Monday, April 12, 2010

DNF's: Books Not Finished

Here's my first foray into The DNFiles (as Raych calls it). I tried and I tried, but I just couldn't finish the following books. And I never give up on books! Maybe someday I will, but for now, I need the room on my bedside table.

The Sunne In Splendour: A Novel of Richard III by Sharon Kay Penman: I read almost half of this book while we were away last Christmas. But, guys! Its 879 pages long! Its huge! And every other character is, I swear, named Henry or Richard or Edward/Edmund. And then half the time, they were just referred to by their title - except that since the book spans just years and years, everyone's title changes a dozen times. I got so lost. And then I just stopped caring. I'm sorry, Ms. Penman. I know you're one of the grande dames of historical fiction and I really did like the historical mystery of yours I read (The Queen's Man). But I think your straight historical fiction may just be too much for me.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke: This is another chunkster that I just couldn't finish. I only made it about a quarter of the way through this one - but that means almost 200 pages, as this thing clocks in at way over 800. Maybe it was the style - sort of a Victorian farce meets historical document - or maybe it was just too slow for me, but I just could not get into it.

Feel free to argue in the comments why I should give these books another chance.


  1. I feel bad when I give up on a book too but life is too short to read anything but what you really want to.

  2. I've been tempted to start both of those - they both sound so intriguing. But they're just soooo long! I'm such a slow reader, I know I'd never manage to finish them, either. I think you're very wise in moving on!

  3. I liked Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and I was able to read it in one go (not in one sitting, but rather without ignoring it for months at a time), but I've never been able to finish it when re-reading it.

  4. I found Jonathan Strange amazing.... then again, I love gratuitous worldbuilding for the sake of it. Perhaps it would be worth treating it as if it had been published in four volumes instead of one? (After all, many of the c19 novels it's modelled on would have come out in serial form - so you could even try reading one chapter every week...)

  5. I'm a major book gnasher ("gnashing" is when someone leaves an unfinished drink on their table when they leave a bar), but hampshireflyer has a great idea. Why do we try to read books all at once? People use to consume them in serial form, right?
    I've noticed the opposite happening with TV shows lately. People won't watch a show when it premieres. Instead, they TiVo it, and watch several episodes at once, particularly for much-anticipated shows like Lost, Mad Men or Treme (you know I had to get my Wire fanaticism in there somehow). It makes more sense in the context of how people consume stories in any medium, right?

  6. I think that reading Jonathan Strange in serial form would work, but that Sunne in Splendour would not - there's no "previously on" section to catch you up, like a tv show would have and I was getting confused enough with that book. But you guys are right it might work with Jonathan Strange. Its more episodic and I didn't have the same problem with getting lost.

    Andrea, has Treme started yet? Is it scratching your Wire itch?

  7. I just recently started reading Nancy Pearl's More Book Lust and I had to tab her remark about not finishing books we don't like. She uses "The rule of 50" which is based on the reality of the shortness of time and the immensity of the world of books. If you are fifty or younger, give every book about 50 pages if you are 50 or older, subtract your age from 100 and shoot for that and if you are over 100 do whatever you want. I have decided that this is my new practice. I will no longer feel bad but simply move on to something that stimulates me.

  8. I won't argue because, hey, if it didn't work for you, it didn't work for you. However, I may weep a little that you abandoned The Sunne in Splendor.


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