:29

Separate Lives, Kathryn Flett.

Just thinking about it makes me angry. I think I only spent 99p on it, thank God.

chirpchirp Fri 28-Sep-12 14:26:26

Another vote for Before I go to Sleep. A great idea for a book but very poorly executed in my opinion.

JiltedJohnsJulie Fri 28-Sep-12 14:32:01

That's exactly how I feel about it chirp.

KurriKurri Fri 28-Sep-12 15:41:26

The Finkler Question - pretentious loads of old bollocks about London media types - awful, hated it. (Had to read it for Book club, otherwise I would have given up)

KurriKurri Fri 28-Sep-12 15:43:00

Oh and The Slap - another dreadful book, total rubbish and badly written sex scenes - all throbbing members etc. - but can't remember if I read that this year or last year <gimmer emoticon>

Another vote for The Slap.
Hated it.

WipsGlitter Fri 28-Sep-12 15:53:04

Yy to Separate Lives - utter shite.

Where d'ya go Bernadette. Also shite. And i had really been looking forward to reading it.

JiltedJohnsJulie Fri 28-Sep-12 16:56:17

Don't think I've met anyone yet who did like the slap. That's another for my "don't bother" list smile.

babybythesea Fri 28-Sep-12 17:08:13

I'll add another vote for The Slap.
Could have been an interesting idea - what happens when someone hits a child not their own, especially if they are protecting their own kid?
Instead, it was a mish-mash of stereotypes, and I felt as though the author mostly forgot the original idea and then occasionally remembered he hadn't remembered to include it for a bit and whacked a sentence or two in about it. He was more interested in character assasinations and explaining why every single pigeon-holed person he wrote about was nasty/weak/underhanded etc etc. Bah - waste of my time. Fortunately, it was a quick read so not too much of my life spent on it!

deleted203 Fri 28-Sep-12 17:11:48

I haven't read 50 Shades because it struck me as utter shite when I read about it. Hearing that it was fiction from a Twilight fans' website was enough to convince me not to! I can't think of anything really poor I've read this year. (Mainly because I avoid anything recommended by my mother on the grounds that I am bound to hate it).

JiltedJohnsJulie Fri 28-Sep-12 20:27:59

Avoiding anything recommend by your mother sounds like a good plan. It was my DM who bought 50 shades......

iseenodust Fri 28-Sep-12 20:32:18

The hunger games for bookclub. It's a kids book & should stay in that section of the library. Teenage tosh.

YoullLaughAboutItOneDay Fri 28-Sep-12 21:25:01

50 Shades for bookclub. didn't manage to finish it. Thought it was badly written, even more badly edited. Badly written sex (all that 'down there' and 'oh my'), misogynist, and I wanted to club her inner goddess.

Duchess - Greatcoat is our next book club book, is it not so great?! (pardon the pun)

Worst for me by a long shot - Simon Cowells autobiography. Painful in the extreme. Only read it because it was book club and I hate not finishing a book, even one that bad!

Also could not stand One Day... ugh, what utter drivel and contrived tripe! I read it at the beginning of the year, nearly 10 months ago and its awfulness still troubles me.

I also read BIGTS, wasn't particularly impressed, but it wasn't as bad as the two above, so doesn't quite make "worst this year"....

Ditto When God was a Rabbit. Great expectations, spectacularly dashed.

Haven't read the slap, but also have not heard a good thing about it.

Viviennemary Sat 29-Sep-12 10:49:53

Fifty shades was totally dire. Couldn't get even a quarter of the way through it. I skipped bits and it got even more daft. I also totally hated Lovely Bones. It was one of the worst books I've ever read. Though it was a year or two since I read it. I didn't like The Night Circus and it sounded quite good.

notnowImreading Sat 29-Sep-12 10:51:07

I didn't like The Greatcoat either, and I usually love Helen Dunmore's work. It was weird but in an it-doesn't-hang-together way rather than a creepy-and-good way.

I'd like to add about half of Anna Karenina. I loved bits of it, but about 40% of the book is Levin dribbling on about noble peasants and how to manage a farm, or duck shooting, or voting systems among Russian nobles (but not peasants). I know some people love it for those bits but they are nutters if you ask me but I was only in it for the love story.

I did read the sample of 50 shades, free to my kindle, actually, if 15 pages of a book counts that truly was the worst thing, not just this year, but in all my nearly 43 years!!!!! I cringed at the content and the style. And I didn't even get to a smutty bit to do super-cringe!!

<secret Anna Karenina "nutter" here......!>

whatkungfuthat Sat 29-Sep-12 14:12:08

I haven't read 50 Shades, Bared to Me or any of the other tripe popular books that are doing the rounds at the moment. The worst book I have read this year is easily Comfort and Joy by India Knight (which I read over the Xmas hols so technically may have been last year) it was dreadful.

deleted203 Sat 29-Sep-12 19:51:05

Interested to hear that other people hate not finishing a book, too. I used to force myself to read on, because I a) can't bear not to finish or b) vainly hoped it would get better. This last year I have managed to free myself from this need and decided that I'm getting older/don't have loads of free time and that, actually, if something is still utter shite by about half way through it is okay to dump it. Without feeling guilty. It's very liberating grin.

I was reading this thread wondering what book BIGTITS is and then the penny dropped BIGTS was the book.
For me 50 shades has been the worst, A visit from the Goon Squad and Me before you. I can't read chick lit anymore.

JiltedJohnsJulie Sat 29-Sep-12 20:03:01

Yes, life is just too short. Think the kindle has helped, I download a sample and its rubbish I don't bother with the book. It doesn't happen often but why feel guilty?

JiltedJohnsJulie Sun 30-Sep-12 11:33:29

Forgot the Paris Wife. While it's not the worst book I've read this year, it is on the list.

PuffPants Sun 30-Sep-12 11:45:10

Well, I've just finished The Sense of an Ending and am underwhelmed,

puffpants - ditto, read it early this year and just thought hey? really?

JiltedJohnsJulie Sun 30-Sep-12 12:00:30

Now I read that one for book group and we had a great discussion about it. Mainly due to one of the members googling beforehand and giving some weird and wacky theories.

Galaxymum Sun 30-Sep-12 12:39:08

The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore. What a dreary supposed ghost story. It was really only a novella and I still couldn't plough through it all. Dreary dreary dreary

ShellyBobbs Sun 30-Sep-12 15:09:27

We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I think it was cheap or something so I downloaded it after having seen the film. I didn't finish it, I just found it awful to read.

PuffPants Sun 30-Sep-12 15:33:36

Me too Shelley - after a few chapters I just decided I didn't need to know.


FrickinAnnoyed Sun 30-Sep-12 15:38:12

Before I Go To Sleep!

I haven't read 50 shades of grey, because I don't care.

I was rather disappointed by a Graham Greene's novel: Stamboul Train. Shame, as I usually enjoy Graham Greene.

I was also disappointed by World War Z, I was expecting it to be more engaging.

ShellyBobbs Sun 30-Sep-12 17:53:52

puffpants It's listed quite a lot on the best reads shock

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Sun 30-Sep-12 17:58:12

I also thought The Finkler Question was a load of toss. Kalooki Nights, OTOH, is quite good, if a bit too long. but Howard Jacobson does seem to have a problem with women, especially non-Jewish ones.
Also underwhelmed by the Sense of an Ending. Arthur and George much better. They quite often give someone the Booker several books after they really should have done, don't they?

deleted203 Mon 01-Oct-12 18:29:01

Well I personally generally make a point of avoiding whatever won the Booker. I've read several 'winners' and thought they were awful and pretentious. They are often quite keen on post-colonial literature and I'm afraid I'm often not.

pointythings Mon 01-Oct-12 19:28:51

Well, having refused to read 50 Shades I then wasted far too much time reading 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz. I still don't know why I actually bothered to finish it - I must be into serious mental pain. He used to be a good writer but has now become a wingnut Tea Party caricature.

