Monday, February 1, 2010

I really liked this book, but...

I have to thank Elana Johnson for inspiring this particular blog topic.

In a book discussion on Monday's Mindless Musings post, Elana said with only 75 pages left to read, she nearly put down Bree Despain's "The Dark Divine" because something in the story didn't jive.

I guess it surprised me a little. Readers invest a lot of emotional energy in getting to know a character. Something would have to be really off in order to make me put down a story when I'm so close to the end.

Then I started thinking about The Time Traveler's Wife.

It's not that I didn't like Audrey Niffenegger's debut novel. What's not to like about a love story where one of the main characters can't stay grounded in time?

Very little. It was an awesome story. But there were a couple of reasons why I almost put it down when I reached the final pages.

1. (Spoiler: If you haven't read the book but plan to pick it up in the future, skip to No. 2) The entire story builds to the hero's death. To me, that scene felt like a natural end.

2. I didn't like who the heroine became after that "natural end."

Part of me wishes I'd have put it down after scene where Henry dies (oops, there I went and spoiled it anyway). The other part of me, however, would have died of curiosity if I hadn't finished it.

So my questions for you are: After investing time and emotion in getting to know a character, do you feel obligated to finish a book? Have you ever put a book down with only a few pages left to read? What made you put it down?


Sandra said...

I abandoned Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver. Although I loved some of his early books, the pacing of this book was incredibly slow. (I had the same problem with his previous book; the main reason I started this one is because my husband gave it to me.) I guess he intended to emulate the writing style of the era, but I didn't find the constant veering away from plot interesting. (I never finished Moby Dick either.) I also didn't like the characters, or at least the main male character.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

I don't think I've ever put down a book at such a late stage in the reading. You didn't either, Kat--you may have *wished* you did, but that's not the same. :-)

Usually, if a book is good enough for me to read three hundred pages, there's no way I'm not going to finish. Not unless something utterly sick and offensive happens out of the blue.

beth said...

Oh, I will put down a book. If it starts to go slow or get boring, I skip to the end and then quit. Life is waaaaay too short. I give a book 50-100 pages to grab my attention, then I'm out.

(And to be honest, The Time Traveler's Wife is one I skipped over, too...)

KM Wilsher said...

I am one to read to the bitter end and cooomplain if it doesn't end the way I want it to. . .There are some books I have not finished reading, but few.

Now, movies? I pretty much watch the entire thing even if I hate it.

Christine Fonseca said...

If I am almost finished with a book, I will always finish it...even if I HATE the ending

Anonymous said...

Great post, Kat. If I only have 75 pages left and it's a book I didn't like, I'd skim probably. . . Just couldn't put it down after so long.

I've stopped reading a book after a few chapters before, but never so late in the game.

Usually because it's boring is what makes me stop reading. Or because I can't get into the character at all. That's a biggie for me. I gotta be able to "feel" what the character is going through for sure.

Linda Sandifer said...

I used to think that once I started a book, I was committed to finishing it. Thankfully, I got over that as I got older and time started running out (life is too short to waste it reading books that don't engage you personally). However, if I'm that close to the end, I'll usually see what happens, even if I skip over some pages to get there. At that point, you have too much time invested not to see the ending!