DNFs

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I’m a pretty stubborn reader. I crave completion and always want to know how the story ends. Almost always, anyway. It takes a lot to make me put down a book, but it has happened occasionally. Most recently was The Meeting of the Waters by Caiseal Mor, back in February. This got me thinking about exactly what it was that turns me off a book. So I decided to take a look at the books I’ve not finished and see if they had anything in common.

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In the case of The Meeting of the Waters, I just didn’t click with it from the beginning. Over the last few years, I’ve tried to read this book several times but always found the style to be a bit on the melodramatic side for me. I get that it was aiming for epic Celtic saga but it just made me roll my eyes.

The Meeting of the Waters is a prequel and I could tell. It seemed to assume that I would already have an emotional bond to certain characters and therefore made no effort to help me create one. Perhaps that’s fair enough, since time spent doing so would be time wasted for ongoing readers. Maybe. But that lack of connection with the characters coupled with the style was enough to make me put down the book and give away my copy of the trilogy. I think it’s unlikely I’ll pick up work by this author again.116063

Moving on to authors I will never again touch with a ten-foot barge pole, Stephen Donaldson is top of the list. I suspect this will also be the case for a few of you. At the beginning of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, the eponymous character is a literal leper reviled by his ex-wife and the rest of modern society. After being hit by a car, he wakes up to find himself in another world where a young woman cures him of his leprosy. Believing the world to be a dream, he repays this young woman by raping her.

It was at this point I put the book down and never picked it up again. Actually, I may have thrown it at the wall. I’m okay with some unlikeable characters but I had zero desire to see such a whiny, entitled, morally repugnant character find his redemption and save the world.

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Confession: I put down A Storm of Swords at the Red Wedding. It wasn’t that I particularly cared for the characters who died. Just the opposite, in fact: one of them rather irritated me and I didn’t sufficiently care about any of the others to read on and discover their fate. After all, chances were good they were just going to be killed off anyway.

These three books show that connecting to the characters is super important to me as a reader. Of the three books, A Storm of Swords had the best chance at that–by the time I put it down, I was already two-and-a-half books into the series. There were characters I thought were at least a little bit interesting, even if there were none I especially liked. What was lacking for me was hope. While I don’t expect characters to come out unscathed, I do want them to become better people for their travails. There wasn’t much hope of that in A Song of Ice and Fire.

Becky Cole has shared some of her deal breakers over at BookRiot and I definitely agree with some of them (though not all).

What about you? What books have you put down? What are your deal breakers?

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6 Responses to DNFs

  1. Kathleen May 8, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    Bad cover art, it turns out. There have been books by authors I love, books I’ve looked forward to for ages, then they come out with such a shoddy cover that it poisons the whole book for me.

    There are books I just don’t get around to picking up again, and books I choose not to read, and tropes I HATE, but that’s the main one which stops me finishing.

    • Elizabeth May 8, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

      How interesting! I’d love to hear some examples, though I suspect it is impolitic to ask. Have there been books that drew you in solely from the cover as well?

  2. Emma May 8, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    Lord Foul’s Bane was also not a book I could read all the way through, it’s repugnant. It’s one of the few books I’ve never even wanted to try picking up again to give another go.

    I have tried reading Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic a few times, but got incredibly confused each time and had to give up. Book 5 of Th Wheel of Time gave me a similar feeling of going around in circles and not getting anywhere, but that was the whole series doing that, nit that book by itself. I’m determibed to read them all one day…maybe once I’ve completed my degree and I have the brainspace again to keep track of all those threads.

    • Elizabeth May 9, 2015 at 8:53 am #

      The Thomas Covenant Chronicles seem to have put off a lot of readers–especially women. Not surprising, really.

      I’m always surprised when people recommend The Colour of Magic as an entry to Terry Pratchett’s work. Yes, it is his first, but its far from his best. Teenage me found Rincewind rather difficult to relate to. Have you read any of Pratchett’s other Discworld novels?

      And thanks for reminding me of the Wheel of Time! I think I put it down at around the same book… maybe around a decade ago, now? I wonder if I’d find it any less irritating these days. I suspect not.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Leife May 8, 2015 at 11:55 pm #

    Interesting. I couldn’t deal with the Thomas Covenant books either – made it through the first one but never got past the first couple of chapters of the second. It was just more of the same, with the only fully realised character being the utterly repellant TC. Bleagh. I also tried the Tilecutter’s Penny, by Caisel Mor and couldn’t get into that either. My most recent DNF was Gone Girl. Not one, but TWO utterly repugnant POV characters I decided I didn’t want to spend another precious minute with. I confess I also found LOTR hard going, and didn’t finish it the first time I tried to read it in my late teens. (An almost complete absence of any active, interesting female characters was what made it hard for me to engage with that one.) I think you’re spot on with characters. That’s my way into a book and that’s my way into my writing.

    • Elizabeth May 9, 2015 at 8:48 am #

      You’ve just made me especially glad I didn’t give TC any more of my time.

      I know what you mean about the LOTR. I tried three times before I managed to get past the first section. Such a slow opening! And it takes a while to arrive at Eowyn.

      The more I hear about Gone Girl, the less I want to read it. Was there something in particular that made you pick it up in the first place?

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