Un-Reviews #2

Earlier in the year, in fact so far back I was still in my twenties (starts weeping), I started what I thought was going to be a rather regular new feature of Un-Reviews. A series of posts where I could discuss the books I didn’t finish and, without being harsh or mean (though possibly wry), I could explain why I didn’t get on with the book and couldn’t finish it. I have discovered, more surprisingly than I thought, that I either a) keep reading the books I don’t initially like b) don’t start many books I don’t like, because this is the second of these posts and its some months later. Anyway let’s get to the three books in question shall we?

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

I have to admit that I wouldn’t have read this book if I hadn’t bought it for The Beard’s mother as she so politely asked and as there was a few days between its purchase and seeing her I thought ‘well I should really give it a go’. Only twenty pages in and I was thinking ‘this prose is not for me’ but also ‘I don’t believe a girl like Ana could exist’. For those of you who may have been to Mars in the last few months and so don’t know what the book is about Ana, a fresh graduate and seemingly importantly a virgin, who by chance meets Christian Grey a man who likes to domineer in more than just his business ventures and with whom she starts an S&M relationship with. I admit I was intrigued by Christian and in another authors hands why he was into what he was could have been really interesting but for me this book, and the totally unbelievable Ana, were just written for the sex bits, which I of course went on and rushed to and found mildly titillating the first time, then boring and slightly offensive the more I read. If you won’t take my word for it here is the review of The Beards mother sent via text…

“Managed two thirds of the book, was very badly written, trite and totally without humour. As erotic as DIY shopping, with maybe a few more uses for the items those shops stock. Jilly Cooper in her heyday far more erotic. Can’t for the life of me think why it’s become so big, but once it starts its self perpetuating hence why I wanted to read it. There that’s me done, have passed it onto John [her husband].”

The Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle

I feel slightly mean writing about this one as the publishers very kindly sent it me (the publishers of Fifty Shades said they sent it but it has been lost in Royal Mail, see even postmen are reading it) as it was set in Florence and so would be ideal for my trip. I could see why they would think so as the story is a thriller set in the 1940’s, when Italy was invaded by Germany, and then in the present when an aged partisan is killed by being shot and having filled himself with salt. The crime element of the book and how it was connected with the past almost made me read on past page one hundred and something but sadly the author seemed to have a tic which just grated on me. Too many similes, way too many, I think in one paragraph I counted six ‘likes’. It became so noticeable it took over from the prose and I started to sigh a lot. When a police procedure gone embarrassingly wrong and was compared to ‘like grannies disco dancing’ I decided enough was enough. A shame as it had a lot going for it.

Ancient Light by John Banville

I have been told by so, so many people that I must read John Banville (Gran is a big fan) and so as everyone was saying it was a dead cert for the Man Booker I thought I would give it a try. I don’t know why this book didn’t work for me, for a start I really liked the prose in many aspects, I just didn’t get hooked and was longingly looking at other books on the TBR. This tale of Alexander Cleave (and his wife’s) grief was intriguing as was how Alexander consoles himself in the memory of an affair he had with his best friend’s mother when he was younger, but something wasn’t there. Maybe this just wasn’t the time for me to read it? Since I have put the book down I have learnt that the narrator is also in ‘Eclipse’ and ‘Shroud’ and so maybe subconsciously I felt I was missing part of the story, would I go back and read those books, hmmm, I am not sure. I liked something about the prose though so maybe I should try one of his other books instead, any recommendations?

So those are the latest books I have started but been at a loss to finish for various reasons. What about all of you? Have any of you read these and managed to get all the way through, if so what am I missing?


Filed under Un-Reviews

18 responses to “Un-Reviews #2

  1. I’m reading Fifty Shades and finding that as I near the end the writing has got a bit better so that it’s tolerable (though it could be that Ana is less silly), I did wonder for a moment whether all the “holy…” parts were added as some kind of device to make it obvious and easier to read. Wishful thinking I suppose. Agreed – potential for another author, badly executed by this one.

    • I think the salacious nature of the book is what has got people buying it, that and this twilight fan fiction link (I couldn’t see the link to be honest), and then as the Beards mother says its sparked debate and gossip and become self perpetuating. Good for E.L. James though!

