Friday, 7 January 2011

How was it for you?

I read fewer books these days. Or rather, I finish fewer books. Returning six items to the library this week, I read only two cover to cover. One was An Echo in the Bone (Gabaldon) and the other I Remember You (Evans). The rest? I’d rather not name them, as I don’t want to hurt an author’s feelings, or to influence anyone who may yet try them.

But they didn’t hold my interest, and the reasons they didn’t were varied. Too much information, too little story; too gruesome; too boring; too much characterization and therefore boring; unrealistic and downright inaccurate.

There are so many permutations on these basic faults and it’s possible to mix and match among the labels. And I accept that the things that turn me off a story may be just the thing to capture and hold your interest. Who knows?

Gabaldon’s novels are always long, and this was no exception. The 1000+ paperback kept me entertained all through the Christmas break. If I only skim-read the bits on the American War of Independence, who is to know but me? Not knowing the *real* characters and being geographically challenged as to where things were happening made that part of the story a blur for me, but the story about the fictional characters was endlessly interesting.

I got curious about how old Clare is at this stage of the story*, and looked for the first novel Cross Stitch (now called Outlander I think in the US) in order to check it out. Explaining what I wanted to a sales assistant, she immediately launched into a discussion of how could Clare sleep with Lord Grey after Jamie’s death, and hadn’t that ruined the whole series for me? Well, no, it hadn’t. Who knows what we’ll do in deepest grief? And Jamie wasn’t dead (sorry, but the book has been out a couple of years, so I don’t suppose I’m letting out secrets here) but very curious as to why they had slept together. I find Gabaldon’s character psychology is so true and occasionally so deep that it makes me think hard about what she’s saying. I never noticed this in the earlier novels, and now I wonder if that was because the younger me didn’t see it, or did she not write these little asides when she was younger?

* At the youngest, early fifties. At the oldest, approaching seventy. Unless, of course, going through the stones keeps you miraculously young, rather like HRT.

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