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When Your Opinion Differs about a Book

10 years ago

I'm sure all of us readers have tried to explain why we like/love a book when other readers dislike/detest the same book and vice versa. Things usually come to an impasse and we just have to agree to disagree. That's all right; everyone's taste is different.

However, sometimes haven't you felt yourself to be the odd man out and wondered why you can't get synchronized? Boy, I have!

I've noticed this subject has come up several times in other threads: e.g., Vee's general dislike of A Tale for the Time Being and my own distaste for certain childhood books that most children (and adults) continue to love.

I would enjoy reading some of your experiences with books that nobody seems to feel the way you do about them. Of course I want the titles of the books, too!

I'll give one example of a book that I have loathed since I was a teenager: George Orwell's 1984. I KNOW it's a landmark book, but I'll never like it even though it was one of the most influential books of the 20th century. Btw, I love Orwell's other books (except Animal Farm), his essays, and his reportage.

I'm trying to think of a book that I love that no one else seems to like. I'm sure there are plenty, but most seem to be too obscure to even mention. I'll think some more.

Comments (46)

  • 10 years ago

    Most of the science fiction I read is met by "How can you read that stuff?" by some members of my family and friends. Doesn't bother me at all though.

    I have included a link which gives a list of 100 books of all time: "This list of the 100 best books of all time was prepared by Norwegian Book Clubs. They asked 100 authors from 54 countries around the world to nominate the ten books which have had the most decisive impact on the cultural history of the world, and left a mark on the authors' own thinking. Don Quixote was named as the top book in history but otherwise no ranking was provided."

    So, I have a lot of reading to do because I have not read a majority of those listed. Of those listed, I loathed One Hundred Years of Solitude. Also, Moby Dick has been languishing on a shelf for the past ten years or so. I don't know if any of you remember Russ, a college professor who lead some excellent RP discussions? He got me through The Brothers Karamazov, a novel I would have undoubtedly hated it not for his guidance. Similarly, he introduced me to Blindness by Saramago, a novel I initially disliked. There was a lack of punctuation, page long paragraphs but with his encouragement, it became a favourite book.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that some books your brain is just wired to science fictionfor me. Others, you need some help to really appreciate them. And some, even with help, you will still loathe.

    I almost forgot. Sometimes it is the reader's age that makes a difference. Have you ever reread a book you loathed/detersted as a youth and found you loved it? And vice versa. George Elliot's Silas Marner is an example - absolutedly detested it when I was 15 and then picked it up about ten years ago when reading material was slim for some reason, and was shocked at how much I enjoyed it.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Top 100 books of all times

  • 10 years ago

    I recall stating that I was a fan of some of John Fowles works (The Magus) here on this forum. I felt like a pariah, as evidently I am the only person here who has any regard for his novels.

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  • 10 years ago

    No, move over and make room for me :). I remember reading The Magus when I was 20. It was disturbing, but I enjoyed it. The French Lieutenant's Woman was next and I liked that as well. I haven't read anything else by him though.

  • 10 years ago

    I've read and enjoyed The French Lieutenant's Woman, but found The Collector so disturbing I stopped reading his books.

    The most polarizing book I have ever encountered isShel Silverstein's children's book The Giving Tree. Half the adult readers find it a beautiful parable of generosity and unselfish love, and the other half are appalled at this story of an abusive relationship. I am one of those who despise it. It actually makes me ill. But I do understand that many love it.


  • 10 years ago

    Janalyn, my brain certainly seems not to have been wired to enjoy science fiction or fantasy or magical realism. It was one of my mother's disappointments that I didn't take to science fiction, because she loved it. My dad and brothers read it, too, so I don't know why I was resistant. Maybe if I had started reading it earlier and learned the tropes 'from the ground up', so to speak, I would've liked sci-fi better. But by the time I was handed some of the sci-fi classics, I didn't have the background to appreciate them and I wasn't willing to spend the time reading enough 'to build on the layers'. I've never thought sci-fi or fantasy or magical realism are garbage or people who read them are nuts.

    Thanks for the list of Top 100 Books of All Time gathered by the Norwegian book clubs. I'm happy to agree with the choice of Don Quixote which I've been reading continually since 1967. It's my fallback book; when I can't get into anything else, I know the Don and Sancho will entertain me.

