Not finishing books

I don’t often not finish books. Sometimes they take a long time to read, and a lot depends on what’s going on in my life in the mean time as to how quickly they get read and what time I’ll allow for reading. But, generally, I finish them. There are a couple of books which I’ve started, and, despite several attempts, have never managed to finish (Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, and Margaret Mahy’s Maddigan’s Fantasia, for example) mainly because I think I ought to like them: I’ve loved every other book by Mahy I’ve read, I think – why is this one different? and try going back to it again in the hope that I’ll love it now. This has worked well in some instances: for example, I read the first two volumes of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Trilogy immediately after each other, then managed only a bit of the third. I went back to it later and polished it off in no time (well, insofar as one can polish off one of Stephenson’s books that quickly!).

There are a lot more books which I’ve completely abandoned due to not feeling the love at all (Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost, for example, which was just dull, despite all its plaudits), and have never felt the desire to revisit. There are too many books and not enough time!

At the moment I’m struggling with Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw: I started this with great anticipation, the story unusual and arresting, but now, several chapters in, it’s not compelling me enough to continue reading. In fact, I’m finding David Norbury’s Soil and Rock Description in Engineering Practice a more riveting read (to be fair, I am a geologist, and find these things interesting). Perhaps it’s the sense of impending doom I’m getting from the set-up: things are going to go horribly wrong, I can feel it. Or perhaps Walton has done her work too well: the dragons are too dragonish, and not human enough? Whatever it is, I am not picking this up when I need to read (also not helped by the fact that I’ve also started Robin McKinley’s Pegasus, which is far more gripping and compelling, and her pegasi are not at all human).

I don’t normally feel guilty about not finishing books I’ve disliked, but I don’t dislike Tooth and Claw, and it’s been highly recommended by people who seem to have similar tastes as me, so I’m reluctant to abandon it completely.

Do you have to finish a book once you’ve started?

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10 Responses to Not finishing books

  1. real-life-fantasy says:

    Yes. I can’t even start a book if I haven’t finished the last one. It’s unbearable!

  2. Erin says:

    Having non-human characters can be difficult; if they are not human enough to relate to them, then you have trouble getting into the story. If they are too human, then they don’t feel like they’re anything special.

    • Ela says:

      With Tooth and Claw I feel there are all sorts of inconsistencies – why do dragon wear hats, for example, but there’s no mention of any other clothing? And why would clawless females be an evolutionary advantage? I’ll try it again when I have some more free time.

      The human-like non-humans I thought were very well done in Pegasus – obviously not human, but sufficiently like humans that there was some common ground.

  3. I do. At some point, it becomes a battle of wills—the author’s and mine. It makes me downright competitive. But that’s just me. I do encourage you to finish Tooth and Claw, but if you’re not enjoying it, there’s no reason to.

    • Ela says:

      🙂 I consider that if an author has ‘lost me’ that’s generally his or her fault, not mine, so I don’t feel obligated to finish. Though I do remember really struggling through the first half of Jane Eyre, which I had to read at school, and rushed through the last half in one evening, suddenly sucked in by the story. I might have given it up, though, if I’d been reading it for my own pleasure.

      Perhaps part of the problem with Tooth and Claw is that I’m not a massive fan of Trollope, either!

  4. sonia says:

    I don’t feel I have to finish a book. If I am not into a book, or it is boring me or something, I will just stop reading. There are a lot of books out there after all. I can find a more interesting book out there easily.

  5. Jenny says:

    Tooth and Claw didn’t thrill me the way I wanted it to, honestly. I loved her Still Life with Fascists trilogy, and I thought Tooth and Claw would be far better, but meh, it did nothing for me. I don’t have to finish a book once I’ve started, but I often make plans to revisit books I haven’t managed to finish. Often I will love a book on a reread that I couldn’t finish the first time through.

    • Ela says:

      I originally went onto Amazon to check out her Still Life with Fascists after reading your review, and saw Tooth and Claw listed, so got that instead!

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