I am officially not going to read anything new of his ever again, will stick with rereading the old stuff.

50 shades by a mile.

expatinscotland Mon 01-Oct-12 19:32:23

A Discovery of Witches and even worse, it's sequel. Fucking stoopid.

BillyBollyBandy Mon 01-Oct-12 19:38:43

Close third after the popular 50 shades of shite and BIGTS is The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

mosschops30 Mon 01-Oct-12 19:48:16

Oh dear am currently reading the first 50 shades!
Loved BIGTS, and We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Hated the Lovely Bones, that tosh with the dead bf who leaves her envelopes to open every month or whatever, Time Travellers Wife and The Slap was just awful.
I've always finished every book I've started until one recently which I got to page 2 and thought 'fuck this life's too short'. I can't even remember the name

CoteDAzur Mon 01-Oct-12 19:56:19

Before I Go To Sleep wasn't that bad. It raised interesting questions like "What is identity without memory?"

I haven't read 50SOG and can't believe so many of you have so my "worst of 2012" is Victoria Hislop's The Island.

pointythings Mon 01-Oct-12 20:10:39

I really liked A Discovery of Witches - but then I don't rate it as serious fiction, just as a rather good supernatural romance type thing.

expatinscotland Mon 01-Oct-12 20:22:42

A Discovery of Witches was okay, the second one was drivel.

gokhuvegeta Mon 01-Oct-12 20:29:40

It has to be 50 shades- my inner goddess would have ripped off his sausage and served it to him on a platter- but still, each to their own.

kiwigirl42 Mon 01-Oct-12 20:38:35

Time Traveller's Wife. Just couldn't finish it. So boring - and I really liked the concept but ... yawn!

and that one about the American Missionary family in the Congo ..um..um.. so tedious my brain has deleted all memory ...

kiwigirl42 Mon 01-Oct-12 20:40:16

oh yeah, The Poisonwood Bible!

gok snoooooooort at inner goddesses and sausages. grin grin

Maryz Mon 01-Oct-12 20:50:19

snowdrop, or whatever it was called. The ones about the bodies in Russia.

At least it would have been the worst book I have ever read, only I didn't read all of it. I gave up.

YoullLaughAboutItOneDay Mon 01-Oct-12 20:52:08

God, the inner goddess and the subconscious. Firstly, you cannot talk to your sub-consious. Clue is in the name. Secondly, when you get two competing voices in your head, that is time to obtain professional help, not embark on an ill advised relationship with an abusive billionaire.

Peeenut Mon 01-Oct-12 23:27:41

Pets in a Pickle. I downloaded it for some fun holiday reading, complete crap.

LastMangoInParis Mon 01-Oct-12 23:33:56

50 Shades. By a really long stretch.

Before I Go To Sleep was fairly shabby.

The Slap was shite.

But 50 Shades is the crappiest book I've ever read. Ever.

mimbleandlittlemy Tue 02-Oct-12 13:24:56

Before I Go To Sleep - total, utter bollocking bollocks and what made me even more irritated was that I really wanted to like it.

PedanticPanda Tue 02-Oct-12 13:30:07

50 shades of grey. It was awful.

PedanticPanda Tue 02-Oct-12 13:30:39

Oh and the slap too, I was disappointed by that.

deleted203 Tue 02-Oct-12 16:52:43

I also quite enjoyed 'We need to talk about Kevin'....although not keen on the ending. Thought 'The Lovely Bones' was poor. I've got 77 Shadow Street - but pointythings has just said it's awful, so I don't know if I'll bother, lol.

Room. Although I didn't finish it,flicked forward to see if it got any better, decided it didn't and gave up. Over rated tosh.

CoteDAzur Wed 03-Oct-12 08:02:04

Why do you people all read the same books? Genuine question and I'm honestly very curious about this.

Do you buy & listen to all the music in pop charts?

If not, why do you read these overhyped books by bad authors, pumped into Bestseller charts through publishers' marketing efforts?

ripsishere Wed 03-Oct-12 08:12:48

I've started and not finished The Slap, same with the one written by Ford Maddox Ford with the central character Titless. Can remember the man but not the title of the book.
I have now stolen DDs kindle.

JiltedJohnsJulie Wed 03-Oct-12 09:54:21

Cote I've mentioned three books I didn't like this year, BIGTS and the Paris Wife were chosen by others at our Book Group and I've already explained why I read 50 shades.

I've also read some great books this year, and lots of them were book group choices too.

CoteDAzur Wed 03-Oct-12 10:08:37

I didn't mean you or anyone else in particular. I'm just curious about this phenomenon I see on MN and in RL where women just seem to be reading the same (new) books at about the same time.

I honestly don't understand why this happens and would appreciate it if someone could offer an explanation.

LastMangoInParis Wed 03-Oct-12 10:18:33

I'll tell you, Cote:

I go through phases of reading these new 'talked about'/best seller books out of pure curiosity.

They're not the only thing I read - far from it. But a book is discussed and discussed and discussed (as Room, 50 Shades, The Slap etc. were), I really want to know what the big deal is. So I read the book.

Very often these books are bland and disappointing, sometimes there's some good stuff in them (Room had some quite good writing, but could have been about a third of the length and the writer seemed to have got so pleased with her tropes and gimmicks seeing the world through the eyes of an imagined child that the book ended up hackneyed and twee), sometimes they're just awful beyond belief (50 Shades). I'm always glad that I've read them, though.

NotmylastRolo Wed 03-Oct-12 10:25:51

Was I missing something when I read 50 Shades? I felt the pain was inflicted on the reader! What a mysogonistic author. Weak heroine, damaged but rich male, Mills&Boone with whips. Can she fix him? Who cares! Back to Game of Thrones which is much better (have finished the first three on my fantastic Kindle).

cq Wed 03-Oct-12 10:26:55

The Hare with Amber Eyes - a book club torture, arty, historical and very very dull. I must just be a philistine because it's had loads of good reviews but I just couldn't stick with it, and I very rarely give up on a book.

And while I hated The Slap, I did think it was a very clever writer who could make every single character so flawed and unlikeable, but I really resented the authour's generalizations that everyone does casual drugs and sex as a matter of course. He set out to provoke, and he certainly succeeded.

PoppadomPreach Wed 03-Oct-12 10:33:25

Zero Day by David Baldacci.

First of his "thrillers" I have read and it will be the last. Cliched writing, bland and unrealistic characters, sexist and patronising in parts and a flimsy plot. Definitely one to avoid!

NotmylastRolo Wed 03-Oct-12 10:35:49

Cote - you asked why so many (inlcuding me) read the latest releases. Time, my friend, time! I have very little to spare so usually when looking for my next book I google or search on Amazon for the most popular/downloaded book and go for that one hoping that so many avid readers cannot be wrong. Sometimes I am lucky and sometimes it is torture. I do not suffer from guilt about ditching a turkey. That said I have read most of those mentioned: BIGTS, One Day, Hunger Games and also Fatherland (but GofT is my fave currently).

TheCountessOlenska Wed 03-Oct-12 10:39:21

I am going to DEFEND 50 shades as being in the "so bad it's good" category - I found it (unintentionally) hilarious and quite the page turner. I read all three, by the third one I had to skip through the sex scenes as I couldn't take another exploding orgasm. Lol at You'llLaugh, indeed!

Separate Lives - really awful. One of the reviews on the cover said something about "characters who act like people you actually know" !! confused

Me before You - just bizarre, couldn't get over the heroine not knowing how to do an internet search and never having seen or heard of Pimms before. Again, confused

halfnhalf Wed 03-Oct-12 10:47:48

The Bell, by Iris Murdoch. Had to do it for a book group. At least I can tick Iris Murdoch off the list of people I feel I should read now.

lalalonglegs Wed 03-Oct-12 11:03:42

I really liked The Slap - I thought it was morally complex and I didn't dislike most of the characters. I also loved Room.