    I remember Russ very well. He led a discussion about Sebald's Vertigo, a book that well nigh baffled me. I read a couple of Sebald's other books and liked them much better, perhaps because I knew a little more of Sebald's techniques and style, thanks to Russ and others in the Vertigo discussion.

    Mary, I'll add to the harmony of Janalyn and Rosefolly by saying that I liked The French Lieutenant's Woman. I'll agree with Rosefolly about The Collector. I first read The Magus when I was eighteen or nineteen (before I married, anyway, when I was dating the fella who became my husband), and I don't think I had the reserve of knowledge to understand it very well. It was one of my dear first husband's favorite books, and he loved to talk about it. I'm glad that I listened to him, although what he said usually went right over my head.

    Fowles lost me though with The Maggot which I quite liked until I realized he wasn't going to give a full explanation to the mystery. I sometimes like enigma (e.g., DduM's My Cousin Rachel), but other times it drives me bonkers!

    I also liked Fowles' collection titled Wormholes: Essays and Occasional Writings. He wrote the introduction to The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B. Edwards, a book Fowles was instrumental in getting published. I adore Ebenezer. Fowles describes how Le Grand Meaulnes was "That book!" to his wife and him. So, Mary, rest be assured that you are no alone in liking John Fowles. I do remember that vehement discussion by his detractors here at RP, though.

    Rosefolly, I recollect reading The Giving Tree to my sons upon someone's recommendation. I found it cloying. The boys never asked me to read it again, so they must not have been impressed. We passed the book on to others who might've appreciated it more. I didn't realize that it was so polarizing, but yeah, I can understand the abusive part.

    Great! I want to hear more from you all. I'm still thinking about a book that...

  • 10 years ago

    I've been in this situation a few times. One I recall particularly was when I got into a disagreement with a couple of women at work. We had all recently read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I found it trite and shallow, while they loved it and found it deeply philosophical and inspiring. One even claimed it was life-changing. Unfortunately, she took my criticism of the book personally, as if by not liking a book she loved I was somehow putting her down. Interestingly, almost everyone I have mentioned this book to since agrees with my opinion of it.

  • 10 years ago

    My experience seems to be that I don't like books that other people have raved about and given awards to!
    I am afraid that I can't recall liking a particular book or even an author that others can't stand.
    I learned to keep my mouth shut working in a library when I voiced an opinion to a borrower about an author who ripped off another one's work, even using the same names for characters(!) and was angrily told that the reader preferred the plagiarist's books!

  • 10 years ago

    I am one of the few Australian readers who doesn't like Tim Winton's Cloudstreet. I also really disliked The Secret History by Donna Tart, as I thought the characters so unremittingly awful.

    It's also awkward when others rave about how deep and meaningful a book is, and you read it for the plot (me) and apparently missed the point.

  • 10 years ago

    Kath, I rarely read Australian writers, being mostly novels, so cannot comment on Tim Winton. He must be popular though as there was a mini-series made of Cloudstreet, wasn't there?

  • 10 years ago

    Thanks for all your input re John Fowles. Frieda, I own a copy of "Wormholes" and enjoyed reading his essays, finding he and I share mutual fascination with Le Grand Meaulnes, Marie de la France, and love of nature. His book on "Trees" is exquisite, IMO.

    I also recall how Donna Tartt's "The Secret History" was rather controversial. It seemed readers either loved it passionately, or hated it. I am one who bought a copy and like it so much that I frequently re-read it. I think it captures perfectly a certain type of elite New England college scene with eccentric students and professors, as contrasted with the Westerner who gets drawn in. Tartt has a new book coming out now, which title escapes me.

    I will forever be indebted to whoever it was at RP who introduced me to the work of W.G. Sebald. He has become one of my favorite post-modern authors. I adored his "Austerlitz", as well as "Rings of Saturn." His work defies categorization, I think.

  • 10 years ago

    Oh, Netla! I've run across those readers who take any criticism of a book they like as a personal affront. It's a dilemma whether to say what you really think or just let it slide which, in a way, is tacit agreement with their view. But I have to admit that antagonist reactions sometimes bewilder me, usually because I don't see them coming. It doesn't hurt my feelings -- I can be pretty staunch in debate -- but I am puzzled that I never noticed the things that seem to supremely bother other readers. Sometimes I come around to their views, but I'm just as likely to dig in my heels and continue with my original impressions. And then there are times that I just don't understand why something so screamingly obvious to me is of little or no import to many other readers. Readers are such bundles of contradiction, don't you think? :-)

    Annpan, I have the same problem as you with most award-winning books. I'm astonished when I actually like one.

