During the month of September library staff were given the challenge to pick up a book that they never managed to finish for whatever reason!
Whether it was something they were supposed to read in school but they hated it, a book that got boring or maybe Gaston just went ahead and stole it from you; Hillingdon Libraries reveals whether it is actually worth going back.
This is what they said:
1. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
I usually love reading books to do with India; fiction and nonfiction but when I first attempted to read this book several years ago I just couldn’t get into it at all and gave up. This time round I finished the book quite quickly and was pleased to find that I did enjoy it. The book is set in a fictional Indian town during the time of the British raj and describes the complex and fraught relationships between Indian and British people. This was a very difficult period of history and the book gives a good idea of the tensions that existed at that time between Indian people, British people who didn’t particularly like Indian people or India and British people who were interested in India and wanted to be friends with Indian people . The book is set in three parts and I definitely found the first two parts the most interesting. It seems to me the author was sympathetic towards the Indian people and doesn’t portray most of the British people in a very positive light. I would think this would have been unusual at the time of publication as most British people probably would have shared similar views to the British in the novel. Reading it now and looking back on that period in history gives us the reader a different perspective.
3 out of 5 stars
Siobhan – Uxbridge Library
2. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
When I started and abandoned Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry many years ago, I found it completely unreadable, so taking it up again was certainly a literary challenge. Initially it was every bit as hard going as before – prolix, confusing, alienating and downright annoying. It concerns the last day in the life of an alcoholic British ex-consul in a Mexican town during their Day of the Dead festival, but told from several different viewpoints, with bewildering time-shifts and infrequently stream-of-consciousness prose. Lowry’s tortuous syntax makes late-period Henry James look as spare as Evelyn Waugh. At times the effect is, appropriately, rather like being unable to escape a garrulous drunk at a party. I freely confess I had to force myself to finish this book but, though never losing my irritation with the characters and (especially) the author, in the end I came to admire the tragic unfolding of the flawed hero’s demise. However, this is not an experience I would wish to repeat, or recommend.
2 out of 5 stars
Mike – Eastcote Library
3. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien
I have to admit this, to my shame! It would have been about 1973-4, ie around the time of the author’s death & when Hobbitmania was at its height, perhaps, & I was 16-17. Having read 850/900 pages, & with Frodo, Gollum & Sam at The Crack of Doom almost, for some reason I either lost interest or was distracted by other pursuits (eg girls, mates, discovering pubs, fishing & sport). Anyway, I did go back to finish it some time long afterwards, & I also saw the films as they came out 2001-3. Aside from these ideas, though, something which very much interested me in the foreword was Tolkien’s issue of allegory/applicability. I got the impression that he was somewhat miffed by critics ‘accusing’ him of ‘merely’ writing a one-to-one allegorical tale based on the two world wars of his lifetime. The author was willing to admit applicability; & it is obvious that even the most-closeted of academics cannot be completely immured from current affairs & such cataclysms. What he was not so happy about were conclusions such as Sauron = Hitler, Saruman = Mussolini, & a strict correspondence of fictional characters with historical figures ad nauseam. Whilst this is reasonable as an instance of authorial integrity or dignity, maybe, methinks he doth protest too much to highlight it as such? As a teenager, it did not cross my mind to ‘allegorise’ the action & protagonists; but this is clearly a critical ploy that can be applied by more-mature or professional analysts.The younger reader is far more likely to respond purely imaginatively & empathetically than to ‘stand back’ & historicise the fiction? Whatever, I am a true Tolkienite, & so do not have much truck with the Pratchetts & Martins of the modern fantasy markets!
5 out of 5 stars
Len – Harefield Library
4. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
I think I’ll just be honest here, Germaine Greer enthralls me and terrifies me in equal measure. I have wanted to read and bond this with text for decades but there is something that just keeps blocking this female fraternity. I finally decided to actually read this properly come hell or high water and while this is a very important text I found it difficult to connect with on a personal level. I didn’t feel as though Greer was speaking to me but rather a room of intellectual misogynist men that she was determined to beat down, while I am all for this I can’t say that I find it particularly enjoyable. There are some fantastic points she makes and she does break through a lot of patriarchal nonsense so that woman can clearly see how we have been treated as a “lesser” sex, but as this was written in the 70’s there are some outdated ideas, a lot about homosexuality and transexuals. I’m glad I’ve read this but it didn’t change my life.
3 out of 5 stars
Lara – Harefield Library
So, is it worth going back?
Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!