What If Books Disappoint You?

This weekend has been a rare one of reading disappointment, when I expected it to be as comfortable as a cocoon.

Patricia Highsmith
Patricia Highsmith (Photo credit: bhlogiston)

I embarked upon Patricia Highsmith’s ‘Found in the Street’ (one of her last novels, published in 1986) with the expectation that I would be intrigued, baffled, amused and chilled to the bone. In the past, I have always found her to be reliably good: slightly sinister, with dark humour and acerbic observations of people.  The sly observant eye and mordant wit were still there, but the story felt tired to me. There was not enough suspense, too many everyday chores described by several characters, too many lengthy descriptions and missed opportunities… By the time a crime was committed, I was past caring. It’s the first time that this author did not meet my expectations, which just goes to show that no one can be uniformly brilliant.

So then I turned to a light-hearted local read ‘Fric en Vrac à Carouge’ by Corinne Jaquet, a Swiss journalist turned crime and children’s novelist, who has a series featuring Commissaire Simon set in different neighbourhoods of Geneva. Even the pleasures of street- and café-spotting could not make me care for the rather slow-moving plot. I abandoned after Chapter 12 (yes, that is a new development this past year: I have been able to leave books unfinished with only a slight pang of guilty conscience).

NakedSingularitySo, if local colour and favourite authors do not provide reliable comfort, where can you turn to, how can you avoid disappointments? In my case, there was a surprising answer. ‘A Naked Singularity’ – a door-stopper of a book by Sergio De La Pava – is a book I had tried to read before a couple of months ago, but got lost. I now opened it again and was immediately captivated. It’s like a radio and merely requires a little re-tuning of the mind. Once you are on the right wavelength, it works beautifully. Early days yet, but let’s hope it continues to please.

Over to you, now. Have you had occasional disappointments with topics or authors which you thought you loved unconditionally? And what are your strategies for dealing with such disappointments?

7 thoughts on “What If Books Disappoint You?”

  1. Marina Sofia – First, I’m sorry to hear that the Highsmith disappointed you. I’ve had that kind of thing happen and it’s a double blow so to speak when the author is someone whose books you really enjoy. Now to your question…when that happens to me I often find myself re-reading something I know I love. Or treating myself to the newest by an author who doesn’t disappoint me.

    1. Ah, but what if the newest by that reliable author is disappointing? I’ve had happen a couple of times this year. I will still read those authors, of course, as I think everyone is entitled to a glitch or two, but it was just a little sad.

  2. So glad to hear you’re enjoying ‘A Naked Singularity’, since it’s on my list for an early read. I still have no idea what to expect from it – and that leaves the door open for it to be a complete surprise…

  3. I was very disturbed last summer by my inability to get into Beloved by Toni Morrison. I had never read any of her books but certainly heard much praise of them. After plodding through half of it, I put it down. It is still on my desk and I keep telling myself I will pick it up again… I keep telling myself that it just was not the right time.

    1. And I think that’s true. I’ve often struggled to get into a book at a particular moment in time… only to find that a few months or a year or more later I was perfectly fine with it.

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