Like that fact that there are so many wonderful books to read. I remember an interview on CBC radio years and years ago; Vicky Gabereau, the wonderfully witty and engaging interviewer, was speaking with Robertson Davies, the wonderfully witty, erudite, and engaging icon of Canadian literature. And he said something to the effect that his one regret in life was that there were too many books to read. I've always loved that answer. So yeah. There's that. Keeping up with my constantly accumulating "to read" pile... that's hard sometimes. Good thing I'm retired.
|Vicky Gabereau source|
I get lots of ideas for new books and new authors from book review sites, and yearly lists of recommended books from book reviewers and editors, and long lists and short lists for awards. And great suggestions from readers of this blog. And even from former students, like Sarah Weinman whom I taught many years ago. Sarah's a writer and critic in New York now. And recently, I subscribed to her newsletter The Crime Lady. It's filled with all kinds of talk about books, and links to other articles about books. I also read writer Adrian McKinty's blog The Psychopathology of Everyday Life where he talks about books, the ones he reads and the ones he writes. You might recall that I've mentioned (here and here) how much I enjoyed his "Troubles Trilogy." But, you know, all this searching for book ideas takes time. Good thing I'm retired.
And then I find a writer I like. Whose work interests me. Who is talented, and inventive. Whose books are well written stylistically, which is important to me. Who does his or her research, and as a result, their books have that "value added" thing I talked about a while ago, where the reader learns about all kinds of new and interesting things and places. And I'm excited and really enjoying their books. And then they let me down. Not me personally, of course, but me as a reader.
|Sharon Bolton source|
Let's take Bolton's latest book Little Black Lies as an example. Set in the Falkland Islands, it's a story of loss and revenge, of two women who are life-long friends, one of whom has lost her sons in an accident caused by the carelessness of the other. The novel skilfully recreates life in the sparsely populated Falklands twelve years after the war, breathtakingly beautiful but bleak, with a society that is isolated and inward-looking. Bolton deals with the aftermath of the Falklands War, when Britain can't decide what to do with this "relic of empire." Former soldiers cope with PTSD, local conservationists deal with the harshness of nature, and amidst all this, children begin to go missing. The story moves deftly between several narrators. I was fascinated by Bolton's picture of the Falklands, and by her depiction of the lives of the three main characters who have been so damaged by war or by happenstance. And how they cope, or do not cope with tragedy. Until the end. The end really pissed me off... if you'll pardon the profanity. It was an end unworthy of the rest of the book, in my opinion.
I hate it when that happens. A weird plot twist that "stretches the imagination a bit too far" as one reviewer puts it, an unexplained loose end, gratuitous violence that clearly panders to the "best seller" market but adds nothing of value to a book... all of these really put me off a writer. And their work. No matter how talented they are.
As Michele Peckham says in her review of Bolton's earlier novel, Dead Scared, Bolton's work is definitely "worth reading if you like psychological thrillers and don't mind suspending all common sense." And sadly the blog The Literary Lawyer has similar comments about Bolton's book A Dark and Twisted Tide, calling it timely, unique, well written.... but flawed, even venturing into "the bizarre and the bone headed" as far as plot goes.
Interestingly, neither of these reviewers has given up on Sharon Bolton as a writer. And neither have I.... yet. Despite my criticism, I think her books are worth reading. I just think it's a shame that someone as talented as Bolton doesn't have an editor who will read her the riot act and help her to produce work that's worthy of her abilities.
I felt the same about Val McDermid's book The Vanishing Point. Strangely enough it deals with one of the same themes as Bolton's Little Black Lies, namely missing children. But it also explores the world of ghost writers, the celebrity autobiography, and the reality TV industry that manufactures these celebrities. I found McDermid's exploration of the life of a trashy, but deviously brilliant, reality TV star, turned mother, turned media darling fascinating. Until, like with Bolton's book, I started snapping it shut, thinking, "Really? Really?" Come on, Val. The supposed 'Queen of Tartan Noir' can do better than this. And yet, I finished the book because I wanted to know what happened. And what happened pissed me off even more.... if you'll pardon the profanity... again. I couldn't find a reviewer on-line who agreed with me, not really. You can read a couple of those reviews here and here. Except on Goodreads, where it seems that several reader/reviewers felt the same as me. Kind of cheated.
Both Sharon Bolton and Val McDermid have new books out this year. And I'll probably read them. But I won't be happy if their plots have one too many twists over the line... of credulity... so to speak.
That's because as an avowed bookworm, when I read, I forget that I'm even reading. I'm holding the book, and my eyes are moving across the page, but I experience the story as if there's a movie playing in my head. And when something that I can't "buy" happens, a character steps out of character, or the writer makes a major mistake, the movie stops. I totally lose my "suspension of disbelief" as my grade ten English teacher used to say. And I realize that I'm not in the Falkland Islands, or nineteenth century Yorkshire, or on a cliff on the island of Lewis... I'm just sitting in my sun room, holding a book, and those black squiggles on the page are just.. black squiggles. And I hate it when that happens.
But that's just one of the many problems with being a dedicated book lover. Sigh. Life is tough, people.
Now have a look at this video from Buzzfeed with LeVar Burton. Someone passed this onto me a week or so ago, and I can't stop watching it.
If you love books, you'll totally understand.
See? The life of the dedicated book lover is not an easy one. Too many books, not enough books, books that promise you will love them and then let you down. And then there's all those people in your life.... who just keep getting in the way of your reading.
Or if you're my friend Jane, two ginormous dogs who want to share the sofa with you when you all you want is a moment alone to finish that darned book.
|Jane and Hugo... reading. Thanks for the photo, Jane.|
Do you have any book lover angst you want to get off your chest? Come on.... we're listening.
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