It sounded such an excellent book, and I was really looking forward to reading it. There were two main ideas behind the telling of it, someone moving into an old house and renovating the old garden which had once been splendid and restoring it to a new version of its wonderful self. At the same time the writer was going to weave in the story of their life and their family history, and to do it by using the seasons as a template. Not only that, the seasonal round would be marked not by the four passages of time, spring, summer, autumn and winter (which would, I assumed parallel their life from childhood through the seven ages) but would also be marked by the monastic hours of prayer and contemplation, Vigils, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline.
This was a book we were reading for book club and so I was determined to read it and finish it whatever my opinions. What did I expect? I expected it to be lyrical, I expected it to be descriptive and to conjure images of the garden, the struggle of the gardener, her life, her family, her faith. I expected the language to be full of adjectives and adverbs, to have long sentences with a string of images following one after the other. I expected intrigue and revelation of her family history – I expected to be intrigued and surprised and delighted by the revelations.
The writer is much admired, much praised and her backstory is fascinating, but when I began to read I’m afraid I was disappointed and found that rather than my imagination taking flight and glorious images of what she was telling us conjured before my mind’s eye, I was wading through great chunks of description which did not lift from the page in a glorious vision. Her life story was fascinating but I became confused between her own story, her mother’s and her grandmother’s. The history of the old house and garden was indeed interesting but again I felt lost among the welter of imagery. There were just too many words. It is a failing of mine to write too much, to use a hundred words when ten would do, but I’m just an ordinary person writing away in the smallest room in the house (no not that room!! I’m in what the estate agent descried as the fourth bedroom, about the size of the bathroom!) The author is well known, so how was the editing of her book so amiss?
I haven’t quite finished the book, I do confess, but I’m on None, two more hours to go. I want to love this book, I really do… maybe I should try harder.
I have deliberately not mentioned the title or author – I feel mean criticising a work which so many have lauded.
Well, perhaps you’re the one who can see the emperor has no clothes on….
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No, don’t try harder, life is too short for that. I’m of the opinion that if a book hasn’t grabbed me by the 8th page, then it’s discarded. There are so many great books out there to read (and in here, I’ve got them on shelves, on the floor, falling over in the hall, all books I buy and have still to read). I don’t belong to a book club for that reason, I want to make sure I will enjoy it. I fail to see why I should spend time reading someone else’s choice. I belong to one club where we each read a book of our choice then bring it along and give a short talk on it to the others, persuading them to read it if possible. Challenging and enjoyable.