  2. David

    Haha, I’m so glad you tried ’50 Shades’ so I don’t have to. When a book is everywhere like that (‘The DaVinci Code’ springs to mind too) you do begin to wonder if it has some merit, or if people actually are just sheep following the herd. Perhaps everyone is reading it because they’ve all wondered the same thing?

    ‘The Villa Triste’ actually sounds quite good, but that does sound like an annoying tic. And of course once you notice something like that you can’t stop noticing it. I read a book a few months ago called ‘Stray Love’ by Kyo Maclear – it ticked pretty much every box I want ticking with a novel and I ought to have loved it but the author (a Canadian) kept having her London-dwelling British narrator speak like a North American. At every mention of sidewalks and fire trucks and the Fall I quietly ground my teeth.

    Interesting to see you like Banville’s prose style – having only read ‘The Sea’ it’s the one thing that puts me off reading him again. I usually love lyrical/poetic writing but his seemed so self-conscious. I read a review at the time – I forget where so I’m paraphrasing wildly here – that said reading Banville was like being at a party and talking with someone whose conversation was actually intended not for you, but for the person standing a few feet away in another group to overhear. I knew exactly what they meant, it has that air of showing off about it. Plus the need to have a dictionary to hand tended to interrupt the flow! I’m perhaps being unfair, but with ‘The Sea’ it stood out because it was wedded to such a run-of-the-mill story.

    • I have to recommend this show if you are all fired up about the Fifty Shades stuff http://www.channel4.com/programmes/sex-story-fifty-shades-of-grey/4od the reactions from people is hilarious.

      I think had it not been for the over doing of the similes I probably would have really like The Villa Triste and I am hoping that people who like a simile will flock to it if they see this review hahaha. Some authors tics just tick us off I guess.

      I think you have just hit the nail on the head with what it was that was bothering me a little about Banville, you are right it is a little self-concious that was the thing I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Thank you David.

  3. Jo

    I love the Beard’s mothers review! Spot on in my opinion. Do ask her about other books she has read/likes.

    Not heard of the other two, but would not necessarily avoid them though. I punished myself a couple of books a go by reading to the end, when I really should have given up.

    • Ha ha, I will do, she could end up being as famous as Granny Savidge Reads, shes wonderful but very up front about things and if you ask a question you get a very direct answer, hence why I liker her so much.

      She is currently loving Victoria Hislop and has read all three in super speedy succession after I gave her a spare copy of The Thread, which I really need to get around to reading!

  4. I feel the same way about an overuse of similes. I had to read Matthew Skelton’s Endymion Spring some years ago because it was on a children’s choice award list that we promote at the library where I work. I can even remember the most cringe-worthy one: a glob of spit shining like a coin on the pavement.
    p.s. I second the request for more reviews from the Beard’s mother.

    • Hahahaha I will tell Jilly (the Beards mother) that she is in such high demand and see what she will do. Honestly, first it was Gran, then my mother and now the Beard’s, I should set up a joint blog for them all! Hahaha, a Savidge Reads supplement… they had better not replace me though!

  5. I tried 50 Shades too and just couldn’t get into it. That short little review is so hilarious though. She should start her own book review blog!

    • Blimey who knew that the Beard’s mother would be so popular. I feel like I need to watch out. Fortunately, she doesn’t have the internet or a computer so I think I am safe for now.

  6. I haven’t picked up ’50 Shades of Grey’ but your review had me laughing out loud! Thank you for yet again being such an honest reviewer, I love reading all your posts! 🙂

  7. gaskella

    Banville is one of those scary authors – I seem to have four or five of his books on the shelf, but have only read one which was ages ago. That was ‘The Book of Evidence’ (1989) and I seem to remember I struggled with his style, but thought if I retried it years later it might click – maybe now is the time to try again…

    • I didn’t find him that scary but David is right there is a certain self conciousness, though that said that could be a recent thing as he has become so celebrated I guess it must get to you. The Book of Evidence is where I have been told to go next by Gran interestingly.

  8. Best review I’ve read of 50 Shades by The Beard’s Mother! Love it!

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