    Kath, I recall now that you didn't like The Secret History. I liked it well enough to read it twice, but you're right about the characters being awful. Except I did like the young man from California, although I thought he was an idiot to be impressed with all those northeast-type snobs. There's a scene that has stuck with me about the California guy living in a derelict warehouse with broken windowpanes. When he awoke each morning he had to brush away the snow that had sifted through the broken glass onto his quilt or blankets.

    Then there's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. I'll never hold it against you for not liking it. In fact, I think it's funny because you have a good sense of humor when mocking it. Come to think of it, it's eminently 'mockable', although it's usually taken so seriously (I always did). :-)

  • 10 years ago

    Mary, I think it was Russ (former RPer from the D.C. area, if I remember correctly) who put the word out about W.G. Sebald. You could've learned of Sebald from other sources, but Russ was the one who got me interested. And I usually dislike postmodern anything, because I tend to suspect most of it is 'put on', experimentation merely for the sake of experimentation.

    Do any of you remember when The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood was all the rage? I'm not sure if it was an RPer who posted that she thought it was the most "inspiring" book she had ever read. I thought she was joking, being ironic or a mite sarcastic. But, no, apparently not. I thought the doings of the Ya-Yas were just silly and made the mistake of saying so. The Ya-Ya Sisterhood wannabes came out of the woodwork to give me a piece of their collective mind!

  • 10 years ago

    I remember that Ya-Ya conversation. I found that book silly, too, but ducked when I saw the ensuing fracas.

    I am often the odd one out on a book. I love Dickens and Faulkner while others have strong and often unfavorable opinions about those writers.

    I have read "The Good Soldier" by Ford Maddox Ford twice in 2 different book groups, and I was the only one who saw the narrator as completely unreliable, to the extent that I didn't believe anything he said. Other readers felt he was a sad and pitiful character with a terrible wife. I must read it again to see whether my opinion has changed.

    In one of my book groups, I am always the one about whom the others say, only half jokingly, "Well, if SHE likes it, we KNOW we'll hate it!" And often it's true.

  • 10 years ago

    Ann, I think they did make a TV series of Cloudstreet but I didn't watch it.

    Frieda, I probably should have another go at Tess of the Bloody D'Urbervilles. After all, I did read it at age 15 or 16, so too young for Victorian longwinded writing.

    One of the things about The Secret History that bothered me greatly was that the twins were called Charles and Camilla. I thought that was just strange, and silly.

  • 10 years ago

    Firstly about the Top 100 Books. I had a quick look at the site and thought "My goodness Norwegian people must be terribly intelligent. This reads like a list the Guardian might have printed and low and behold it was from that paper!
    I have probably read less than half-a-dozen of the titles and enjoyed few of those which left little positive mark . . .probably says something about my mental abilities.

    There are many books I haven't enjoyed, especially ones forced on me at school especially those studied for exams.
    One book which came highly recommended over ten years ago and even won a prize offered by the Guardian for something like 'Best Children's Book of the Year' was called Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian. It was made into a TV film and everyone on Amazon and probably in the Known World loved it.
    It was not badly written but the reason I found it a 'difficult' to deal with was the subject matter which was aimed at children between perhaps 10-12.
    The plot line is: It is the outbreak of WWII and children from the inner cities are being evacuated to the country. Arriving in a village one small badly beaten undernourished lad is not 'chosen' by any of the villagers and eventually, as a last resort, is housed with a strange elderly antisocial outsider 'Uncle Tom'. They develop a strong bond and the boy begins to trust this old man, who gradually comes out of his shell in return.
    After a while a letter arrives from the boy's Mother saying he is to be returned to her.
    This woman is obviously a complete nutcase. She is a religious fanatic who used to beat the boy to cleanse him of 'Sin'. Somewhere along the line she must have had (or is having) a relationship with a man because she is pregnant and has a child. She continues to be mean to her son and locks the boy and the baby in a a cupboard under the stairs where the baby starves to death. Eventually the boy, still holding the body of the dead baby, is rescued and taken to hospital. He is totally traumatized by the experience and is visited by a psychiatrist . . . and this is the only humorous part of the story, however unintentional, the child finds the psychiatrist is loonier than everyone else.
    At the end of the story the boy is reunited with the Old Man and they probably live happily ever after.
    My point (sorry it is so long-winded) is that . .. as an adult I can deal with this 'story', but, I'm sure, had I read it as a 10 year old I would have been deeply disturbed by the beatings the boy received, by the totally mad mother and the terrible scene in the dark cupboard.
    I know life isn't a bed of roses and horrible things do happen. Perhaps the only answer is to try and find a child/young person who has read this books and ask how/if it affected them.

