Sunday, 26 February 2012

Bad Books

Yes, I am in bad books at present, because I suggested that, as an alternative to spending so much money, we save more.  Thus we can plan to retire before we are too worn out to enjoy it.  Hubby discussed this idea with his golfing partner, (also his business partner, one and the same man).  Predictably the advice was to "Do what you like".  Which is, in both their cases, to enjoy expensive hobbies and meals out, and carry right on moaning about how stressful their business is.

That's not what this post is about, however.

I rarely pick up a bad book.  I can tell by the covers whether I am going to enjoy a book or not.  Anything that looks like mass-produced science fiction or detective stories or chick-lit or Mills and Boon just screams out what is inside, and is easy to avoid.  Misery memoirs - you don't even have to look at the cover design - it's all in the title.  I have never read a misery memoir and never intend to do so.

Occasionally, however, I am deceived.  I've been noticing a book coming beneath my radar three times over recent months.  It is called "The Last Dickens", by Matthew Pearl.  I've considered buying it both new and second-hand, but in the end got it out of the local library.  That's not something I do often, either.  I prefer to own a good book.  Something must have told my instincts that it was not a book I would want to keep.

This book was billed as an imaginative recreation of the last days of Dickens, an investigation into the "Mystery of Edwin Drood" (Dickens' last and unfinished novel) and maybe an uncovering of the secret of the intended ending of that last book.

This book was truly terrible.  I started off by reading every third page, having established before I was half-way through the first chapter that it was unreadable.  By about a quarter of the way through, this had given way to only looking at a page which had the word "Dickens" on it, and scanning it for anything of interest.  Half way through and I was reading a word or paragraph about every ten pages.  By the end I  knew that I had not missed anything, but felt that I had not wasted my journey to the library.  I had given the book a chance, but it had not lived up to the billing.

The only interesting thing about this book is that the main character is an American publisher called Osgood.  The author's note at the end indicates that this man is an actual historical character. 

I have an 1895 American first edition of Thomas Hardy's "A Pair of Blue Eyes"  (provenance Guildford Oxfam Bookshop).  The publisher is Osgood.  That made a connection.


  1. That you kept reading is amazing! I'd have given up - though I hate to 'waste' my reading and I can only record a book if I read all of it. Have never managed a whole Dickens but am very partial to a detective story, occasional science fiction, chick-lit and will even admit to Mills and Boon in my teenage years. I am clearly not a fit reader of a book blog!

  2. Oh, hausfrau,don't feel like that! I used to love detective fiction, esp Sherlock Holmes, and have read all of Isaac Asimov, Ursula Leguin and John Wyndham. I also spent years reading chicklit, until I got bored with it. It's just that my tastes have changed as I've got older - in much the same way I prefer salty food to sweet food these days.

    I hated Dickens when it was forced on me as a schoolchild, and only really started to enjoy it aged over 50.

    Anyone who likes reading is welcome here. And I agreee, normally I don't log a book unless I have finished it.

  3. Don't worry, not upset, more amused: I'm too long in the tooth to mind if people are unimpressed with my reading habits! And I do have a 'habit'.
    My tastes too have changed, I certainly couldn't face M&B now, but (particularly funny) romance is still a delight to curl up with when I want cosseting - I'm thinking Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen and even Katie Fford. Have read the odd Sherlock Holmes but prefer PD James and Kate Atkinson, and actually spies more than detectives, so once a huge James Bond fan I'm now rediscovering John Le Carre who I'd not read in years.

  4. Thanks, Hausfrau, glad you are not upset. I like Kate Atkinson very much. I see her more as social commentary than detective fiction. I posted on 16th MArch 2011 if you are interested, about "Started Early, Took My Dog".

  5. I've never got on with Dickens although one of my best friends loves him.
    After avoiding modern fiction for a few years I'm suddenly finding lots of things I'm enjoying - I really enjoyed "Before I go to sleep" recently and am currently hugely entertained by "The hitman's guide to housecleaning".