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'Difficult' books that are worth the effort

(19 Posts)
franch Fri 14-Aug-09 14:11:11

I'd say A. S. Byatt, on the whole, repays the work you put in - Babel Tower probably more than the others.

I'm into Ian McEwan and Sebastian Faulks in a big way just now but in the mood for more of a challenge, though am put off by pretensiously intellectual books that are difficult just for the sake of it. Any tips?

AstronomyDomine Fri 14-Aug-09 14:59:49

I'm going to stick my neck out and say Pride & Prejudice.

For years I'd heard how good it was but just thought I can't be doing with the so-called classics. Then about 3 years ago I read it for the first time. Once you get used to the language and "gloss over" the antiquated rules for where men and women fit into society, it's fabulous. Loved it.

And I've read it 3 more times since.

franch Fri 14-Aug-09 20:13:12

That's interesting AD. I wasn't thinking classics - I used to read loads (including P&P which I loved), then moved on pretty much exclusively to contemporary stuff, with only the occasional 20th-century classic, for some reason.

I wonder if I might be in the mood for some of the earlier classics I missed.

thisisyesterday Fri 14-Aug-09 20:17:06

can anyone tell me if "for whom the bell tolls" is worth it?
it's rare that i can't finish a book, but it just isn't doing it for me. i can usually plough my way through even if it's hard-going, but for some reason i've given up on this one.

preciouslillywhite Fri 14-Aug-09 20:19:19

I got about a chapter into "for whom the bell tolls" and had to ditch it. Twice. And like you I nearly always finish me books..

franch Fri 14-Aug-09 20:24:28

Mm, have never attempted Hemingway. Am not encouraged.

thisisyesterday Fri 14-Aug-09 20:28:32

i find the way the characters speak really odd. i mean would they really say "thou" all the time???

preciouslillywhite Fri 14-Aug-09 20:28:47

...OP have you read Hilary Mantel's "Place of Greater Safety" about the French revolution? It sat on my shelf for about two years till I finally got the will together to read it- just because it looked so loooooooooooong. And a bit dull tbh...

BUT it's the best book I've ever read. I'm currently reading it agin. It's a work of genius- think HM hasn't yet got the acclaim she deserves.wonder why??hmm

Yurtgirl Fri 14-Aug-09 20:30:09

Shindlers list is on my difficult books list - I have tried and failed several times and have never got past page 50 blush

franch Fri 14-Aug-09 20:41:16

Do you know PLW, I've never read any Mantel for some reason. Will put her on my list.

Penthesileia Fri 14-Aug-09 20:51:49

James Joyce, "Ulysses"

Georges Perec, "Life - A User's Manual" (La Vie mode d'emploi)

I know "Ulysses" is notoriously difficult; but if you can push yourself through it, it really is astonishing.

Likewise "Life" is just so, so clever. Totally worth it.

FiveGoMadInDorset Fri 14-Aug-09 20:56:26

Ulysses I have on my Ipod and I listen to a chapter when I walk the dog [blush) it is th eunabridged version.

franch Fri 14-Aug-09 20:58:52

Wondered if anyone would mention Ulysses. Have avoided it a long time but maybe now is the moment!

Know nothing about Perec - just looked the book up - sounds amazing

slayerette Fri 14-Aug-09 21:04:39

God, have tried Ulysses so many times and given up - too dull for words. Jung Chang's Wild Swans, while not difficult, might put some people off because of its length but it is fabulous - so so absorbing and horrifying.

Nighbynight Fri 14-Aug-09 21:19:27

Brothers Karamozov.

The final third of the book is very exciting, and the scene where the murderer confesses to Ivan is the most thrilling thing I have ever read in my life. But I felt that the religious discussions at the start were going mostly over my head, and laid the book aside several times.

franch Sun 16-Aug-09 21:24:37

Oh slayer, I was just about to order Ulysses too!

Maria2007 Mon 17-Aug-09 10:37:18

Thanks Penthesileia for the suggestion about 'Life: A user's manual'. It's sitting on my shelf for ages & haven't got round to it (loads of people have told me it's brilliant but haven't tried it yet).

Not sure though about Ulysses: it intimidates me!!

(By the way, hope you're well Penthesileia! Haven't seen you around on MN for a while... maybe we don't move in the same MN circles these days wink).

OK my suggestions are actually all books by Hemingway (I do love 'For whom the bell tolls'). I also would recommend, classic & boring as it is, 'Anna Karenina'. And everything by Anton Chekhov (although I don't really think of Chekhov as difficult...)

franch Thu 20-Aug-09 12:09:13

OK I'm definitely going to give 'Life' a try. Agree on Chekhov Maria

Penthesileia Thu 20-Aug-09 12:19:39

Hi Maria! Nice to see you too. Yes, come and debate nature/culture with me on a BF/FF thread! wink grin

Eek. Hope you both enjoy Life now that I've made it out to be so great. It is great... One of those books which make you squirm with admiration and envy at the genius of the author.

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