  • 10 years ago

    Good heavens, Vee, Goodnight Mr Tom sounds perfectly horrible. I looked it up on Amazon and was surprised to find it awash is glowing reviews.

    I am a life-long reader of sci-fi and fantasy, so I have had lots of experience with readers who don't like that genre, or worse, dismiss it as juvenile or without literary value (don't get me started ...).

    I can't recall a specific book that I loved and everyone else loathed, but I've read a few books that my friends adored and thought profound that I just thought were sappy. My book group just read The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, and while it did have some some lovely segments, on the whole I thought it was just OK, not awful, not great. Others absolutely adored it, cried through it, and generally thought I was being cynical (maybe I was). I also have no patience for, or appreciation of, all the dysfunctional family books out there, but I know an awful lot of people who love them.

    Frieda, I agree it's very awkward when readers take others' opinions of their beloved books as personal criticism, though I have been guilty of feeling that way, myself. I have found that book group discussions are much better, lengthier, and deeper when some of us love the book and some of us don't. However, it's still difficult when it's just me with a dissenting opinion.

  • 10 years ago

    Karen, you mentioned Faulkner, an author I admittedly have great problems reading. However, I thoroughly enjoyed The Reivers (I've read it several times), and was quite proud of myself for finally getting through a Faulkner book without developing a headache. But my pride was punctured when I was told by a 'litrachure expert' that The Reivers is Faulkner's "worst" book. Hmphf!!

    I'm with you, Karen, about The Good Soldier. I think the unreliable narrator is one of the -- perhaps THE -- most important features of the story. It's been too long since I read it, so I don't remember if I picked up on the unreliability as I was reading it the first time or whether I got all the way through and then realized it. Or maybe someone else suggested it to me -- maybe it was you, kkay -- and I thought "of course, that's what was bothering me." I'm glad you brought it up, because I want to reread it and see if I can pinpoint where the feeling of unreliability really begins. It's interesting that some readers never question it.

    Good lord, Vee! Goodnight Mr Tom doesn't really sound like a children's book to me, although I know there are many examples of seriously deep books aimed at adolescents. I've wondered if some of the more recent dark 'life lesson'-type books have traumatized sensitive young readers as much as, say, Bambi, Old Yeller and The Yearling traumatized me. I've heard people younger than me relate that a book called Where the Red Fern Grows (I think that's the right title; I've never read it) was their Old Yeller.

  • 10 years ago

    Sheri, for most of my reading life I had the impression that science fiction and fantasy were the most popular genres of fiction. My teachers in high school and professors in college (in the 1960s) seemed especially fond of assigning one or the other, so they must've thought sci-fi/fantasy had literary value.

    Are dystopian novels considered sci-fi, or are they in a completely different genre? I think my teachers considered them sci-fi, but that might have changed some time in the interval since. I have a profound distaste for dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels that I blame on those educators, mainly because most of them seemed to be stuck on the same few books: 1984, Brave New World, Alas Babylon, and Nevil Shute's On the Beach. I was assigned all of those several times and got mighty tired of them. Many of my classmates, though, found them enthralling and were always very happy to read sci-fi or fantasy rather than classic dead old white English or American writers. Fantasy was much preferred, too: I remember when The Hobbit was in the hands, it seemed, of every other college student.

    When I first found book forums on the Internet, it seemed to me that the sci-fi/fantasy lovers were by far the biggest and most enthusiastic crowd. I remember that RP had a large contingency of followers at one time. Perhaps those of us who didn't follow felt a little left out and were defensive about it. After all, what was wrong with us; why didn't we 'get' sci-fi and fantasy when everybody else seemed to?

    I eventually realized that there was a whiff of disdain from some non-readers of those genres. Isn't that a defense mechanism, though, or a rationalization? For my part, I recognize my non-understanding is because of a blind spot I have. I have other blind spots as well when it comes to reading fiction (in nonfiction, too, but NF is so broad that there are more ways to get around them).

