I’ve just finished reading a novel by a favourite author, and I began to wonder if there was something wrong with my ability to read. I couldn’t keep track of the characters, I kept confusing them, there was one character who was so suspicious from the moment they were introduced that I felt sure they couldn’t be responsible for the dastardly crime, and then I counter thought that they probably were because they were supposed to be a lovable, sympathetic, helpful character when actually they were just creepy. The story was told from a variety of points of view, and sometimes by a character at different times in their life – as a teenager, as an adult as a much older person. The rather dull detectives were… well, dull; – was that deliberate or was it again something to do with my understanding or interpreting their characters? It was set in an area of the country I didn’t know and the landscape, scenery and settings were well described, but for some reason there again was some confusion in my mind.
So was I a muddled reader? Was I tired? Was I not concentrating? Am I losing my marbles? Well, maybe all of those, but after thinking about the book all day, I came to the conclusion, that fine writer as the author is, for this book they didn’t quite pull it off. I mentioned another book I’m currently reading (yes, I read several at once, always have so maybe that contributed to the confusion, but I don’t think so!) ‘Night Without End‘ by Alistair MacLean, and looking up something about him I came across this quote: ‘MacLean also claimed he wrote very fast (35 days for a novel) because he disliked writing and the “sooner he finished the better,”‘ and ‘that he found writing “boring”‘. He described himself as a journeyman and I can understand that; he was plainly the sort of writer who did it for the end product and worked his way through conscientiously and possibly to a timetable, without sudden inspirational deviations or passionate connections to his characters or personal involvement in the plot. With the book I have just finished, I really felt it was written in a MacLean way, purposefully, disciplined, almost plodding along to the conclusion – well-written, yes, but not with that extra edge which grips and embraces the reader.
When I write I generally have no idea where the story is completely going, although I might have a general idea of the conclusion; sudden inspiration can make me veer off in another direction, or I might be hijacked by a character who demands they do things which I hadn’t anticipated or planned. The writer of the book I have just finished writes in the same way as I do, they have been quoted on a number of occasions and I’ve heard them interviewed and say this. I find it gratifying that someone as good as they are should write in the same way. However, on this occasion, I felt that they got to a stage in the story and thought ‘good heavens, I have no idea which way to go next, I need to finish the story so I will tie up all the ends with this conclusion.‘ Actually I am sure they didn’t really think that, but that is how it read – complicated, unbelievable even in the realms of fiction, and I hate to say it, but it fizzled out in quite a lame way.
I’m not naming the author of this book, because I’m thinking about the way it was written and aspects of it which will serve as a lesson to me when I have too many characters, too many different points of view, too many time shifts, a cobbled together ending and no satisfactory conclusion!
PS: in answer to my rhetorical questions – So was I a muddled reader? Was I tired? Was I not concentrating? Am I losing my marbles? – No, no, no, probably!
I know there are a lot of books where at the end I decide they just ran out of paper.
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Haha! Yes, a great way of describing it!
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I have my reading phases sometimes, and there are moments when I think my reading’s off too. I have a terrible time reading descriptions, because it takes so much brain juice to process them, and I envy those who see things in their head as they read.
Dialogue and action are the easiest for me to read though.
Anyway, thanks for this post!
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You’re welcome! Who do you enjoy reading?
I’ve got tons of faves. All time favourite is Terry Pratchett, but my current like is Joe Abercrombie. What about you?
My all time favourite is John le Carré, and of his work ‘Tinker, Tailor’ has been my standby escape in times of difficulty, but also to reread just for pleasure!
Recently read the excellent ‘Piranesi’ by Susanne Clarke, ‘The Salt Path’ and ‘The Wild Silence’ by Raynor Winn and looking forward to the next book by Damien Boyd – crime in Somerset – ‘Carnival Blues’!
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