On not finishing a book

I used to make a point of always finishing a book I started, but then decided that life was too short. The bestselling acknowledged masterpiece that finally decided me that not finishing a book wasn’t an actual sin was One hundred years of solitude (I tried it in French I think) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Apparently, some people have the feel for (in my view weird) Latin American stuff. Clearly, I don’t.
Since then, I have merrily abandoned several books I just couldn’t get into: Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, L’île du jour d’avant by Umberto Ecco, … And it’s good fun talking to others about what books they couldn’t get through. Sooner or later, someone will say “What? You didn’t like x? I adored it, it changed my life, best book ever.”I like to keep an open mind, though. I gave Macchiavelli’s The Prince several tries in an English translation and really couldn’t get into it. But I lapped up a French version of it. Possibly, the English translation was a bit dated, or perhaps I needed the French side of me to understand Macchiavelli properly (I don’t mean that by the way). I hated Marguerite Duras’s L’amant, but found La douleur , which I picked up following an enthusiastic recommendation very reluctantly after my first experience, much more to my liking. I hardly gave Mrs Dalloway a chance, I only read a few pages, so am willing to have a go at another Virginia Woolf novel. Any suggestions? Ditto James Joyce.

I have already been persuaded that I simply MUST do Proust. Mmmmm, time for another go, maybe?

8 thoughts on “On not finishing a book”

  1. HA! I usually finish most books I read. I too have tried reading One Hundred Years of Solitude and Mrs. Dalloway, but never finished them. There are a couple of ‘classic’ Canadian novels that I just could not get through either. I have given up on Woolf; she’s just not my thing. As for Joyce… I prefer his short stories. Have you given The Dubliners a try? You might like it more than his lengthy, epic novels.

    Bonne journée.

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  2. I adored The Dubliners! So, any tips on classic Canadian novels I could get through? Read (and loved if that’s the right word) The Handmaid’s Tale but I think I’m lacking in my knowledge of Canadian literature.

    Bonne soirée.

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  3. Seeing as you read English AND French, here are my top five Canadian books (In no particular order).

    1) ‘Un homme et son péché’ par Claude-Henri Grignon (Ceci est une des histoires les plus célèbres du Québec. J’adore.)

    2) Bonheur d’occasion, le roman urbain de Gabrielle Roy. (Tous ses livres sont excellents. Celui-ci est son meilleur).

    3) The Outlander by Gil Adamson (A gorgeous story about a young woman on the run in the Canadian wilderness).

    4) Surfacing by Margaret Atwood. A great coming-of-age story.

    5) Away by Jane Urquhart. A historic novel that has fable-like elements.

    I hope you have access to some of these books in your part of the world. They are all well worth the time.

    Bonne lecture!

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  4. For some writers, I find I have to read their lives before I can read their works; others I have to come at through their contemporaries. I have also given up on Garcia Marquez, but will steel myself for another go at Ulysses some day.

    Anyway, have you tried reading Woolf’s nonfiction? I loved A Room of One’s Own years before I read The Waves (my favorite of her books).

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