  • 10 years ago

    Correction: I meant constituency instead of 'contingency' in my previous post. That's what I get for using similar-looking and similar-sounding fancy words without checking which is which. :-(

  • 10 years ago

    Frieda, my experience with sci-fi and fantasy was a bit different. In high school and college (late 1970s - early 1980s) sci-fi was considered a guy's genre -- the girls I knew didn't read it and didn't like it, and the teachers I had didn't teach it. We were still firmly in the grasp of reading lists that were almost exclusively Dead White Males (no offense, good books but no diversity), so no fantasy assignments there. I was finally able to take one course on Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams when I was in college, but that was it.

    I've found very few sci-fi fans since, other than here on RP, and I've encountered a few fellow readers over the years who felt the entire genre belonged in the children's section (which is ironic as lots of really fabulous books are categorized as YA these days). My current book group leans toward literary fiction, so not much sci-fi/fantasy there, either.

    I'm not sure how to categorize dystopian novels. They seem to be everywhere lately and both my teenagers love them. I suppose as most are set in the future or in an alternate reality they should fall under the sci-fi/fantasy mantle.

    I remember loathing 1984 which was read in school, but really liking Alas, Babylon which I picked up and read on my own. I do think books that are assigned at school often wind up loaded with negative connotations -- I'm sure I would have liked most of the books we had to read if only I hadn't been required to read them! Contrary, I know! But to this day I've not revisited Faulkner or Hardy, though I did find one Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises) that I liked well enough to re-read more than once as an adult.

  • 10 years ago

    Goodnight, Mr. Tom was aMasterpiece Theater presentation, and I remember it vaguely as a good program. It surely didn't have the horrible stuff in it, as I don't have any recollection of that at all--or else I have blocked that whole part out. That would be terrible for children (or me).

    One of my very best friends from high school loves sci fi the way I do mysteries. Fortunately, we just laugh at our differences. My sister likes romance with a bit of mystery, and another reader friend reads a lot of non-fiction. My daughter and I read a lot of the same books, so I don't really have discussions with people with whom I disagree. If someone starts on something like Fifty Shades, which I have not read, or Bridges of Madison County, which I loathed, I just smile and listen.

  • 10 years ago

    Sheri, I think you're right about assigned books: they're most likely to be the ones readers wind up hating, although probably the exact opposite of the teachers' intent in assigning them. I bet a list of most-hated books will contain many, if not most, of the same books that are on the most-admired/most-loved lists.

    It's interesting about our different experiences re sci-fi/fantasy! I don't know why they were so different, though. Except maybe it's one of those examples of when a reader really likes something, there can't be enough of it, or when a reader dislikes something, there's too much of it!

    The genres I've found to be least respected are mysteries and romances, both of which I quite often like. Back when men wrote most of the romances, they were considered legitimate literary subjects and were -- and continue to be in many cases -- well respected. I remember in a history of reading that women at one time were considered incapable of truly understanding what they read, if they ever learned to read at all. When it became obvious that women could learn to read and understand, the attitude shifted to: All right, women have learned reading, but they will never be capable of writing anything as deep as what men write. Women ventured first into writing romances, and of course that degraded the whole genre. It is a perception and attitude that I'm afraid is still around, although not nearly as prevalent as it once was. I recall being really excited with the first Women's Studies classes I took because books written by women were emphasized as "just as good as those men have written." What a novel notion!!

  • 10 years ago

    Friedag, not only men are disdainful about women writers. I was astonished to read the opinion of a woman writer who said that no one without a university education should write a book!

  • 10 years ago

    "Women ventured first into writing romances, and of course that degraded the whole genre."

    We've come a long way, baby! But I think we are hitting rock bottom with L 50...which, I just found out, is being filmed here soon. So, send me all your copies of the book and I will chase after the underwear dude who is playing Christian to get him to autograph them all. ;) What I am willing to do for you all...LOL

  • 10 years ago

    Janalyn, doncha know? Women don't read erotica. Yeah, sure. We at RP even have our own expert. :-)

    Annpan, I'm not surprised at that woman writer's comment. If anything, women readers are often harder on women writers than men are. Men can be amusedly patronizing, but women are the ones who get their knickers in a twist.

    A few years ago, there was a spate of men writers who took on first person views of female characters or who chose a woman as the protagonist. (I think one was She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb.) They received gushing reviews from many women, with examples along the lines of: "Amazing! I can't believe this was written by a man." I got nauseated reading the reactions.