My worst book of the year was a book group choice: A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez, a extremely unthrilling thriller with cliched characters and a laughably poor structure and plot.

Headhunters by Jo Nesbo was disappointing in the extreme. Just plain silly, and totally shattered any credibility of the author in my view.

But not the worst of the year. Simon Cowell is in a class of his own there.

JiltedJohnsJulie Wed 03-Oct-12 13:25:49

couldn't get over the heroine not knowing how to do an internet search and never having seen or heard of Pimms before. and who says that MN is too middle class grin

sieglinde Wed 03-Oct-12 13:58:32

Oh, another one for Me Before You. Contrived.

I only read the Kindle sample of 50 Shades, so I can't count that. Or I would...

BIGTS was a great idea but fell apart completely in the execution.

DuchessofMalfi Wed 03-Oct-12 14:20:40

BIGTS could have been a brilliant novel. SJW had a good idea, but ultimately I found myself not liking the central character, and really not caring that much about the story. Disappointing. It won't have put me off trying his next novel though, whenever that's published.

Me Before You, whilst it wasn't great literature, and had some big holes in the story, was an enjoyable read for me. I do, however, think that Patrick Gale covered the right to die point better in A Perfectly Good Man, which is one of my favourite reads of this year so far.

I'm going to have to defend Iris Murdoch's The Bell, though, halfnhalf. I studied it for A Level, and loved it. One of my favourite books of all time, but I can't say that I love all Iris Murdoch's novels (I've read a few more).

To answer Cote d'Azur's question - why do we all read the same books? I think I'd have to say curiosity some of the time. If someone's talking about a book they have read then I might want to read it too. I don't read everything - no intention of ever reading FSOG. Again, time factor for me. I have young children so don't get much time to read or visit the library without them. I'd love nothing better than having a couple of hours to myself to browse the library shelves and see what I can find but that's so rare these days. Normally it's a quick dash in, see what's on the quick choice shelf, grab it and go grin

willyoulistentome Wed 03-Oct-12 14:27:17

I read 50 shades' even though I hated the sound of it. I suppose I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I did hate it and deleted it off my kindle before I got to the end.

TheCountessOlenska Wed 03-Oct-12 17:22:21

Yes but JiltedJohn, I really think that a twenty-something from any class would be familiar with the concept of Google in this day and age! And fair enough, maybe not everyone knows what Pimms is (I don't know what's in it) but surely you'd realise it was an alcoholic drink - it was just a really contrived way for the heroine to get accidentally drunk- bad writing!

JiltedJohnsJulie Wed 03-Oct-12 17:25:36

Agree with a twenty something not knowing about google is pretty far fetched but I'd like to take you to the city I was born in and do some market research on Pimms, pretty sure you'd get plenty of blank looks no matter what age they were smile.

CoteDAzur Wed 03-Oct-12 18:00:56

Notmy, Duchess, Lastmango - re time constraints in choosing books, have you considered browsing for books in Amazon.co.uk, for example?

With Amazon & Kindle, it's really easy to find & quickly start to read great books. I really recommend the experience smile

Maybe I'm alone in this but I honestly don't care enough about finding out what others are talking about re books they've read to spend days of my life reading rubbish like FSOG.

There are so many brilliant masterpieces out there and so little time in which to read them.

DuchessofMalfi Wed 03-Oct-12 18:14:43

Wow Cote D'Azur, did you really mean to sound so patronising? I read what I want to read smile

TheCountessOlenska Wed 03-Oct-12 18:21:52

I enjoyed FSOG in the same way that I enjoy the occasional BigMac. Doesn't mean I don't read and enjoy more challenging, less main-stream literature.

Sometimes I like to read what everyone else is reading because I am interested in current trends and, for that matter, in other people.

CoteDAzur Wed 03-Oct-12 18:45:23

No, I didn't mean to be patronising and can't imagine why you would think so confused

I read my last post again and can't find anything controversial in it. Don't we all agree that FSOG is rubbish? Or that there are lots of masterpieces we can read instead?

To each their own and everyone can of course read whatever they want. I'm just explaining what I think.

YoullLaughAboutItOneDay Wed 03-Oct-12 20:07:30

Out of interest Cote, do you find it easy to browse on Amazon? I find that, unless I am searching for something specific, I get weighed down in pages and pages of highly promoted new releases. I was actually going to cite online shopping and book club as the reasons I end up reading all the same books as everyone else. Oh, and obviously friends/family passing on what they have read.

Melpomene Wed 03-Oct-12 20:09:09

The first few pages of 50 Shades, on a preview on Amazon.

MarianForrester Wed 03-Oct-12 20:10:36

One Day. Hated it.

CoteDAzur Wed 03-Oct-12 20:19:22

I do, actually. Personally, I think it is much easier to find a book I will enjoy on Amazon than in a bookstore. If you have recently read a book you liked, you can easily find that author's other books, read their synopses, see what other readers say about them, and even read a free sample if you have a Kindle. It is also easy to see new books in your preferred genres, and especially those just out by your favourite authors.

I hear you re book club, though. Most Bestseller books I have read are due to our book club (Book Thief, 1000 Splendid Suns, Memory Keeper's Daughter) and that is probably why I have a low opinion of Bestsellers. That and also the reviews here on MN, of course smile

Picked up a book in a petrol station called The Day You Saved My Life by Louise Candlish. It was dire and I was so cross when I got to the end of it with a real "is that it?" feeling that I went and gave it a shoddy review on Amazon. Bit sad, I know, but I was just so annoyed that I'd devoted time to it when I don't have a lot of time for reading these days.

DuchessofMalfi Wed 03-Oct-12 20:28:57

One Day was awful - completely agree with you Marian smile I liked The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides which also begins similarly with students about to leave University. A much better read.

JiltedJohnsJulie Wed 03-Oct-12 20:32:43

I find it really hard to find books on amazon too. Some of the best books I've read this year have been from the book group, like song for Achilles, or recommendations on MN or by friends.

LastMangoInParis Wed 03-Oct-12 20:53:55

Cote - My reading isn't restricted by time constraints choosing books. I spend ages browsing Amazon, and Oxfam bookshops, Daunts, Waterstones, some amazing local bookshops... I read a great deal.

As I'm interested in literature and culture generally, I like to see what's out there. So I read a fair amount of shit as well as proper literature.

Thanks for 'recommending' reading great books - I already do! (My understanding is that this thread is about crap books, though.)

CoteDAzur Wed 03-Oct-12 21:07:10

I wasn't recommending reading great books, but just explaining how I feel about wasting time reading crappy ones, just like you just explained why you like reading them on occasion. To each their own, of course, and I understand that others have a higher tolerance to bad books or more time to consecrate to reading.

MarianForrester Thu 04-Oct-12 11:22:10

DuchessofMalfi, I shall try The Marriage Plot. I like the premise.

sieglinde Thu 04-Oct-12 12:17:11

I too like great books but also the odd piece of crap, because it lets you see how the great stuff works. But really crappity crap, nope. 50 Shades was too crap for me. This is why God made kindle samples grin

CoteDAzur Thu 04-Oct-12 13:40:30

sieglinde grin

hoodoo12345 Thu 04-Oct-12 16:37:33

Another vote for the 50 shades trilogy, truly dreadful, boring and about as raunchy as toothache.

LastMangoInParis Thu 04-Oct-12 22:39:58

Can we also include most over-rated 'literary' fiction/authors in this thread?
If so, I'd like to get the ball rolling with an opening bid of Edward St Aubyn's Melrose trilogy.
And I'd like to add Justin Cartwright's 'Other People's Money'.
Any other offers?

