3 Books I Couldn’t Finish

Recently I have started reading several books but have not managed to make it through to the end. I usually hate not finishing a book because it doesn’t seem like I’ve given it a fair chance. But equally I don’t think I should waste my time with something I’m not enjoying when there are so many good books out there I could be reading instead!

So here are my un-finish-ables:

  1. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

I picked this up at a charity shop because you know, it’s Philip Roth, and I thought I should read something written by him. I have previously read Nemesis but I wanted to try one of his earlier novels to see what made him such a well known American author. I was pretty disappointed. I liked the premise of the book and as I started reading I thought it had potential; it is narrated by a Jewish man, as if talking to his psychiatrist, looking back on his childhood. It is anecdotal and quite crude. I’m guessing it’s supposed to be humorous but I just didn’t find it funny at all – not even a snigger. After reading about 150 pages (almost half way through!) I gave up. Not only was it not funny, but as far as I could tell, it wasn’t going anywhere and if I continued, I was just going to get another 150 pages of the same. Given that Roth has written over 30 novels, and I did think Nemesis was good, I will probably try another but I was not a fan of this one.

2. Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien

I read The Things They Carried (also by O’Brien) for my degree and I thought it was excellent. Both novels are about the Vietnam war and, if I’m honest I didn’t know an awful lot about Vietnam before I studied O’Brien’s novel, yet there was something about TTTC that really resonated with me. In some ways TTTC is more like a collection of short stories as the narrative is very episodic, whereas this novel is in a more conventional format which I thought I might prefer. This was not the case. I just couldn’t be bothered to continue reading Cacciato. The way that the narrative slipped between ‘real’ life and a sort of dream world really didn’t work for me. I was quickly bored with the narrative and couldn’t make any connection with any of the characters. Would 100% recommend The Things They Carried, it is one of the best novels about war that I have read but I would give this one a miss.

3. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

There’s a theme running between these three un-finish-able novels and that is that I have previously read something I enjoyed by the author and this prompted me to choose the offending novel. I’ve read a couple of things by Atwood (including The Handmaid’s Tale) and I like her style of writing and the themes that she tackles. I have read reviews that say The Blind Assassin is one of her best but I’m going to have to disagree. I strongly believe that the beginning of the novel, the opening chapter, is incredibly important and if it doesn’t hook you then the rest of the novel won’t be able to either. The opening chapter of this novel didn’t hook me, and neither did the following few, leading me to abandon the novel pretty swiftly. I have kept it on my bookshelf for the last few months, thinking maybe I should give it another try, but I have decided that in this case, if it didn’t draw me in the first time, why would it do so the second time round?

Are there any novels that you couldn’t finish? Especially ones that you thought you were going to like or that were by authors you had previously read and liked?



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