  • 10 years ago

    Another one..and we discussed it here too...Memoirs of a Geisha , and I do believe I recall saying I was surprised to find it was written by a man too. You have to admit some men write lame female characters.

  • 10 years ago

    No doubt about some men writing female characters in 'a lick and a promise' way, but isn't that true of some women writing male characters too? I seldom hear of the corollary when women write from the male viewpoint or have a male protagonist: I can't believe this was written by a woman. How did she get inside a man's mind so believably?

    Defoe, Hawthorne, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, etc. were no slouches in their attempts to write about women. A reader, especially a modern reader, may not think they got their women anywhere near right, but they did try long before the late 20th and early 21st century male writers who are so 'amazing' to contemporary female readers. However, maybe it's the very fact that these men were/are from the late 20th and 21st centuries that is so stunning. It's not a very positive evaluation of modern men, is it?

    Yep, Memoirs of a Geisha was another one. There were a lot of comments about its author not even being Japanese, so how was he able to understand the culture so well and being female in it?

    A Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus seems to have bowled over many readers, particularly female book discussion group members. I don't know how many times I heard how beautiful and "authentic" the story was.

  • 10 years ago

    Oh I completely agree with you Frieda about the classic authors you listed. Maybe that is why they are considered classic.

    It could possibly be that at the time I was reading Memiors of a Geisha, I was also reading Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. To this day I remember the female characters of that novel as being flat, not realistic...well the book was also poorly written, but I did enjoy the plot and the details about the Illuminati and the Vatican. I couldn't read anything by Dan Brown after that. Maybe he got better? I'm sure all his other books were written on his yacht floating around Bora Bora with a complete staff of editors. j/k! Has anyone read his later works?
    I've heard it said that most men prefer plot driven books while women enjoy those that are character driven. What do you think? For example, the latest book I reviewed here, Home, I would not pass on to any of my male relatives, because I don't think they would make it past chapter 2.

  • 10 years ago

    Ann, 'no one without a university education should write a book' I love it! I have read at a Garden Web thread (not this one) that anyone without a university education must be a 'drop-out'. It was, I think, the same person who said that anyone who enjoyed a few drinks was an alcoholic. No hope for me then.

    janalyn the dreaded DA Vinci Code. When people started raving about it here some years ago I thought I must have been missing something wonderful and had to order it from the library; they had never heard of it! After I ploughed through it and personally found it to be a load of **** and said so I was rounded on by Dan Brown's supporters. I think Frieda came to my rescue and I lived to fight another day.
    I have never read another of his books nor would I bother to watch a film of anything he has written.

  • 10 years ago

    Psshaw Vee! As if you would ever need rescuing. (I mean this as a compliment, but I always think of you as the Violet Crawley..younger version...of this forum) I am a huge Maggie Smith fan. :)

  • 10 years ago

    I remember starting The Da Vinci Code, but I'm not sure whether I finished it. If I did, it's the type of book I would've read and thought little of it and most likely forgot in two days. That I recall anything about it at all probably has more to do with the hype than about the book itself. I did recognize it as a 'dumbed down' recounting of many of the things in the controversial Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Messianic Legacy. I thought both of those were interesting until they became a cottage industry for their writers, and then my interest waned.

    I'm laughing while trying to imagine Vee in the need of rescue by me or anyone else. I was more likely just agreeing with you, Vee. But sometimes it helps to have at least one person agree with a seemingly outré opinion.

    Another immensely popular book, Girl with a Pearl Earring, gave me some problems because I thought Chevalier's writing was so elegantly constrained that I barely got a feel for the characters at all. Someone told me it was because "you [I> don't know anything about painting." I wasn't talking about painting which, by the way, I thought Chevalier described very well although I don't know anything about it. I was referring to character development which apparently depends on knowledge of painting, according to that argumentative poster. I conceded the point and moved on.

  • 10 years ago

    Janalyn, have you read Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping? I was quite taken with it. It has a plot, but it's obviously secondary to the development of the characters. There's a film adaptation of it that I like very much, too. My DH watched it with me one time, all the way through, and he said he liked it. Now, he's definitely a plot man so I found that surprising.

    I tried to read Gilead but I didn't stick with it. I've certainly known the type of characters Robinson writes about in that book, so I'm not sure why I didn't want to stay with them until the finish.

  • 10 years ago

    I, too, had read "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" and thought the "DaVinci Code" just a light fluffy read for fun. I even saw the film but never took it seriously.