Shallishanti Thu 04-Oct-12 22:49:14

The Alchemist
we had it for our book group- i usually plough on to the end, but this really was a case where life was too short

deleted203 Thu 04-Oct-12 23:29:33

Over-rated 'literary' fiction? Anita Loos, Salman Rushdie IMO (both ruddy Booker Prize winners).

PorkyandBess Thu 04-Oct-12 23:36:38

50 shades was the worst - and I only read about half of the first one before I threw it in the bin.

Someone mentioned The Greatcoat - I loved that.

DuchessofMalfi Fri 05-Oct-12 07:13:28

I thought The Greatcoat didn't really work as a ghost story - not in the least chilling or frightening like The Woman in Black.

BeauNeidel Fri 05-Oct-12 09:37:04

I used to always always always finish a book; it's only fairly recently I have been able to just put down a book I don't like and not finish it. Also, with the Kindle samples, it means I don't waste money on books I won't finish.

Two that were recommended on here, which from the samples I didn't like were The Poisonwood Bible and The Bronze Horseman. I didn't even manage to finish the samples of either.

Oh yes, The Alchemist.

pictish Fri 05-Oct-12 09:43:57

I read Before I Go To Sleep and was underwhelmed by it, given the rave reviews. It wasn't bad as such - it just wasn't particularly interesting or compelling.

50 Shades natch. Worraloadashoite!

A Game of Thrones - the plot's as thin as tracing paper. If you took out every florid description of medieval type clothing, the book would be half as thick.

I just finished A Beautiful Disaster - a novel I picked up in Tesco in the 2 for £7 offer. Even worse than 50 Shades actually.

pictish Fri 05-Oct-12 09:44:54

Also - The Slap - load of old shit, that.

LastMangoInParis Fri 05-Oct-12 09:59:34

The Greatcoat wasn't so great as a chilling ghost story, but I liked it as a story about loneliness - which I think often is a good background for stories about 'haunting' - IYSWIM. I also liked it as a historical story about a post-war housewife. I thought the details about the main character's lifestyle were very interesting, as were the relationships between her and her husband, the people in her village/town, etc.
I probably wouldn't have noticed or read it if it hadn't been advertised as a ghost story, and I really enjoyed it. Will look out for more by Helen Dunmore, I like her writing a lot.

Books like The Greatcoat keep me reading stuff that's current and commercial, recommended by Amazon, etc.

LastMangoInParis Fri 05-Oct-12 10:47:29

Am I the only person who found The Woman In Black derivative and predictable?

LemarchandsBox Fri 05-Oct-12 10:50:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NicknameTaken Fri 05-Oct-12 13:10:49

I quite like the settings of Susan Hill's books (I like a nice Victorian lawyer's office or gentlemen's club, the rain beating on the window pane). but I agree there is no real depth to her work. It's basically a rip-off of MR James' stuff.

I'm quite interested in the question about how we choose books and whether we all end reading the same heavily-promoted stuff. I mainly choose via book reviews and browsing at the library. Because I read a lot of non-fiction, it's easy to browse the shelves on a particular subject area and find something interesting. For fiction, if I've heard a lot of talk about a particular book I might borrow it, but otherwise I tend to read crime, and if I like a particular author, I'll often read everything by them. I also like mid-twentieth century writing by women, so I look out for books published by Virago Press.

Probably the dullest books I've ploughed through this year have been The Hare with the Amber Eyes and Spell it Out, about why we spell words the way we do. I expected to like both, as they're the kind of thing I usually enjoy, but dullsville.

DuchessofMalfi Fri 05-Oct-12 13:47:22

I did actually rather like The Greatcoat, as a novel examining the loneliness of the young wife in a new town left to her own devices with her husband out at work and no friends. That works, but a ghost story does need to be scary and Alec (the ghost) is too likeable for that!

The Woman in Black, I thought, was chilling. I liked that it left me feeling unsettled. However, I read another of Susan Hill's ghost stories, The Man in the Picture, recently and that was dreadful - so dull.

DuchessofMalfi Fri 05-Oct-12 13:50:52

Oh and I picked up a lovely big volume of M R James's ghost stories from a charity shop recently - will wait to see if they give me a sleepless night!

elspethmcgillicuddy Fri 05-Oct-12 21:58:17

I haven't got much time for Susan Hill either. I read her autobiographical book which was supposedly about how she spent a year only reading books she alread had on her shelves. I thought it was a fab premise but on reality it was just an excuse to name drop all the people she had met. I find her books so disappointing.

(although I loved The Woman In Black on stage)

Wolfcub Fri 05-Oct-12 22:11:48

Monday to Friday Man (thank god it was a kindle offer) wins the prize for worst book so far this year for me. Utter tripe

SkiBumMum Fri 05-Oct-12 22:13:35

Room. Bloody awful.

MrsMellowDrummer Fri 05-Oct-12 22:26:26

Will Self's "Umbrella".
If it wins the Booker, I'm throwing a tantrum.

QueenofJacksDreams Fri 05-Oct-12 22:46:29

I think for me its going to end up being The Casual Vacancy. I'm half way through it and I hate it but I can't stop reading it angry

ShellyBobbs Sat 06-Oct-12 04:11:51

Queen Sometimes books really are that bad that you have to finish them to see just how awful they can get smile

VeritableSmorgasbord Sat 06-Oct-12 06:57:51

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
I don't get it
The characters are not interesting or well-drawn
The setting is dull
The murder, whilst shocking in itself, is rather commonplace
The writing is pedestrian
I read it and thought: why did this book get written? It contributes nothing.

LastMangoInParis Sat 06-Oct-12 10:50:45

I loved The Suspicions of Mr Whicher!
I thought it was one book that truly lived up to its glowing reviews. Loved the details about Victorian life and the people who lived at Road House, the ways that Kate Summerscale dealt with lacunae in information and found it totally gripping. I thought it was one of the few massively publicised books that more than lived up to the hype and my expectations of it.

Haven't yet read 'Umbrella', but having heard WS talking to Mariella on R4 I've been almost prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt after his 2 decades of ceaseless 6th form twaddle and give it a go.

'Room' - very disappointing, but I read a short story by Emma Donoghue which was quite good and I wonder if 'Room' was really a short story that got stretched for sales purposes. It reads that way.

WRT to Susan Hill, she seems to be regarded as a 'serious' author, which I don't think she is. I read 'I'm The King of the Castle' as a child and found it brilliantly creepy (don't know if I would now, but mean to reread). I've read a couple of her books in the last few years and they seem quite well written in parts (atmospheric, good snapshots of recognisable settings, etc.), but also formulaic and bland.

elkiedee Sat 06-Oct-12 10:53:16

I actually quite liked a lot of the books people have mentioned, both literary and chicklit stuff, so I'm hoping I also enjoy the ones that I've bought and haven't yet read. I didn't like Finkler Question and think One Day is wildly overrated, but I read them before this year.

I read quite a lot - 230 books so far this year, which probably means my total will be slightly lower than 2010 and 2011 (both over 300), and I'm an Amazon Vine reviewer so I get to try some books, both bestsellers and obscure things, for free. Again with books I borrow from the library or ones I buy, I read both well known things and ones which aren't so much. I was quite disappointed by Mary Horlock's The Book of Lies. I don't hate many books and I haven't hated anything this year, just had a few I didn't like very much.

LastMangoInParis Sat 06-Oct-12 11:35:33

Ooh, tell us more, elkie... smile

SuperB0F Sat 06-Oct-12 11:56:12

Sowornout- do you mean Anita Brookner? I think Anita Loos wrote Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I agree with you though: I can't read anything of hers without getting horribly depressed. As a rule, I avoid anything described as elegaic, as it invariably means 'maudlin and navel-gazing'.

