A brief and late midweek post, I’m afraid, after what has truly been a week from hell; a week that is actually being made much worse by a book.
Tell me, what do you do when a book that has been set for your reading group turns out to be (in your opinion, at least) a duff?
At the moment I am ploughing my way, around fifty pages a day, through a book that I have to be ready to discuss next Wednesday evening. I know that the person who chose the novel thinks that it is marvellous. As far as I’m concerned it is as dry as the ships biscuit that I suspect some of the characters survived on, not to mention falling over itself trying to be clever. On the principle that life is too short to continue reading books like this, under any other circumstances I would have tossed it at least a couple of days ago, but this is for a book group and the whole idea is to read other people’s choices so as to expand our literary horizons. I keep plodding my way on in the hope that at some point it will explode into a blaze of glory and I will achieve enlightenment. At the moment, I am still fumbling in the dark.
So, what would you do. Press on regardless and meet your moral obligation or give up and read something to lighten your life instead. I tell you, just now, even Oliver Twist is more uplifting.
35 thoughts on “A Moral Dilemma”
We had a similar situation with a virtual book club, where we were all struggling to read a dire book. In the end, we confirmed with each other and stopped reading. And had a good old rant about it and why we thought it was a duff.
The trouble is that I know at least one member of the group thinks it’s great. I suppose we have to give her the chance, at least, to convince us that we’re wrong.
Set it aside! You’ve given it a fair go. Life’s too short to read things you’re engaging with. I ‘ve given up on book group choices before now.
I’ve just tried again and I think I may have to take your advice. The trouble is that every time I start reading I find I have no memory of what has gone before.
If I really hate something, I won’t read it. I forced myself to read Unbearable Lightness of Being and a TRULY HORRIBLE John Banville book with a nasty murder in it for a book group and still regret the wasted time now. So I’d say if you really hate it, stop, and then when you go to book group, assess the mood, “admit” you didn’t finish it, and take part in the discussion if the amount of reading you did warrants it.
Since I posted I’ve heard from one other member of the group that she is having difficulties as well, so at least I’m not going to be alone.
I’d stop now. I’m sure your fellow book club members would hate to think they were putting you through misery, particularly after what sounds like a horrible week.
Susan, you’re right. They are all lovely people and they wouldn’t want me to suffer. What a sensible thought.
I’d abandon it, and explain why in the discussions at your book group. Even if others love it, doesn’t mean you have to – that’s the joy and the diversity of books, and as you suspect, life is too short. Stop reading this and read one you want too is my advice!
Part of the problem, Karen, is that the person who chose the book tends to take anyone not liking her choice personally. I haven’t forgotten the heated discussion we had about Philip Pullman’s ‘The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ’. It was a memorable evening.
Oh dear – perhaps not the best kind of person to be in a book group with then…. 😦
What is the book?
Now that would be telling!
It is a tough dilemma! I think though that you have tortured yourself long enough. If you can go to book group and clearly articulate the reasons you could not see it through the end then I think you are being plenty fair and won’t be disappointing the group, only the person who picked it and likes it so much.
But I would feel a failure!
Isn’t your book club supposed to be a fun thing to do with a group of friends? But we all get stuck in this situation- you’re not having fun but don’t want to upset someone. Give up the book, explain you tried but didn’t like it (with reasons), hope for support….then be ready for the backlash when it’s your turn to choose a book. Best of luck.
Ah yes, should I expose Colm Toibin to that kind of revenge? An interesting question.
I would abandon at this point. Sounds like you’ve given it a fair go and it will make for an interesting discussion!
Well, lively, at any rate, Cathy.
Yes, I agree with the overwhelming majority of your commenters: give up the book. Perhaps you can find another book (I hope a short one) either by the same author or by another author entirely on the same theme, set of events, or whatever, something, some book with which you can compare and contrast whatever part of it you have read and show that it’s not the essence of the book you’re against, or the subject matter, perhaps, but just the way it was handled or the style or whatever the case is. So that she doesn’t feel entirely rejected and so that those in the group who no doubt agree with you (and I’m sure there must be some, you strike me as a mature and sensible and creative reader) have another light to follow as well.
That’s an interesting idea, SO. I could take Kate Grenville’s ‘The Lieutenant’ along. It’s one of my favourite books. Do you know it.
Sorry, I don’t. But if it helps, I think your enthusiasm for it will communicate itself and can only help to illuminate the issue of what you didn’t like about the other book. Hard cheese to the woman who is so intolerant as not to understand that everyone doesn’t necessarily share her tastes! One of the oldest tales in the book is after all “De gustibus non disputandum (est).”
I can only agree — give it up, and express your thoughts about why you didn’t like it in the most tactful way possible. I’m afraid if your fellow member can’t take it, she maybe shouldn’t be in a book group. People must be honest, and the whole point of a group like this is to share disparate opinions. If everybody loved everything, discussion would be boring or non-existent.
Oh Yes, Harriet, you’re right about the best books for a book group to be those we don’t all agree on but I do usually managed to finish them 😉
Give up on it now. If you plod on regardless of the lack of enjoyment it will just feel like a waste of time. You’ve at least given it a go so I think you’ve met the objective of the group to try new horizons. When the group meets you’ll be able to articulate why it just wasn’t to your taste.
Will simply ‘was bored rigid’ do, do you think?
If I don’t like a book club book, I usually skip the middle and read the end, and no-one is ever any the wiser!
Now there’s a thought!
I’m in just the same situation at the moment with the book chosen for our October meeting. The person recommending it absolutely loves it and so far I’m bored with it.I really disliked the first chapter and wouldn’t have read on if it was up to me. I know she will get really wound up and upset if we don’t like it. I’ve never given up on a book group choice yet, but I do feel obliged to read it all if I’m going to give my opinion. I just don’t know whether to carry on reading or not, so I do hope you’ll let us know what happens at your book group.
I feel that same way, Margaret, and I have been really trying to struggle to the end but this afternoon I just ran into a brick wall. I was actually looking for things to do so that I didn’t have to read. I can never remember that happening before. I have now officially given up.
I knew it wasn’t right for me when I picked up another book to read – I can’t see I’ll get back to it for the meeting on 27 October.
I often have that same feeling. How can anyone like this book???? You more than hold up your end in most book discussions, and i know you lead many, so I say you can stop reading and make a few points about the first few chapters.
I have just decided to take your excellent advice, Kat. When it comes to a point where I am looking for things to do rather than read we’ve reached a pretty star of affairs.
I’d give it up too. It sounds like the person who chose it needs tact in telling them you didn’t like it though.
In our book group, we once had a lady leave when we dissed her book choice! These days we make it clear to new and potential members that we will express robust views – and they have to be prepared for people not to like their choices – but we will always explain why!
More on this story tomorrow, Annabel