Aug 9, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 18

Day 18: Book that Disappointed You

There haven't been many of these and I had to decide if I were truly disappointed in the novel as a whole with my pick, in just the characters, in the narrative voice, or in some other element. Or did I just set myself up for disappointment?

My first thought was Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Brontë, but I actually enjoyed the overall novel. I had a hard time liking the characters, especially at first, as most readers do with this book. But by the middle of the book, it became more enjoyable and harder to put down. But, I digress. Wuthering Heights is not my pick today; today's pick is actually two books by the same author: George Eliot's Middle March and Mill on the Floss

I may have set myself up for disappointment in this regard, but try as I might, I could not bring myself to like the writing style, the plots (the pace. ahh.), or the narrative voices of either of these two novels. I did manage to finish, albeit slowly, Middlemarch, but probably due to the themes that are so evident in the book. And it disappointed me so because I love Jane Austen's work, love the Brontë sisters work (for the most part), and most other writings from that period of time. It's a sad day when I can't bring myself to finish a book, and as far as I can recall it's only happened with Vineland (Thomas Pynchon) and Mill on the Floss.

Like Desiree, I am having trouble deciding if the books that disappoint me are truly disappointing, or if I just disliked a certain aspect of the novel and couldn't get over the bump in an otherwise good piece of fiction. For instance: I despised Phillip Meyer's The Son. The subject matter bored me to tears, and I had to force myself to read it through. It just wasn't terribly interesting to me. But I wouldn't say it was disappointing. Sure, it had been hyped beyond measure, so I had high expectations, but the characters were still interesting and the writing masterful. It just doesn't appeal to me on a thematic level.

So, I've been thinking about books that I found truly underwhelming, and I am not sure there are too many to choose from.

My choice for today is Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. After a brief period of obsession with the Wizard of Oz--the film and Baum's classic books--I was excited to read that a musical was being made out of Gregory Maguire's retelling of Oz's most infamous villain. So, naturally, I had to read the book before seeing the show.


I was familiar with Maguire's style. He's a dense, vaguely historical enthusiast of all things period and contextual. But the frustrating, overly political nature of Wicked was just too heavy-handed. The original story was so full of magic and wonder, I was expecting Maguire's work to be the same. But it's not. And there was never much life imbued in the characters, either! From the highly sexualized opening of the novel, to the convoluted transitions and the unfortunate ending, I was disappointed not only by the book, but by the experience of reading it as well. Overall, just not a whole lot of fun to read.

I would recommend sticking to the musical on this one.

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