Selky Sat 06-Oct-12 12:06:08

Zero Day - David Baldacci
Ash - James Herbert
Three Feet of SKy - Stephen Ayres

Derivative and clunkily written. Finished them, though. I need to learn to cut my losses.

CoteDAzur Sat 06-Oct-12 13:26:04

elkie - You read 230 books so far this year? shock That is about 6 books per week, almost 1 book per day, every day!

KurriKurri Sat 06-Oct-12 13:57:09

I've got Cloud Atlas and The Interpretation of Murder on my shelf, - finding them both very hard to get into, I've seen them recommended though - are they all hype and no substance?

Elkie - enormously impressed with your reading, - I'd love to be a fast reader, but one average sized paperback takes me four or five days.

deleted203 Sat 06-Oct-12 16:53:30

SuperBof I did mean Anita Brookner - you're right. Complete brainstorm there (it's because I've just been reading a couple of biographies of silent film stars - Mary Pickford/Clara Bow and Anita Loos featured in them). It was bloody 'Hotel du Lac' that I read and hated.

CoteDAzur Sat 06-Oct-12 17:57:36

Kurri - Cloud Atlas is a brilliant book. Persevere smile

If you need a bit of help deciphering its many clues and themes, here is a thread in which I wrote quite a bit about Cloud Atlas.

KurriKurri Sat 06-Oct-12 17:59:40

Thank you CoteD'Azur - I'll give it another go, and I'll check that thread out smile

LastMangoInParis Sat 06-Oct-12 18:47:19

Cote - that's a great Cloud Atlas thread! smile

CoteDAzur Sat 06-Oct-12 20:22:19

I'm glad you like it smile I'd love to discuss it all, so do come back to that thread once you've read the book and add your thoughts to mine.

MarshmallowCupcake Sun 07-Oct-12 17:57:59

I would've said 50SOG as well- it became boring and predictable but I bet the 'author' really doesn't care! Anyone who churns 3 books out so quickly can't have too much talent and is jumping at the space in the market and she's made a fortune ! I though they were shite and only read all 3 cos I'd downloaded them all onto kindle before they peaked and all the true reports started comin through. I read an interview with Tina Hobley and she didn't like these books but recommended Perfume by Patrick Suskind - what a pile of tripe!!! She must be related to this guy cos she couldn't possibly have enjoyed the book!

LastMangoInParis Sun 07-Oct-12 22:52:27

Perfume is another one I love. You're the first I know of who hasn't enjoyed it, Marshmallow. I think it's a gem of a book! What's not to love about it? shock grin

Made a start on Cloud Atlas (audiobook so quite a way in already wink).
Loving it, can't wait to get further and on to the other thread. (Don't want to look at thread just now, enjoying own thoughts on Cloud Atlas.)

(Must also confess to previous lit-crush on David Mitchell - after reading a mere short story of his. I thought I was over it, but it's back again now. blush)

NicknameTaken Mon 08-Oct-12 11:08:23

Ooh, I've got another one! Just finished Alexander McCall Smith, The Charming Quirks of Others. Truly dire. We spend ages following the meandering thoughts of the main character, Isabel Dalhousie, and the author keeps telling us that they are profoundly philisophical when they are utterly inane. The plot relies on absurd coincidences, so it totally fails as a story about investigation. The character is always going on about morality, but doesn't think twice about making totally unfounded (and as it turns out, incorrect) allegations about individuals applying for a job. Awful.

On the plus side, I used to suspect this author of being patronising towards Africans with the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency stories. I wanted to like them, because it's nice to have everyday scenes from Africa, not famine and war, but the characters struck me as simplistic. Now I realize that this is how he portrays everyone - all his characters are one-dimensional.

Whatiswitnit Mon 08-Oct-12 21:31:57

50SoG - clearly abysmal but not my least enjoyable read of the year so far. I just couldn't stop reading and hated myself every minute. I had to delete it off my kindle as soon as I'd done with it so I felt cleansed.

Other crud I read this year:

Wetlands - Charlotte Roche
The Whisperer - Donato Carrisi
The Fear Index - Robert Harris

All just very silly.

I would add The Alchemist and The Finkler Question to the 'worst ever' list but I read them last year.

lobsters Mon 08-Oct-12 21:42:15


One Day
The Hare with Amber Eyes

I loved Room, and quite liked before I go to sleep and me before you.

Luce808 Mon 08-Oct-12 22:00:17

Before I Go to Sleep - dreadful.

LastMangoInParis Mon 08-Oct-12 22:38:56

Before I Go To Sleep: trop trope = tripe. IYSWIM.

Loved Wetlands. Very silly indeed, made me laugh out loud loads. Even days after I'd read it.

Agree, Alexander McCall Smith's twee 'gentle humour' (trans: condescending treatment of his characters) is nauseating. Have never got beyond the first chapter of any book of his that I've tried as his writing makes me so irritable that I start feeling physically unwell.

What is this 'Hare With Amber Eyes'?

Whatiswitnit Tue 09-Oct-12 10:17:01

I tried twice to read The Hare with the Amber Eyes but it was excruciatingly dull. Shame really as it could have been really good; the story (it's non-fiction) is quite interesting but the writing is execrable. My reading group all loved it.

50smellsofshite Tue 09-Oct-12 20:23:49

These threads always shock some people who can't believe their beloved book is loathed smile

I hated Cloud Atlas, Perfume and A prayer for Owen Meany.
I am affronted that anyone didn't enjoy We need to talk about Kevin, I mean it's a bloody masterpiece you freaks grin

50smellsofshite Tue 09-Oct-12 20:24:25

The hare with amber eyes = a big pile of steaming shite

CoteDAzur Tue 09-Oct-12 20:28:02

Could it be that people just roll their eyes at those who come on these threads and declare that they have understood absolutely nothing of what are clearly not only good but great books? smile

If you wait long enough on such "worst book" threads, sooner or later it is the turn of very good books. There are always a few people who just didn't get them.

50smellsofshite Tue 09-Oct-12 21:44:05

CoteDAzur you're such a tiresome book snob. The passive aggressive smiley doesn't hide it, you know that?

CoteDAzur Tue 09-Oct-12 22:08:08

I'm sorry that you were offended by my smiley. I just didn't want my comment to look overly serious and aggressive.

No more smileys for you. HTH.

MaBaya Tue 09-Oct-12 22:08:57

Fifty Shades was GARBAGE. Nuff said.

Myliferocks Tue 09-Oct-12 22:11:50

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
Ash by James Herbert

ShirleyRots Tue 09-Oct-12 22:27:25

The Children's Book. Sooooooo long winded and boring. <shouts "get on with it>

<gives to charity shop>

LastMangoInParis Tue 09-Oct-12 23:42:39

But Cote... the fact that someone didn't like a book that you consider 'good' doesn't necessarily mean that they didn't understand it. confused

On that basis, Cote, unless you really are a bit if a snob modern day Queenie Leavis, you'd have to argue that those of us who didn't like 50SOG simply didn't 'get' it. (Maybe we didn't... wink)

LastMangoInParis Tue 09-Oct-12 23:46:57

Just wanted to add that I loved, loved loved Dark Matter, though.

And I'm not really shocked by people's different opinions*. I'm interested.
More interesting discussing something with someone who's view contrasts with you own, non?

*So please excuse earlier use of emoticons. Not intended as passive-aggressive/narc-ish/sociopathological or indicative any other MN-sofa-psycho-condition.

babybythesea Wed 10-Oct-12 11:18:57

Hmm, have been pondering why I choose the books I do as a result of this.

The Slap (which I hated), I heard being discussed on R4 the week it came out and made a note to myself it was one I wanted to read. It turned up on a second hand stall about a year later and I bought it. It then sat on my bookshelf for several years until I got round to reading it. I hadn't heard loads of bad things about it before buying it. Once I'd bought it, I might as well read it! It sounded interesting in the original discussion, and I think it could have been, but he was more interested in making all the characters one-dimensional, quite nasty, caricatures and that completely drowned out the original idea.

