Spain Remembers

Spain Remembers

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Notso List. Disappointing Books 0f 2015 (And a few more favourites)

The Notso List: Every reader brings her own personality and imagination to a book. One person’s great read may be another’s disappointment. I give a book a chance to lure me in, but if, after several pages, I find the story uncongenial, I return it to the library where it might find someone who loves it.

Sometimes, a book seems so full of promise or has received such glowing reviews, that I slug on, wondering what kind of illiterate clod I am to find boring what all the world loves.  Last year The Goldfinch almost put me into a comma and this year I trudged though The Buried Giant by Kazue Ishiguro, longing for release as a brilliant premise faded like memories of a long forgotten war.

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld, charmed me with an original plot but the important information was left to the end, sending me, the reader, into a fit of pique. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, much praised this year, was interesting in a sociological way but not riveting, and two erotic novels by James Salter, a fine writer who died this year, were diminished for me by his view of women as sex objects.The excruciatingly slow and detailed Death of the Father by Ove Knausgaard made me long for a merciful end.

I looked forward to Career of Evil, the latest mystery by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowlings) but its lack of humour, its heavy tone and gruesome descriptions did not work.  Lighten up for God’s sake, I whinged. A good thriller activates the nerves to the point you are afraid to turn the page, but my nerves remained dead. 

In a misplaced attempt to read those classics I always have avoided, I tried Walden by Thoreau and came face to face with a scold and egomaniac who looked down on everyone except himself.  Walden returned to a bottom shelf, too famous to throw away but too boring to open again. Alas, the Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler proved dated and creaky at this remove. But, on the other hand, the Japanese classic, Snow Country by Yasumari Kawabata, sent me into a trance of delight. 

The disappointment in the Big Sleep was well compensated by some great mysteries: The Overlook by Michael Connelly, Entanglement by Polish writer Zymunt Miloszewski  and Ice Run by Steve Hamilton and two William Deverell mysteries, Sing a Worried Song and The Laughing Falcon. Deverell is the funniest mystery writer I know. However, notso with Grantchester: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcle which brings us to the 1950’s in England where a young handsome clergyman is invited by the local cop to help out with cases. The dialogue is not only wooden (everyone speaks as if they were in a Coward play) but often it does not quite make sense. But I read it to the end. Why? I think I liked the main character, the weedy Sidney.  

The few disappointments were compensated by many many  goodies. See list below of my top picks of the year.  As usual I read a lot of short stories this year, too many to list. I fell in love with Melissa Bank's A Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing and especially the first story which I reread several times. I also enjoyed Sharon Irvine's book of stories called Close Encounters. Here are a three others that I enjoyed: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, The King's Curse by Phillipa Gregory, and Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. Haruf, a marvellous writer died this year.

Kent Haruf

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