02 November, 2012

Is it Hot in Here, Or...

After posting about the strange love affair between Waterstones and Amazon, I got thinking about my own unlikely crushes. No, not of the human variety (and my husband is not so very strange when you get to know him), but books.

There are a few books I thought I'd never like. There was a good reason for it: I'd tried them and it just wasn't happening for us. While some books swept me off my feet with the literary equivalent of roses and chocolate, these books had me faking food poisoning and leaving the restaurant by the back door. Two books that came in the latter category for me are 1984 by George Orwell, and Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons.

I tried to read 1984 when I was about 14 years-old and I found it too hard. I didn't understand what was going on in this dystopia. Who was Big Brother? Why was everybody agreeing with something that wasn't true? I got less than halfway through it before giving up. It was the same with Cold Comfort Farm. I was in my late teens this time and I didn't get it. It annoyed me when patronising people said things like, "You do know it's meant to be funny, right?", as if I might have thought that it was serious, rather than a pastiche. Yes, I knew it was meant to be funny. No, I didn't find it funny. No, I didn't finish it.

But unlike a date who spends the first half hour of dinner talking about himself and trying to squeeze your knee under the tablecloth, I gave these books a second-chance. I tried 1984 again only about a year after abandoning it (and, appropriately enough for this post, because a boy that I had a bit of a crush on said it was his favourite book) and this time I loved it. It remained one of my very favourite novels long after the boy had lost his charm for me.

Cold Comfort Farm I only tried again earlier this year. I was sure I'd hate it, but as it's on the BBC Top 100 list - which I'm trying to read all of - I had to give it another go. Again, it's now one of my favourite books. I found it very funny this time, and couldn't put it down. So it just goes to show, sometimes giving a book a second chance is a good idea.

With this in mind, I think I might read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald again soon. I hated it, but so many people I know love it. Perhaps I was just too young. One book I shan't be trying again however, is On The Road by Jack Kerouac. Sometimes you dislike a book so much, life is too short to reply to its pleading text messages asking for a second date.

Are there any books that you fell in love with second-time around? Or are there classics that you wouldn't even give the time of day if you saw them in the street?

I wanted to extend this post into a discussion of the weird crushes we might have on fictional characters. But I can't think of any. My fictional crush is Mr. Knightley from Emma. But that's not weird. That's almost obligatory. But don't let me stop you... Do you fancy Snape? Would you meet Frankenstein's monster for a cocktail after work? Do you hanker after Miss Havisham? Or is your fictional crush boringly mainstream like mine?


  1. Cathy Earnshaw...
    Like you, I tried On the Road and frankly I'd have cheerfully left it there. I've not returned to a book I disliked and found love the second time around, but there aren't that many books that grate on me (sorry, Jack).

    And how did you know about the knee thing? I thought that was just me!

    1. I know your type...

      Apparently Jack Kerouac is sometimes compared to F Scott Fitzgerald so it might just be that I don't like that style.

      Cathy is a weird crush, I'll give you that. Mind you, I reckon there's a fair few women out there who have a thing for Heathcliff and he's HORRIBLE!

  2. I had a crush on Marina, the mute mermaid-type creature in Stingray. You have to be a certain age to be familiar with her though...

    1. A mute mermaid? Sounds suspiciously like The Little Mermaid to me! I know several guys who had a crush on the disney version of her (though I know a lot more who had a crush on the disney Jasmine from Aladdin).

      I don't think I'm of that age. I have no idea what Stingray is!

    2. I'm afraid that just reflects the cultural shortcomings of the younger generation. I don't know if it will let me post a link, but here goes:
      and Marina herself:

      They don't make them like that any more!

    3. Seriously? There is a reason they don't make them like that anymore! (Though, to be fair, she does have lovely eyes...)

  3. How strange - you've picked out not only two of my favourite stories, but also two of my most treasured books. My Cold Comfort Farm is a Folio edition with illustrations by Quentin Blake (which suit the story wonderfully well), and my Nineteen Eight-Four is a facsimilie of Orwell's original manuscript - with all the alterations, crossings-out, ink blots, etc. It leaves me a bit awestruck every time I look at it.

    In terms of classics that didn't work for me, The Grapes of Wrath left me cold. I ploughed through to the end, but by the time I got there I felt my suffering had been far worse than the Joad family's. Maybe I'll go back to it someday and wonder how I got it so wrong. But not for a long time.

    1. That is odd! I would love to own some special books like that.

      Also odd that I just read The Grapes... I started it when I was a teenager and it was another I just couldn't handle, but I really liked it this time. The ending was a bit abrupt for me but the writing was beautiful. It's certainly an aquired taste when it comes to entertainment but I could really see why he was a Nobel laureate - the language is stunning.


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