    As for Tracey Chevalier, I have liked all of her books thus far. I recall arguing with another reader/poster about her "Virgin Blue." I thought the plot and characterization made perfect sense, even if it had a tinge of magical realism.

    I agree that Flaubert was skilled at getting inside a woman's heart, in his novels. On the other hand, I found Willa Cather's writerly skills remarkable, as a female author able to probe the male mind.

  • 10 years ago

    Mary, about ten years ago Tracy Chevalier appeared as a guest author/poster at a reading site I used to frequent. I think she had had four books published at the time: The Virgin Blue, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Fallen Angels and The Lady and the Unicorn. I had only read Girl... and The Lady..., both of which I liked with minor quibbles. Chevalier told us that she got more questions about The Virgin Blue than the other three combined, even Girl... which was soaring in popularity and the film adaptation was about to be released. I'm guessing (I don't remember exactly) that the questions were because the readers didn't quite understand Virgin....

    My question to Chevalier was about the understatement she used for the characters of Griet and Vermeer. She said, as I remember and I'll have to paraphrase, that she didn't want to write anything out of character for the real-life Vermeer or for her own created character of Griet so she kept things purposefully vague. I thought it was interesting because she was writing fiction, not biography or history, yet she felt that she couldn't venture into character motivations that might seem 'untrue', although she obviously made up all the part about Griet. Perhaps if I had known while I was reading the story her reason for writing the characters the way she did, I wouldn't have felt they were too flat. Curiously I didn't have the same feeling while watching the film.

    One of the funny things about the book and the painting: Before Chevalier's book the girl in the portrait was anonymous, but after the book and particularly after the film, I heard several times people refer to the girl as "Griet," even those viewing the painting at the Mauritshuis gallery, Den Hague.

  • 10 years ago

    I was looking forward to 'Major Pettigrew's Last Stand' and couldn't enjoy it. Picked up one by Alice Hoffman (not 'The Dovekeepers') and couldn't finish it either.

    One of my favorite authors is Isaac Bashevis Singer and he didn't make the "Top 100 books of all times". Nor Hans Hellmut Kirst whose Gunner Asch series is hilarious. Is William Saroyan passe? Adored Willa Cather back when. Arthur Conan Doyle didn't even make the list. I am seriously P.O.

  • 10 years ago

    Iris, I didn't like "Major Pettigrew" either and only read a few pages.
    I like to venture away from my lighthearted mystery books sometimes to try a more serious novel that has been recommended but I rarely enjoy them.
    My fault, no doubt.

  • 10 years ago

    Rosefolly, on the subject of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, I heard a song on the radio today with the same title by The Plain White T's. They took the story and wrote the song as if the tree were one of a pair of lovers rather than a parent. Made me think of the discussion here.

    Some of the lyrics:

    All the leaves on the Giving Tree have fallen
    No shade to crawl in underneath
    I've got scars from a pocket knife
    Where you carved your heart into me

    If all you wanted was love
    Why would you use me up
    Cut me down, build a boat, and sail away
    When all I wanted to be was your giving tree
    Settle down, build a home, and make you happy?

    Like you, I find that book incredibly uncomfortable at best, abusive at worst.

    I hadn't thought of it in years until it was mentioned here, which makes it odd to have the song pop up just days later.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Plain White T's The Giving Tree song

  • 10 years ago

    Annpan ~
    Thanks for confirming the Major didn't hold your interest either.

  • 10 years ago

    Sheri, I listened to the song and I like the singer's voice and the music, but I'm not sure that I would've ever picked up on the association of that song with Silverstein's book, except for the title. Was it something that immediately came to you?

    I'm wondering now if the book was actually aimed at children or adolescent readers in the first place. I know it was marketed as such and can be found in children's sections of bookstores and libraries, and the illustrations are cartoon-type drawings that might draw young readers to it; but somehow it doesn't seem like a story that would arrest many young readers I've known, except perhaps the most sensitive and perceptive ones. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems more to me to be a book for adult readers that just happens to look like a kids' book.

    After reading the synopsis and reviews of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, I think I'll give it a pass.

    Iris, I think leaving out Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a shame, but luckily his popularity isn't dependent on some snooty writers' list. I suspect that most of the lists by writers who claim such-and-such classics influenced them are disingenuous. If they weren't afraid of appearing less than well read, they might admit their main influences were more along the lines of pulp fiction. Ever notice how similar these danged lists always are? I think they just copy each other.