50 shades - knew almost from the first I heard about it that it wouldn't be my thing so I won't bother.

I don't 'browse' on Amazon though. I go to Amazon to order a specific book I've heard about. (I listen to a lot of Radio 4, so might hear books reviewed on anything from Woman's Hour to A Good Read to Open Book!!). If I hear a review of a book I think is interesting, I go to Amazon and put it on my wishlist. My wishlist is currently over 500 items long.... Sometimes, I follow up some of the 'people who bought this also bought that' suggestions, especially for more obscure books (like lost classics) and if the blurb and comments sound interesting I'll stick that on the wishlist too.

At the moment, I've got well over 500 books at home that I haven't yet read. Somewhere in there, I will guarantee that there are books that got rave reviews when they came out that people since have dismissed as over-rated. By the time I get round to reading them, I'll have forgotten who said what and need to read them myself to see what I think!
I do keep an eye on best-sellers, but not indiscriminately -I know what kind of stuff I like and if the best-seller doesn't fit that, I don't bother, whatever anyone else says about it.

babybythesea Wed 10-Oct-12 11:23:19

Oooh, the Suspicians of Mr Whicher - I loved!
I quite liked the murder story but more than that, I loved the way in which she traced how the murder, and others of the time, affected the development of detective novels. I read the Moonstone a few years ago and thought it was brilliant - I really enjoyed seeing how murders like the one at Road House played out in fiction of the time by people like Collins. It made me want to go back and re-read the Moonstone to see more clearly how it was influenced by current events of its day, now I know more about them. And I found the history of the fledgling police detective service interesting, with little bits of language history etc fascinating details.
It was far far more than just a murder story, it was history and social history and literary history and language development all rolled into one!

NicknameTaken Wed 10-Oct-12 12:44:49

I love The Moonstone!

Luce808 Wed 10-Oct-12 13:00:49

I find it really fascinating that if I utterly detest a book (e.g. The Time Traveller's Wife) I will read 50 responses on Mumsnet who say they LOVED it, thought it was INCREDIBLE and WEPT buckets at the end. I love how people's minds work so differently that one person's utter shite is another's book they couldn't live without.

DuchessofMalfi Wed 10-Oct-12 13:10:19

I read The Moonstone when I was a teenager and loved it. About time I re-read it. Off to Amazon now to see if it's free on kindle smile

DystopianReality Wed 10-Oct-12 13:13:16

Loathed with vengeance



The Island

One Day


The Hare with Amber Eyes (First 100 pages are quite hard work but it really gets much better after that)

Dark Matter

English Passengers (Don't miss it)by Matthew Neale

The Colour by Rose Tremain

YokoOhNo Wed 10-Oct-12 13:27:25

Another vote for the Hare With The Amber Eyes. Utter, utter drivel and very pretentiously written. I bought it as my 3 in a "3 for 2" book offer. Couldn't finish it. The author's massive conceit at his own artistic and intellectual superiority to the reader irritated me too much.

ShellyBobbs Wed 10-Oct-12 13:45:02

Yoko You just made me chuckle at your description of the author, I want to read it now to see how bad they actually are grin.

YokoOhNo Wed 10-Oct-12 14:33:52

Shellybobbs - don't buy THWTAE and line the man's pockets grin. I'd give you my copy gratis, but I probably let the dog maul it or gave it away.

ShellyBobbs Wed 10-Oct-12 15:45:02

I'll put it on my kindle wish list so I can check if it's free anytime grin Probably ended up in a charity bag like all my rubbish books do.

duchesse Wed 10-Oct-12 15:50:50

When will there be good news?, by Kate Atkinson. The answer is "never".

1.5 days I will never get back.

PostBellumBugsy Wed 10-Oct-12 15:57:14

Another vote for The Hare With Amber Eyes - bought on the recommendation by a friend & I really struggled with it. Just seemed like one long "Oh look at my interesting family" brag fest. Not nearly enough stuff about netsuke, which would have been interesting.

Shagmundfreud Wed 10-Oct-12 16:00:34

One Day made me ANGRY.

Greyhound (Kindle) made me a bit cross too, because it could have been a good book, but because it lacked the hand of a very good editor it was an undisciplined mess.

evilgiraffe Wed 10-Oct-12 16:01:20

Heh, I read 50 shades two years ago when it was still just fanfiction. It is indeed pretty dire, but that's okay when it's a new chapter every week and you're doing it for fun. Trying to pretend it's good quality literature is both foolish and embarrassing.

The worst book I've read this year is The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack. It sounded so promising but was in fact tripe.

TunipTheVegemal Wed 10-Oct-12 16:03:17

Mine was probably a recent Philippa Gregory, The White Queen. I used to really like her but she's got boring lately.

Shagmundfreud Wed 10-Oct-12 16:04:22

The best book I've read in the last...oh... 2 years... is 'One Half of A Yellow Sun'.

Really, really recommend to everyone. I couldn't stop thinking about this book after finishing it.

Vagaceratops Wed 10-Oct-12 16:06:06

The Boleyn Inheritance by Phillipa Gregory.

LastMangoInParis Wed 10-Oct-12 17:56:17

Am starting to recall THWAE...

Booker nomination a couple of years back? Poe-faced Newsnight, Culture Show, C4 News-type presenters waffling gutterally?

I think it's starting to appear through the swirling mists.

Am sort of curious to give it a go now I know it's wound so many people up, though. As with all likely 'meh'-candidate books, I shall only purchase if available from Oxfam. (Am a bit excited now! smile)

LastMangoInParis Wed 10-Oct-12 18:00:03

'Half of a Yellow Sun'
Ooh, yes! Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one amazingly talented writer whose work stands out a mile. Just brilliant all round.

BigBoPeep Wed 10-Oct-12 19:14:47

pillars of the earth. ugh. as a woman it offended me - what's all that bit where tom builder's apparently beloved wife dies and ellen jumps his bones straight after because he's just so desirable hmm, and he's of course fine with that. Then the Aliena/Jack sex scenes...I dunno, I could just tell it was a man writing as a woman and it was pants. Aside from the main story being sooo boring. I found it unbelievable that Jak gave sh*t about building churches after tom builder died.

CoteDAzur Wed 10-Oct-12 19:33:32

LastMango - "the fact that someone didn't like a book that you consider 'good' doesn't necessarily mean that they didn't understand it."

Liking/not liking is personal taste and nobody can object to it.

I was thinking more in the line of those who say "It is a crap book, complete rubbish" etc about books that have won awards, for example. Would you not agree that it is likely that these people haven't understood the book, rather than a widely acclaimed book being complete rubbish?

That thread on Cloud Atlas, for example, is the result of one too many such remarks ("Worst book I ever read", "Rubbish", "Crap book" etc) about that book. On one of these "worst book" threads, I said something about there being lots in that book that people may be missing, and OP took me up on my offer to write down what I got from it.

LastMangoInParis Wed 10-Oct-12 23:14:17

I was thinking more in the line of those who say "It is a crap book, complete rubbish" etc about books that have won awards, for example. Would you not agree that it is likely that these people haven't understood the book, rather than a widely acclaimed book being complete rubbish?

Hmmm.... It's possible, of course.

But I'd be quite pissed off if someone tried telling me that the reason I dislike the writing of, say, Edward St Aubyn or Justin Cartwright is that I haven't understood it. I know that this writing is overrated, that it's of the same quality as much run-of-the-mill chick-lit of the sort that has mild literary pretensions. (You know the sort of stuff I mean: generally produced by glossy mag journalists with a bit of education, a reasonable turn of phrase now and again, but not a great deal to say.) But for some reason it's trumpeted as outstanding writing. Which it just is not.

