04 February, 2014

Books We Should Have Liked (but didn't)

I'm writing this little post on behalf of my mum, because she's my mum and this is the sort of thing you do for your mum. And she's a pretty awesome mum. Anyway, after last week's post about whether talent always tells in the end, my mum said how interesting it would be to know which books, considered classics (modern or traditional), people didn't like when they tried them.

If you do a google search for "most over-rated novels" you can probably find a list that includes every classic novel ever written. Everybody has their own opinion on which books shouldn't be considered classics because they're boring or badly-written. You can even find plentiful references to books such as The Lord of the Rings - consistently voted one of the nation's favourite books - and To Kill a Mockingbird, which appears on "must-read" lists more often than pretty much any other book. I've seen a fair few votes for teenage-angst classic The Catcher in the Rye too. And of course there's Ulysses, considered a masterpiece by academics and completely unreadable by most other people (I am proud to say I have read the whole thing!).

Mum didn't get on with Captain Corelli's Mandolin, whereas my votes would be for The Great Gatsby - which I've read twice now, after people told me I must be wrong about disliking it the first time - and Catch-22. I didn't think they were badly written, quite the opposite, I just didn't find them in the least engaging. I've also had one vote for The Husband's Secret. So which books or authors can you not get on with, despite feeling as if you should?

12 comments:

  1. Virtually ALL the nineteenth century classics! I must have a short attention span because I find them all great stories but told in a slow, laboured way. I'm currently trying to get into Middlemarch, and George Eliot is jumping from character to character telling us in detail what each one is thinking. It just all feels very static and heavy going to my uncultured mind!

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  2. Do you not even like Dickens? He's a bit wordy at times, but so fabulous!

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  3. I like all of them in a sense - I love Dickens, Hardy and a few others - yet I found Bleak House, for example, a real slog eventually.

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  4. Well, I read Oliver Twist and found it so disappointing! I liked Great Expectations; I liked A Tale of Two Cities. I saw the play, Oliver, and liked it tremendously, so I thoroughly expected to like Oliver Twist. I didn't. Dickens' Oliver (and I like Dickens) felt like a cardboard cutout. The only interesting characters were the bad guys. Happily, there are so many other Dickens books to like, I got over my disappointment.

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    1. I find that can be a bit of general flaw with Dickens. His good characters aren't interesting. Whereas a character like Sydney Carton in Two Cities is amazing (my favourite character in literature) despite being thoroughly unlikeable, and Daniel Quilp is deliciously monstrous. Contrast that with the heroine Little Nell who must be one of the drippiest and most annoying characters ever written!

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  5. Yep, I'm in The Catcher in the Rye camp!

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  6. Hi Chloe. I started reading the 'classics' late in life, meaning in the last couple of years, so perhaps I'm more patient because I expect them to be wordy, and if you like full of 'flowery' imagery. I've read about 10 of them now.
    When it comes to an author that disappointed, it would have to be Agatha Christie. I recently read a 'Hercules Poirot' story and found it hard going. What was my problem with one of our most famous and loved mystery writers. There were two issues.
    Overuse of adverbs is understating how irritating they were. Okay, so it's a mystery, but why did I find new information being drip-fed right up until the penultimate page?
    Thank you for putting up with my little rant.

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    1. I'm intrigued to know how you know you've read about 10 classics - how do you judge what is a classic or not?! I kind of know what you mean but would have no idea how many I've read. I suspect I've read more "classics" than modern literature though!

      Ah, I love Agatha Christie.

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    2. Titles I've only read in the last couple of years would include; 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', 'Pride and Prejudice', 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'. I've also re-read, 'The Three Musketeers', 'Kidnapped', and 'Treasure Island'.
      I may be wrong to title them 'classics', but they are the books that in my early years were regarded as books I 'should' read.

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    3. I think they all definitely count as classics! I've been meaning to read Lady Chatterley's Lover for years...

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  7. Just found this by E.M Forster!

    “Long books, when read, are usually overpraised, because the reader wishes to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.”

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    1. So, so true! I convinced myself I see some great stuff in Ulysses because it took me about six months to wade through it!

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