When there is too much of a buzz around a book, I tend to wait for a few years before reading it (I will probably read 50 Shades of Grey when I am a grandmother, at this rate). I did that with Harry Potter, ‘Life of Pi’ and I am still waiting to read Hilary Mantel’s latest two. Because, with all due respect to reviewers, online chat forums and book clubs, no one can read a book for you. Tastes are so different, that only you can make up your own mind! (Thank goodness.)
I finally read Alice Sebold’s ‘The Lovely Bones’ yesterday and was intrigued for the first 50 pages or so, then a bit bored, then finally frustrated. It’s an interesting premise (the omniscient narrator from heaven) and the adolescent voice is charming, but after a while the archness and sentimentality begin to jar. It just goes on for too long: a novella-length of about 20,000 would have been more than enough.
So that got me musing about other books that I have found highly overrated. Please bear in mind this is always a very personal exercise, so don’t be offended if I have included any of your favourites! However, I would love to hear you defend any of my choices (because I am not Miss Know-It-All), or let me know if there are any others I ought to include.
1) Dan Brown: The Da Vinci Code
And pretty much everything else he has written. When I first read this, I thought it was a parody of a certain type of thriller. But alas, no, it’s deadly earnest!
2) Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat Pray Love
Don’t get me wrong: I think she is very brave to share with readers her early-midlife-crisis and search for fulfilment. I just find the journey a selfish and not that well-written pursuit of personal happiness, with very little attempt to understand or interact deeply with the cultures she encounters. Some funny observations, but overall too much bellybuttonism for my taste.
Yes, I ‘m sorry, the whole Girl with Dragon Tattos and other tormented characteristics left me cold! It’s not the violence or misogyny that I complain about (the first is widespread in crime fiction, the second is debatable anyway). No, it’s the fact that it bores me. Everyone talks about its relentless pace and it being a page-turner, but I have to admit I skipped entire repetitive passages. It feels completely unedited, a real jumble: just spewing out of odd bits of information, plotlines and shifts in narrative voice.
4) Hemingway’s novels
His short stories are brilliant. I just find his terseness and übermasculinity grates over the length of a novel. And sometimes I am not sure he is as profound as his critics make him out to be.
Possibly because all the people I despised in high school loved it so much. Or because fable-type narratives always hit my cynical vein, from which then gushes forth pretentious twaddle. Sometimes beautiful words are poetry that makes us gasp in wonder… and sometimes it’s a rich cake, giving me indigestion. (On the other hand, I do like some of his other books, for instance ‘Veronika Decides to Die’.)
As I said, don’t take my word for it! If you haven’t read these, then you may want to ignore my opinion and make up your own mind. Now I would like to know which books you love to hate! Although I may shoot you if you dare to say ‘The Great Gatsby’ or Jane Austen…