Generally, if I don't enjoy a book, then I'll accept that:
a) It's the wrong time for me to read it. It doesn't resonante with me at this point, or I don't have the time to put in the hours and energy to 'connect' with it.
(That might sound really wanky. But still...)

Generally I'm happy to take this approach with more challenging literature.

b) The book is a crock of shite.

e.g 50SOG, etc.

Don't know if you've read The Slap, Cote.

Before I read it I was under the impression that it would be quite an interesting, well written book. Quite a lot of media discussion of it presented it as such. But it's shit. Just shit.

What am I trying to say confused wine
I think the Cloud Atlas thread is a great idea.
Could be a good idea to start similar threads about any book, I guess, particularly if it's not written to a convention that lots of readers with be familiar with.

But I really baulk at telling people they haven't understood a book.
This is probably going to sound condescending to someone, in some way, but I think if people want to go back and re-assess a book then they should do that in their own time, without being told to.

CoteDAzur Thu 11-Oct-12 08:51:16

I hear you re "wrong time to read". If I had tried Ian McEwan in my 20s, I would probably find it boring and pointless. Nearing 40, I found him incredibly insightful, peering into people's inner worlds with an eerie clarity.

Still, people come on here and say he is a terrible writer, his books are drivel, etc. it is not unreasonable to say they just don't get his books (yet?), possibly because it's not yet the right time for them.

CoteDAzur Thu 11-Oct-12 08:52:40

I haven't read The Slap (generally try to stay away from hyped new books) and unlikely to read it after this thread grin

NicknameTaken Thu 11-Oct-12 09:36:42

I agree with mango that if I dislike lauded books, it's not necessarily because I failed to understand them.

Anthony Burgess criticized Jane Austen's work for lacking a "strong male thrust". Now personally, I dislike a strong male thrust in my literature. I'm sure there's an extended metaphor in there about liking different things in bed (or wherever) and liking different things in books. Books are often about chemistry between author and reader.

YokoOhNo Thu 11-Oct-12 09:55:53

I'd be rather irritated if someone told me I did not understand a (in their opinion) great work of writing because i'd offered up my opinion that it was turgid drivel.

I liked the Time Traveler's Wife, which seems to be pretty divisive on MN, but lots of people didn't click with it. Several people loved The Hare With The Amber Eyes, which I thought was condescending pants. I'm pretty sure I understood it though hmm.

In THWTAE was the high falutin' tone of the uber-aesthete who was writing it that grated and I gave up about 20 pages from the end - "I am considerably more refined than yow!". It could have been a remarkable human story interwoven with art history, but I thought all the dreamy prose was over written.

NicknameTaken Thu 11-Oct-12 09:59:20

The Hare - I liked the bits about his uncle in Japan. I dislike the turgid Hapsburg architecture of Vienna, and I dislike ponderous prose about that architecture even more. It was an exciting story rendered dull by the heaviness of the prose.

Anste Thu 11-Oct-12 10:03:44

Oh I'm so glad some people think Fifty Shades is awful. I too have skipped loads of pages to try and get to the 'good bits,' to no avail. I just don't like the style of writing and was bored out of my tree. Friends tell me to 'bear with it, the second book is better!!' Well life's a bit short and I'd rather read books I enjoy.

TheFlumpsHaveEyes Thu 11-Oct-12 10:10:52

50 Shades was by far the most shit book I've read - probably ever.

I'm still annoyed at myself for being herded into downloading it like a sad little sheep, despite thinking the free sample was crap confused

YokoOhNo Thu 11-Oct-12 10:10:53

NicknameTaken - yes, exactly!

Chocberry Thu 11-Oct-12 18:20:16

The wicked girls by Alex Marwood, it's the first book ever that I have gave up pn a quarter of the way through. Bored me to tears and could not waste any more precious time on it.

LastMangoInParis Thu 11-Oct-12 19:39:01

Cote - Ian McEwan, interesting example...
I was quite blown away by his books in my 20s, but now find them quite shallow. I think he's grown quite tired as an author, but also I think it shows that while we 'see' different things in literature at different stages, we also sometimes see through them. IYSWIM.
So, for example, I'm loving Cloud Atlas at the moment. To me it seems fresh, original, engaging. And like all other literature, it's part of an echo chamber, chiming with other writers' work. (Mixed metaphor there? maybe, a bit...)
But another reader with a different reading background, different frame of reference etc. might well see Cloud Atlas as shallow, imitative, or whatever.
I wouldn't conclude that:

I liked it
+ other person didn't
+ it's 'literary fiction'
= other person's not ready for it yet.

An alternative equation could be:

I liked it
+ other person didn't
+ it's literary fiction
= other person's understanding of literature differs from mine, possibly because they're less in thrall to what I see as that author's 'originality' etc.


CoteDAzur Thu 11-Oct-12 20:06:01

I see what you mean and I think where your equation goes wrong is to assume that I assume all books/authors within the "literary fiction" genre to be undisputedly brilliant.

Let me approach this another way: Do you think it is possible to objectively say that someone is a very good writer or that a book is a very good book? Or do you feel that it is all very subjective, and hence one person's brilliant book is another's utter rubbish?

LastMangoInParis Thu 11-Oct-12 23:58:34

Do you think it is possible to objectively say that someone is a very good writer or that a book is a very good book? Or do you feel that it is all very subjective, and hence one person's brilliant book is another's utter rubbish?

I love this question, Cote.

Here's what I think about it right now... wine

I think that 'successful' writing is a combination of skill and originality. (So no explosive breakthough thoughts there...)

I'm 'drawn' to a writer/book if there's that 'something' extra that takes me somewhere that I feel I haven't been before, but I want to go. IYSWIM. And when that happens my interpretation is that there's some sort of great talent at play, some kind of unexpected novelty. (Obvious, OK, but stay with me...)
So there's the 'originality' part.
That to me is 'great writing', but I think that's a combination of subjective and objective interpretation because...

I can also quite like a piece of writing if I just think it's done skilfully.

And then I think there's writing that is simply formulaic, so it's dead and dull.

I think there's a fine line between 'skill' and formula. And there can be formulaic writing which still shows originality, but it tends to be limited. (I'm thinking of e.g. crime writing, which I sometimes quite like.)

I think that to get blown away by a piece of writing, I/you/one has to believe that it's 'original'. But seeing 'originality' can depend on what awareness you have of genres, devices, etc.

So for me (for example), I often get blown away by writing by West African writers. My personal palate (which has very little experience of West African culture), is experiencing something that is very new and dazzling (to me). So in my experience, reading (English language) work by West African writers has often felt as if I'm experiencing the work of an extraordinary and unusual talent.

On the other hand, when I read linear, superficially 'witty' writing by 'English' English language writers (let's take St Aubyn and Cartwright again), I feel as if I'm experiencing a 'formula' that I can see straight through, the writing feels as has a 'join the dots' quality to it that just doesn't float my boats enough for me to think I'm really reading a 'good' book.

But if I was more familiar with West African culture/writers/story telling traditions, then perhaps I wouldn't be so in thrall to the small amount that I have read. I can well imagine people who are more familiar with that literary tradition rolling their eyes at how blown away I am by the novelty of it.

But that said, I'm not sure that individual readers always have to have actually read a great deal of a particular genre to see right through it and be able to see the 'joins'. (IYSWIM.)

So even though I'm tempted to think that someone who hasn't got the same kick as I have from reading what I think is a brilliant book must have just not recognised it greatness, I think there's always the possibilty that the mote is in my eye, not theirs.

<That was kind of circular, but I'm glad I've tried to articulate it.>

LastMangoInParis Fri 12-Oct-12 00:50:33

And having mentioned crime writing, and Cote having mentioned Ian McEwan peering into people's inner worlds with an eerie clarity. and since there's (sort of) a discussion about about genre here, I just want to ask...

