Recent Reading: Mostly Unfinished

mirror-thiefI’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, which has been reflected in the slow pace of my blogging. I’m not sure exactly what is behind it this time, but I think it happens to all of us occasionally, and it always passes eventually. Still, it’s a disheartening phase when it comes, to be picking up books and putting them down again without much caring!

One book I started that I will definitely try again when the evil spell lifts is Martin Seay’s The Mirror Thief. I think I just took it from the shelf at the wrong time: it wasn’t quite the book I was expecting, or it wasn’t in its first 100 pages or so anyway, and the disappointment I felt about that was getting in the way of my reading it for the book it actually is, which might turn out be great. I was expecting it to feel more like cerebral but heartfelt historical fiction–if not Hilary Mantel, then maybe Rose Tremain–and instead its opening sections read to me more like The Goldfinch–slick, clever, even artful, but a bit coldly superficial. I will come back to it eventually and see it through. It does look really good, and so many enthusiastic critics can’t be wrong–can they? (I know, I know: a lot of them thought The Goldfinch was great.)

Killing_Floor_CoverI also started Lee Child’s Killing Floor, the first of his hugely popular Jack Reacher thrillers. I admit it had never occurred to me to try this series until Stig Abell, the editor of the TLS, sang its praises. I had no particular assumptions about Lee Child, good or bad, it’s just that the books had never stood out to me until Abell said how much he’d enjoyed reading through them all last year–so I picked up a couple at a book sale. I got about half way through Killing Floor before I lost interest. I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with this book any more than there is anything wrong with The Mirror Thief:  in fact, I thought Killing Floor seemed quite good of its kind. But for whatever reason I just wasn’t gripped–I wasn’t even slightly curious about how the knotty plot was going to turn out, and so I eventually stopped picking it up again after I put it down. When I started it, it reminded me of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser mysteries, which I love. It is much wordier, and it may be that I wouldn’t enjoy Parker’s books if it took a lot longer for things to happen in them–or if Parker spent as much more time on the really grim bits as Child does here. I also didn’t bond with Reacher. I was intrigued by Child’s introduction, in which he outlines his own motivations for the style of the series as a whole and for Reacher’s character in particular. Reacher is deliberately both arrogant and hard to like, which are not qualities I’m against in principle, in a main character–but again, I don’t imagine I would like Parker’s books if I didn’t find Spenser’s combination of strength and honor so appealing. Maybe I’ll appreciate Reacher more as a character if/when I get to know him better. For now, though, I’ve put him on hold.

lady-225It’s not as if I haven’t read any books all the way through since classes ended. One thing that works is coercion! I’ve read two books for reviews, one an interesting study of Agatha Christie, the other a new novel by Canadian writer Merilyn Simonds. (My review of the former has been filed; my review of the latter is underway.) I’m also making good progress on Margaret Drabble’s The Radiant Way, which I need to finish for next weekend’s meeting of my book club. Deadlines are useful things. In the interstices of my days I’ve also reread all three of Cecilia Grant’s Blackshear Family romances. They are all excellent–and each has its own distinct flavor, a display of versatility I admire in the author. I think the first, A Lady Awakened, remains my favorite.

I hope I do get my reading mojo back soon. My slump has even spilled over into my book shopping–a rare symptom indeed! I have yet to pick out any books with the lovely birthday gift card I was given, because I haven’t felt more than perfunctory interest in any books I’ve examined while browsing. Mind you, some of that reticence is also guilt about putting more unread books on my shelves when I have so many still unfinished, or not yet begun, on them already! But I think my moood is also part and parcel of the mental reorientation that goes on during the transition from the teaching term to the summer months. I’m going to try not to worry about it too much. I’ll just keep plugging away at the books I have to read, and keep trying to find the book that lights me up again, whatever it might be. If all else fails, there’s always Dickens, who has saved me from slumps before!

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5 Responses to Recent Reading: Mostly Unfinished

  1. ana-maria says:

    Love your blog. Wishing you the best.

  2. banff1972 says:

    A lot of people whose reading taste I respect have recommended Lee Child to me. I also read the first one and was left indifferent. I have a hunch that he hits his stride later in the series so I might try a later one at some point to see. But I sympathize with you about reading slumps. They are no fun. I just read an amazing book called Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido. I will try and write about it–suffice it to say, I recommend it highly.

  3. dcsj says:

    I have been meaning to ask you about some books. I’ve commented occasionally when you have mentioned Trollope, who is I guess one of my favorites. Recently I discovered some epub books of his and his family on Project Gutenberg. I just finished one by Frances Eleanor Trollope, his sister-in-law (and sister of Charles Dickens’ mistress), called *A Charming Fellow*. I wondered if you were familiar with her work at all. I enjoyed the book, although I guess there is little development of the characters. They are well-described, but they don’t seem to learn anything as they go along, they stay the same throughout. (Perhaps that is true of some real people also!)

    Anyway, I was curious if you had read any of the other Trollopes and if you had an opinion of them.

    • Rohan Maitzen says:

      I haven’t! Though I have certainly come across mentions of Frances Trollope’s fiction. It sounds a bit like what I’ve read of Margaret Oliphant’s, which is fine (and abundant) but, at least in my limited experience of it, doesn’t ever leap off the page at you.

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