  • 10 years ago

    I enjoyed Major Pettigrew rather a lot - refer to thread title LOL.

    I thought Da Vinci Code was OK - I quite like a galloping plot and I just tend to skim over the boring bits. Which probably accounts for why I don't like Hardy.......

  • 10 years ago

    Re skimming: I remember skimming or just plain skipping most of the faux Victorian poetry in A.S. Byatt's Possession. However, there is enough plot and mystery in the story that kept me reading and I wound up enjoying it quite a lot. I also liked Byatt's Angels and Insects, a bizarre tale that ordinarily would not have been my cuppa tea.

    All sorts of warning whistles go off when I read that a certain book is a favorite of book clubs. Probably because, as Sheri said upthread, many of the books that appeal to book club readers are about 'dysfunctional' families or other particularly sappy subjects. I was snookered into reading The Lovely Bones when all I wanted to do was puke onto its pages and slam the book shut. Maudlin goo is my estimation of it. Oh, and there was something titled The Notebook of which I couldn't read more than ten pages.

  • 10 years ago

    Frieda, I might not have even noticed it if not for the reference to it here, so it was in the back of my mind when I heard the song. They do have a different take on it, but the story elements are still there.

    I also liked Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, I thought it was charming and fun. I also liked The DaVinci Code, though more for the ideas in the storyline (I hadn't heard of Holy Blood, Holy Grail at the time) than the writing. I have tried other books of his, and they didn't grab me at all.

    As for Tracy Chevalier, I liked Girl With the Pearl Earring very much, but found Virgin Blue very distressing. I haven't picked up any of her other books as a result. I am a very emotional reader, and I can only take so much abuse of characters before a book becomes too painful to read.

    I have learned to separate the writing style or plotting skill of a writer from the story itself -- that helps when I don't like the book we're discussing, but I can admire the skill it took to write it. I loathed ROOM, for example, but the skill it took to write was breathtaking. Likewise, I was only partially caught up in the actually tales told within Cloud Atlas, but I was completely blown away by how David Mitchell structured the book and the way each part was written in a different style.

  • 10 years ago

    I am more likely to forgive bad writing if the ideas that are presented are good or grab me in some way. I dont think I had heard of the Illuminati before Dan Brown's book. I spent many happy hours reading up on the subject afterwards.
    I enjoyed Girl with the Pearl Earring too, because I learned a lot and the fictional story being a famous painting was novel and interesting. That book sparked a lot of copycats when it came to "stories behind the art." I dragged my husband to the movie as well (I distinctly recall him looking around and saying, "Why am I the only male in this theatre?")

    I do have hard time if the plot is consistently bad or if my emotions are being blatantly manipulated. ie) The Light Between Oceans. There were episodes of beautiful writing in that book, but the faults killed any enjoyment.

  • 10 years ago

    Has anyone read Book Lust? It is an alphabetical listing by subject by an older and very well read librarian with very brief descriptions of a few of her favorite books in each category, and she also has some must reads scattered through it. I have not read a great part of her listed books and have not even heard of some of her must-read authors. I hate when something makes me feel so dumb, but the only Dickens she mentioned is Tale of Two Cities.

  • 10 years ago

    Carolyn, I have Book Lust and More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl. I went through both and marked which books I had read and highlighted ones that I wanted to read. However, I haven't managed to read as many as I thought I would. I would get them, but when they were actually in my hands, suddenly they didn't seem as interesting. The few I did read didn't impress me very much. I notice that a lot of the newer ones that were 'hot and heavy' at the time of the Book Lust books' publications are seldom mentioned anymore.

    Her selection of the classics seems to me to be the usual suspects. I don't know if she has a rule to never repeat a book she mentioned previously, but it looks that way.

    A couple of her other books are Book Lust to Go and Book Lust Rediscoveries. I'm curious about what she rediscovered. Too many list makers are either too heavy on the 'good for you' classics or the newest stuff, without much in between.

    I don't remember who were her 'must-read' authors, maybe because, like you, I wasn't familiar with them either, Carolyn.

  • 10 years ago

    I googled Book Lust and Wikipedia had this sentence:

    It was published in 2003 by Sasquatch Books and during its first year of publication it went into its fourth printing with over 90,000 copies.

    Guess I was out to pasture. Hadn't heard of it.

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