Does anyone ever compare McEwan to Ruth Rendell and PD James?

Because to my mind, Rendell and James piss on McEwan when it comes to peering into people's inner worlds with an eerie clarity AND they manage to do that at the same time as marching to the beat of a tight little mystery tune.

Now That's What I Call.... Awesome Writing and bugger orf with yer fancy literary jawnreurs wine hic!

NicknameTaken Fri 12-Oct-12 09:30:08

I find PD James dull.

I'm impressed by Mango's articulation. I don't know how I would define great writing, so let me borrow someone else's description. There's a short story by the Irish writer Bryan McMahon where a teacher says:

“Your minds are like rooms that are dark or brown. But somewhere in the rooms, if only you can pull aside the heavy curtains, you will find windows – these are the windows of wonder. Through these you can see the yellow sunlight or the silver stars or the many coloured wheels of a rainbow.”

So for me, great writing opens the windows of wonder. And increasingly I find that good non-fiction is performing that role for me rather than fiction.

LastMangoInParis Fri 12-Oct-12 15:17:26

Nickname I really, really like that description!

Am also fighting urge to insist that you must reread PD James, that you simply haven't understood, that you must look again, see her work in all its glory, its concise, spare beauty, its insight, its amazing penetrating gaze into contemporary social issues... Because that's how I see it! grin
(It really is, btw. Am totally in awe of PD James, and think she's a genius.)

NicknameTaken Fri 12-Oct-12 15:24:01


I might given P D James another shot when I get through my current pile of books. The last one of hers I tried was Death Comes to Pemberley, which didn't do much for me. But I've been meaning to try Children of Men.

ShellyBobbs Fri 12-Oct-12 17:50:07

Children of Men is on my wish list when I've plowed through some others.

CoteDAzur Fri 12-Oct-12 18:51:28

LastMango - Thank you for your thoughts on my question whether or not a book or author can objectively be called "very good" smile

I find your reply a bit confusing, though, because after the first sentence ("I think that 'successful' writing is a combination of skill and originality"), you have started talking about what kind of book draws you and what you find different, which is subjective territory.

I was aiming for a "Yes, there is such a thing as a very good book or a very good author (objectively)".

For example, can we agree that Shakespeare was a very good author?

(Not for an African tribesman or whatever. Let's assume that we are talking about people who would know what Shakespeare was talking about.)

Fwiw, I would think that the "originality" that is one of the components of writing well is in fact about being different rather than alien, as if would re your Africans.

CoteDAzur Fri 12-Oct-12 18:59:32

Re Ruth Rendell and P D James - I haven't read any of their books but am interested in crime fiction written by someone like Ian McEwan. Very interested, actually smile Which book of theirs would you consider the best?

I've seen the film Children Of Men, so perhaps not that one.

LastMangoInParis Fri 12-Oct-12 19:05:51

Can we even agree that Shakespeare was 'an' author? grin

Re. originality as 'different' or 'alien' - shall check dictionary definitions of both, but I'm not quite sure how you mean this in this context.

I guess that ultimately, though, 'good writing' is as subjective as 'good music'.
There are individual tastes, learned/genre/tribal tastes, but I can't think of any literature that everyone does (or should) think is 'good literature' (and that includes the Bible, Complete Works of Shakespeare, etc.)

Is there not an argument that a thing can only be 'good' in relation to how it's meant to function?

Therefore, 50SoG is an extremely good bestseller (because it's sold so well), but still there'd be different criteria for what was e.g. 'good' crime fiction.
I guess that to make an objective definition of what's 'good' there'd have to be mutually agreed criteria against which to measure it. I think that without this, you just end up with wishy-washy romantic and aspirational fetishisation of some kind of ill-defined 'creativity' without really understanding what that is.

LastMangoInParis Fri 12-Oct-12 19:10:19

Start off with Cover Her Face or Innocent Blood (both PD James - from 1962 and late 70s(ish)).

You know her latest (and she says, her last - she's 91), Death Comes to Pemberley is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice?

Ruth Rendells - I need to check titles. Back presently!

CoteDAzur Fri 12-Oct-12 19:13:15

" "Your minds are like rooms that are dark or brown. But somewhere in the rooms, if only you can pull aside the heavy curtains, you will find windows – these are the windows of wonder. Through these you can see the yellow sunlight or the silver stars or the many coloured wheels of a rainbow.”
... So for me, great writing opens the windows of wonder."

Sorry but this doesn't mean anything to me. (This must be a "subjective" thing)

My mind doesn't feel dark or brown. It is wide open to any wonder I come across. If only there were lots of it to be seen!

If you are looking for books to "open the windows of wonder", look into speculative fiction. Neal Stephenson will blow your mind, I guarantee it smile

CoteDAzur Fri 12-Oct-12 19:21:49

re 'different' or 'alien': Until William Gibson published Neuromancer, all the world knew as speculative fiction was sci-fi about aliens and space ships. It was definitely different. However, we still had a framework for understanding and appreciating it, therefore it wasn't alien.

CurlyKiwiControl Fri 12-Oct-12 19:29:42

Oooh I likes Ruth Rendell.

Just finished one, called, um, hang on I'll be back ('tis about a man with a choc orange addiction)

Yes, yes, Portobello Road!

Tbh, not much happens but you keep on reading, its interesting... Like hearing others private thoughts. I quite like her writing style.

13 steps down is much the same.

CoteDAzur Fri 12-Oct-12 19:38:09

"I guess that ultimately, though, 'good writing' is as subjective as 'good music'."

Surely not. You might have a preference for one genre over another or be a fan of one author rather than the next, but there are certain things like great characterisation, realism, amazing descriptions with incredibly accurate use of vocabulary in books (and not in music) that would make an indisputably good book.

I just finished reading Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness, for example. I'm told that this is a book people read at school in the UK so perhaps you don't remember it fondly grin but I have to say that it is a good book and it's author is a good author. Even if you don't like it (which is of course possible) you have to admit that it is very well written and is a good book.

DuchessofMalfi Fri 12-Oct-12 20:01:52

Wonder if we should all start a new thread and leave this one to the debate between CoteDAzur and LastMango grin?

CoteDAzur Fri 12-Oct-12 20:12:14

Sorry for the shameless hijack! Feel free to go on about the worst books you've read this year grin

FayKnights Fri 12-Oct-12 20:14:09

Wicked by Jilly Cooper, I bloody love her older books, but this was the biggest pile of crap ever, I was so disappointed I could have cried.

CelstialNavigation Fri 12-Oct-12 20:39:48

2 paragraphs of 50 Shades. There was so much bad writing crammed into two paragraphs that I feel confident nominating it for worst book of the year.

The Slap - it's a shame that a different author didn't have the same idea - although not Jodi Picoult, who I could just imagine doing a paint-by-numbers treatment of the same issue.

The Night Strangers - woeful, woeful, woeful ending. I can only assume he felt the need to insert a twist but couldn't come up with one, so ruined his own book instead.

elkiedee Fri 19-Oct-12 12:26:14

Death Comes to Pemberley isn't a fair representation of PD James' work - there are lots of criticisms that could be made of the Dalgleish books but I still like reading them. I won't normally buy books by Conservative politicians but I do get PD James' stuff (she's a Tory peer).

DuchessofMalfi Fri 19-Oct-12 19:15:38

Death Comes to Pemberley was such a disappointment. I love Pride & Prejudice and have read quite a few of P D James' novels over the years so thought it would something I'd like. Really not her best work at all. Such a shame - it just fell completely flat and lacked suspense. I worked out who did it fairly early on.

The Dalgliesh novels are P D James at her very best - intelligent well-written books. I think I've just talked myself into a re-read of them grin

KurriKurri Fri 19-Oct-12 21:20:05

Would like to add The Accidental by Ali Amith - pretentious load of pseudo meaningful old cobblers.

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