Books That I Wanted to Throw Across the Room
Books don't often make me angry. If I don't like one, I just stop reading it. But then there are the good books, the ones that draw me in, that I'm fully invested in, that I look forward to reading during the few quiet moments of my day. When one of those books abruptly takes a turn for the worse, well, I throw it against the wall with all the force my puny arms can muster. How dare it disappoint me!
Do you find my choices appalling? (Some of my colleagues did.) But I bet I'm not the only one to have flung aside a book in disgust.
1. Atonement, by Ian McEwan. I don't expect this book to be knocked off of the top of this list ever. Yes, it's beautifully evocative of England before World War II. Yes, the scenes at Dunkirk are devastating. And yes, one could argue that the ending is a subtle exploration of the power of the writer (even a fictional one) to control the narrative. I would not argue that. I would argue that the ending (which I won't give away) was more worthy of Dallas or Days of Our Lives. When I got to it, across the room the book flew.
2. The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. A wonderfully imaginative book, but why lovingly construct a completely believable novel out of the fantastic tale of a boy and a tiger stranded on a lifeboat and then back away from it at the end? Across the room it went.
3. Saturday, by Ian McEwan. I'm sorry, Mr. McEwan, but you've made the list twice. I thoroughly enjoyed Saturday, especially for its perfect details of what life has been like post-9/11, but please. The protagonist is a stunningly talented neurosurgeon, his wife is a stunningly talented lawyer, his son is a stunningly talented blues musician, and his daughter is a stunningly talented poet. Come on. Families like that are unbelievable in real life, let alone in fiction.
4. Shadow & Claw, by Gene Wolfe. This fantasy classic has one of the best opening chapters I've ever read. Who wouldn't be interested in a young man training to be a torturer? But then, somehow, as the book progresses he turns into Super Torturer. Wolfe imagines a convincing world and is a fine writer, but why would I be interested in a protagonist who succeeds, despite numerous obstacles, at everything (everything!) he does?
5. The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?, by Leslie Bennetts. I reviewed this book very favorably this year, it made the Post's best books of 2007 list, and frankly, it changed my life or at least my career path. But some of it was just infuriating. Yes, women need to take financial responsibility for themselves, but she seemed to assume that every mother -- once they'd seen the light -- would choose to work. Many women know the financial risk they're running -- if they get divorced or their husband loses his job or whatever -- but decide that it's worth it to be home with their kids. And not everyone can afford the perfect nanny she seems to have had. The choices we all make are much more complicated than simply work versus home.
-- Rachel Hartigan Shea
By Christian Pelusi |
December 20, 2007; 7:11 AM ET
Rachel Hartigan Shea
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