When it comes to books, it's rare for me to give up and stop reading if the storyline feels a bit slow or dull or badly written. I'm always fearful that I might miss out on something if I abandon a novel. Perhaps the pace will pick up and something dramatic will happen? Or maybe the loose ends will be tied up in the final pages and the ending will be so incredibly satisfying and clever it will make up for the hard slog to get there?
But this weekend I decided to abandon Karin Altenberg's Orange-longlisted Island of Wings because it simply wasn't doing it for me.
I put the novel aside at the 148-page mark. I'd invested several hours in it, across three days, so I didn't make the decision lightly. But, as a friend pointed out on Twitter, life is too short to read dull books.
I think the fault lies more with me as a reader, rather than as Altenberg as a writer. From the very beginning I had this niggling feeling that I'd read it all before in other novels — infant mortality, living is isolation on an island, a missionary spreading his dogma (and racism) to natives who don't know any better. Even the account of life on St Kilda island in the 19th century — which had attracted me to the story in the first place — felt uncannily like J.M.Synge's non-fiction book The Aran Islands.
But while the book didn't work for me, I know several other bloggers, whose tastes generally chime with mine, who have enjoyed it. For instance, see Jackie's review at Farm Lane Books and Lizzy's at Lizzy's Literary Life.
This makes me feel a little guilty. But with about 500 trillion (hopefully better) books in my unread pile, I just need to put it behind me and move on.
Do you put novels aside if you're not enjoying them? What makes you abandon a novel?