Sometimes the vast majority of people love certain books and these books go on to achieve legendary status. Then it seems to be a certainty that you will love them too. So you waltz out and buy them and then settle in for an enjoyable read, until you realise that it’s all a mirage and a house of mirrors. The enjoyment is frustratingly out of reach. So you try harder and harder. It’s a strange feeling when you’re a part of the minority who simply can’t enjoy certain so-called Classics. Here are some popular reads that fell flat for me.
Just like Vegemite, another Australian export – you will either love this book or despise it. It is that polarising and many people claim it to be the ultimate travel memoir/adventure. Consistently on the bestseller list for decades, this is the ultimate boy’s own adventure. This is the story of a criminal who flees an Australian prison on a fake passport for life in the bustling and chaotic streets of Bombay. That plot sounded promising for me, so I bought it for a long-haul flight to London. This is a chunky 933 page brick of the most excruciatingly self-important and egotistical drivel you will ever read. This is what happens when a boring, self-absorbed and entitled man from a first world country is able to taste the nefarious and exploitative delights of a third world country, without limits.
The Penguin Classics imprint is a by-word for a never-fail approach to fiction and non-fiction. Although sometimes books sneak in there that shouldn’t be there. I would say My Family and other Animals is one of these. It’s a memoir published in 1956 it recounts Durrell’s quirky family as they move from Britain to the Island of Corfu. The book sounded right up my alley – one part nature writing, one part funny memoir, one part nostalgic summer island trip. Although, I read it recently and found the prose to be boring, the pace of the storytelling glacial and the characters from the Corfu village and Durrell’s family, a bit like poorly drawn caricatures, rather than real people. It may be because the book has aged considerably since it was published, but not sure? People on Good Reads seem to adore this one? I am left absolutely baffled about why I didn’t.
Apparently a work of genius, or so everyone says. There’s a lot of literary references in there and it’s based on the Iliad by Homer and so blah blah blah….a classic.
The words when strung together in sentences have a mellifluous, onomatopoeic rhythm. In other sentences, the words sound like a dog has vomited up contents of its stomach onto the page and is now trying to paw through the remainings. The characters were difficult to care about as well, the plot was motionless and as boring as hell.
Anything written by Jane Austen
I really love books from this time and vintage and developed a teenage passion for many of the books by the Bronte sisters including Wuthering Heights. Although, I find Austen’s writing too purple and ornate to really enjoy. I didn’t find her writing witty, as others have claimed about it, the whole thing was just too decorative, dense and long-winded, like a gigantic and frothy cream-cake filled with champagne. The writing and the stories are too frivolous and bubbly and practically the opposite of the brooding gothic stuff by the Brontes. That probably just says a lot about me, rather than Austen and I will probably get drawn and quartered by Austen lovers for saying that.
The famous author of another classic ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, this was a classic that I was super excited to read. Until that is, I read the first few pages. ‘Shit! this was going to be a grower’ I thought to myself, and rolled up the sleeves of my mind and entered into a poorly dug cave, ill equipped with a tiny hand axe. This book about magic realism is practically unreadable and the plot is completely incomprehensible to follow. I think sometimes these books become the Zeitgeist because some critic tells the world this is the case and then everyone follows along blindly with it. I have no idea what this book was about so I can’t really explain further, but a few chapters in, I gave up. Obviously I’m stupid or something then.
A multi-award winner from 2001, this book gathered hype like a fast-moving Californian wildfire. The writing is tight and the character development is great as well. Although I think the main issue is the subject matter and the lack of a strong forward motion in the plot. This is the tale of a middle-class American family from the 60’s until the present day. It bares the most ugly, unlikeable and repugnant parts of people and you’re left thinking – why the hell am I reading this, these people are so horrible and revolting and I simply don’t care about any of them?! In terms of the plot, nothing much happens – they just fight a lot with each other. It’s incredibly depressing. I’ll save you the trouble with this one and simply say, skip it.
I felt a high degree of pressure and hype from friends (both on here and real life) to like this one. On Good Reads, Bill Gates and his wife Melinda (always mainstays of the mainstream, talk about how they often read this book simultaneously to each other and gush about it, some sort of literary mutual masturbation perhaps?) But on actually engaging with this book, I found the main character Count Alexander Rostov to be pretentious and annoying. The fact that he was above all of the problems of the Bolshevik revolution, and how he maintains his composure and his manners at all times seemed (to me) unrealistic and made him less believable and likeable as a character, rather than more endearing. Most people absolutely loved this book, but I just couldn’t like this character and found the setting and the storytelling to be unrealistic. So I must have been reading something completely different from the majority.
This is a self-help book in the guise of a parable about a man meeting many people on a long and mysterious journey. If that sounds promising, it’s not. Rather it’s written in a childish, overly simplistic language that an six year old would understand. Fables and archetypal characters are pilfered from many different places here and the lessons in it about how to listen to your heart, and how to follow your own true path in life are so obvious that they are the most clichéd shit you will ever read.
Do you have any books that everyone else seemed to love and you absolutely hated, or that you found to be a bit mediocre? Do you disagree with my assessment on these books and want to give me a good talking to? Let me know below.