The three novels which I will be talking about in this abandoned books post were all surprises to me. I expected to adore Their Eyes Were Watching God, and to very much enjoy Mr Fortune’s Maggot. I was also anticipating great things from Anna Quindlen’s fiction after reading her lovely introduction to my beautiful Madeline compendium.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
I decided not to read the foreword or introduction to this book lest it give too much away. I knew virtually nothing about what was likely to happen, and preferred to be swept away with the plot rather than to know about it all beforehand. Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story of Janie, a child of rape. Throughout, the scene was set well and I was surprised at how easy the dialect of the characters was to get used to. I did find that the dialect was incredibly overdone however, and some sections had to be waded through in consequence. Hurston’s writing was beautiful at first, but I did not find that it was consistent throughout.
I fully expected to love Their Eyes Were Watching God, but honestly, I didn’t even enjoy it very much. The plot was not in depth enough to suit a book of its length, and I could not muster enough interest in its storyline or its characters to read the novel in its entirety. So far, I definitely prefer Hurston’s non-fiction to her fiction, and have in consequence crossed off the other novel of hers which appears on the Virago Modern Classics list.
Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
It seems that very few positive reviews exist for this novel. I knew nothing about its storyline before beginning, so I read some of the random thoughts which had been posted about it on Amazon to gain an overview, and then wished I hadn’t. I saw words and phrases like ‘dumbed down’, ‘unintelligent’ and ‘tedious’, which really put me off beginning to read. It started incredibly slowly and was incredibly monotonous. I had no interest in any of the characters, and did not even make it to the fifty page mark. I would like to read more of Quindlen’s fiction as she does still seem to be a firm favourite with a lot of readers, but I will look for those novels of hers which have more positive reviews.
Mr Fortune’s Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner
I really enjoy Townsend Warner’s writing, but I was a little disappointed with Summer Will Show when I read it a few months ago. I was hoping that I would enjoy Mr Fortune’s Maggot as much as I did Lolly Willowes. The preface to the NYRB edition of this book is lovely, detailing as it does Townsend Warner’s reasons for writing, and her inspiration for this particular novel. Mr Fortune’s Maggot tells the story of Reverend Timothy Fortune, who has spent three years as a missionary on the island of Fanua somewhere in the Pacific, but has ‘made but one convert’. This storyline did not appeal to me personally, but as it was on the Virago Modern Classics list which I am working through, I began it regardless.
Townsend Warner crafts her stories so beautifully, and her writing works well, particularly with regard to her descriptions of people and places. This was my favourite element of the novel. I was not overly enamoured with the storyline or the protagonists. The entirety just seemed a little flat to me, and quite drawn out in terms of the little that happened throughout. I did not like Mr Fortune at all – he was rather cruel at times, and did not show much ‘Christian charity’, as he was supposed to in his position. I was unable to muster any real interest within the story by around a fifth of the way through, and so I gave up.