Unfinished Business: Popular Books I Could Not Get Through

I am so prone to judging books by their covers that it was actually the subject of my college application essay. With books like A Tale for the Time Being and Little Bee, I have not been disappointed. Two recent purchases this summer, though, and one from a while ago, proved my theory that a beautiful cover bodes well for what’s within far from infallible.

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    Ron Charles of The Washington Post likened the author to a modern day Wharton. I have been a longtime fan of Rodney Smith’s photography, and the cover features one of his best images. I adored the book The Interestings, and my name is Sophie;  everything about The Unfortunates by Sophie McManus made it seem like the perfect book for me. Except it wasn’t. The prose was stilted and thick, the characters were icy but lacked the redeeming qualities necessary to make such personalities work on paper [Julian Fellowes has mastered this, as I mentioned in my review of Snobs], and the plot was…unclear. I thought I had read 100 pages before I looked up and realized I was only on 37. Good books have the opposite effect on me. I used to soldier on and force myself to finish line, but I’ve recently come to the [obvious] conclusion that I should only spend time reading books I enjoy. Unfortunately, this one did not make the cut. Ha.

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Immunity is the book in the center.

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Ready for its closeup! So attractive…all smoke and mirrors.

     The next book that disappointed me was Taylor Antrim’s Immunity, which critics heralded as “Bret Easton Ellis [an author I love] meets biothriller [a genre I enjoy].” I saw it in the New Fiction section at Barnes & Noble and was instantly drawn to the orange & white cover; in the interest of transparency, the beach club I go to has an orange/white/blue theme going, and I thought it would be fun to coordinate. [I’m the worst] The book has potential – it’s a Station Eleven-esque tale about a socialite in New York City post-pandemic that has wiped out 2% of the population. She’s been experiencing some concerning symptoms, so when she receives a job offer out of the blue [she has no demonstrable talent in any area of life] that comes with an implant said to make her immune to the disease, it’s an offer she can’t refuse. The backbone of the plot is the book’s strong suit, but the actual content is weak and I skipped 10 pages here and there without feeling like I missed anything; gratuitous violence abounds. I skipped to the end of the book in case the ending was good enough to redeem the rest, and for a second thought I’d received an incomplete misprint. This book was a half-baked attempt at what could’ve been an excellent biomedical thriller.

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  Last but not least, I picked up The Goldfinch last spring. It wasn’t the cover that captivated [in fact, I find it unattractive and I hated the material of the jacket], but the fact that everyone and their mother was singing its praises, confident I would join the tribe of the Tartt-obsessed. I practically grew up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art [it’s two blocks from my house, and it was what I wrote my Common App supplement on], I’m ~relatively~ knowledgable about art, love stories that involve crime, and long books don’t intimidate me, so it was bound to be perfect, right? Au contraire. I honestly hated this book from the beginning. I couldn’t connect to any of the characters, and *spoiler alert* lost interest in the plot as soon as the bomb went off in the Met. I made it to page 300 and then put it permanently to rest. Deciding not to follow the crowds for the sake of reading a “good” book felt good and, as an added bonus, my back problems dissipated [it’s heavy in the literal and figurative senses of the word].

What “good” books didn’t do it for you?

6 Comments Add yours

  1. I also loved The Interestings which makes me think we have similar tastes. I am currently contemplating tackling The Goldfinch–someone left in the free book pile in my apartment’s lobby–but did you read Tartt’s other novel, The Secret History? It’s intriguing and beautifully written, but all the characters are such terrible people I had trouble rooting for any of them. And I feel like I’m the only person who feels that way!

    Other books I couldn’t stand that everyone else seemed to love: The Maze Runner and Red Queen. I just thought they were really poorly written and could not understand the hype!

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    1. I felt the same way about The Red Queen! I started The Secret History, which I enjoyed but abandoned because I lost it in the midst of a move. I found it much more enjoyable than The Goldfinch and may give it another go! That being said, a ton of my friends read both and preferred The Goldfinch so I may be in the minority here. I’m also looking to get into Murakami but have heard that many of his works are disappointing the same sense as well, so we’ll see!

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    2. Rebecca says:

      Completely agree about The Maze Runner. Bad writing, plot holes, a frustrating MC. I’m still not sure how I managed to read the whole book! Though I won’t continue the series.

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  2. Rebecca says:

    I had the hardest time getting into The Book Thief. Several of my friends think it is the best book ever, but I found it rather long and boring. Plus the writing style is really weird and jarring.

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    1. And see, The Book Thief is one of my all-time favorites. I love the writing style. So interesting what appeals to us and what doesn’t!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rebecca says:

        Truly, that is why it is wonderful there are so many different writing styles and genres. Different things appeal to different people. By the end of the day, we are all still a part of the book loving community.

        Liked by 1 person

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