We all have our idiosyncrasies

Unusually for me, I have put aside a book I’ve been reading – and been fairly gripped by; I don’t think I will pick it up again. I used to always finish books once I  started them, now I have such a pile waiting to be read that plodding on with something I’m not enjoying, or carelessly or badly written, or is just plain boring, seems a waste of time. I do however, try and learn from whatever it is that has discouraged me from reading on; careless writing, badly written or structured, and what I describe as drift – where a story meanders on for no real purpose or the characters have endless conversations or the whole thing is just dull and lacking pace.

We all have our idiosyncrasies, and no doubt it’s the same with our reading likes and dislikes. My favourite genre is crime and mystery, and I find it really irritating when the unknown murderer/culprit/adversary  ‘writes’ alternate chapters with the narrator. It’s often written in italics, as a commentary to the main story-line, or addressing other characters.  I find it an irritating distraction which slows the pace and rhythm of the narrative. The book I have just abandoned was a crime novel, the narrator a psychologist who witnessed at very close quarters an apparent suicide – which actually isn’t.  An intriguing premise, but the murderer  shares their thoughts between the chapters, and I found those parts a distraction, an annoyance, and slowed the pace. There were so many twists in the story that it became tangled, and whole episodes detailing the main character’s relationship with his wife added nothing but to me seemed mere padding

It’s a real balancing act as a writer to care about your characters enough but not to be indulgent towards them, to give them  a dimension which makes them believable but not so much that it becomes distracting, or worse, boring! It’s interesting to have collateral detail or information, but not to the extent that the main point gets lost in a welter of irrelevant detail or words.

I’m also reading different book which I’m making very slow progress; this other book is so interesting and engaging, exploring ideas and areas of knowledge which I know little about and I am gripped.  This book is ‘Otherlands – A World in the Making‘ by Thomas Halliday. It’s 416 pages long, but I won’t be skipping any of those pages. I’m not going to be rushing through it, parts I have to re-read because some of the ideas are complex, but it’s wonderfully written, beautifully written, and I think it is the sort of book that long though it is, I will re-read.

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