I have encountered some real gems on this year’s Around the World in 80 Books challenge, but as I half expected when I began, there are quite a few books which I just did not get on with. I am nearing the end of my challenge, and thought that I would collect together the reviews of three books which I ended up giving up on.
The Bondmaid by Catherine Lim (Singapore)
I had hopes that The Bondmaid would resemble work by Lisa See or Amy Tan, but was unfortunately rather disappointed in this respect. I’ve said this about a few books of late, but The Bondmaid felt purposely complex with regard to its long sentences, and range of less common vocabulary; essentially, it was overwritten.
A lot of the sentences, despite their length, did not say a great deal; for instance: ‘In his time, the author too had stood, trembling, in punitive assembly with his siblings, and his father before him, in a long tradition of that cruelty, not just of parents, but of deities and gods themselves in their temples and river shrines, which sees fit to visit upon all the sins of one.’ This prose style really put me off, particularly when it was contrasted with short paragraphs, consisting of just one or two very simplistic sentences. The dialogue, too, felt unimaginative and matter-of-fact; the whole novel felt ultimately clumsy. The Bondmaid flits about far too much in time, and whilst I did find the cultural information interesting, I felt from the beginning that the story could have been far better handled than it was in actuality. You can probably see now why I gave up on it.
The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (Malaysia)
The Gift of Rain, which is set on the Malaysian island of Penang, has been on my Kindle for a long time. I have not read anything else by Tan, but his debut novel seems to be rather admired, judging by the reviews here on Goodreads.
From the outset, I found the prose rather overwritten, with the odd awkward paragraph of very matter-of-fact writing; there was simply no balance to it at all. The plot felt meandering from several pages in too, and issues were circled around rather a lot with no real conclusion. The Gift of Rain is long and rambling; whilst I expected it to be really absorbing, I never really found myself getting into the story. The dialogue was stilted, and the depth which I anticipated was simply not here. Whilst there are undoubtedly a lot of descriptions here, Penang never felt vivid; neither did the characters, who did not feel at all realistic to me. The Gift of Rain is a laborious tome, which I became rather frustrated with. I did not have enough interest in the novel as it progressed to read past the 10% mark.
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (Australia)
The Thorn Birds has been on my Kindle for such a long time, after purchasing it as part of a Kindle Daily Deal some years ago. I must have done this solely because the novel features on the Virago Modern Classics list; nothing about the plot particularly interests me, and that is probably why it has remained unread for such a long time.
I don’t enjoy romance novels on the whole, and a few reviewers have mentioned that this is like a soap opera; again, a genre which I do not I even like to watch on the television, let alone read. McCullough’s writing is not bad, but the opening was disengaging more than anything. I read the first 3% of the novel, but found it very bland, with its awkward dialogue and shadowy characters. I was unwilling to invest so much time on getting through the whole when I doubted I would enjoy it, and so this tome joins my ever-expanding Kindle graveyard.