The only book on this year's Booker longlist I didn't finish. The writing style too often made an exciting subject boring. I gave up about 3/4 of the...moreThe only book on this year's Booker longlist I didn't finish. The writing style too often made an exciting subject boring. I gave up about 3/4 of the way through The Massive. The characterisation in that second part was very flat. (Still wonder if it was deliberate, to represent the ordinariness of the people and the nature of the environments they were stuck in.)
Still, I am grateful to House and the judges for kickstarting my John Le Carre addiction. I didn't expect to find a thriller as tedious as I found The Kills (given that I like them as films and enjoyed reading a few when I was younger) so I checked out The Spy Who Came in From the Cold as reputedly the best British thriller. And liked it very much indeed. If only The Kills had been as good as reading four Smiley novels, it would have been an absolute treat.(less)
This local history book is not especially exciting or distracting to read even whilst in Lancashire and dying of love. The title comes from a line in...moreThis local history book is not especially exciting or distracting to read even whilst in Lancashire and dying of love. The title comes from a line in Balzac; he was presumably unfamiliar with the county's reputation in Britain - and the cover illustration, featuring a miserable Bet Lynch lookalike smoking on Blackpool prom, does an excellent job of bridging the gap.
It's not the subject that's the problem - you wouldn't start reading a book about a single county if you weren't already interested in eccentric details about it. (Some subjects covered are obvious, like The Beatles, mills, rugby league, George Formby - via whom the area is painted as a land of cheeky comedians, in contrast with dour Yorkshirefolk* - and Blackpool and its genteel cousin Southport. Those not so readily associated with the area and which get plenty of room include connections with Shakespeare and King Arthur, Brief Encounter, Clint Eastwood, Laurel & Hardy, and a local chap who became a bullfighter. Mostly vintage and/or blokeish topics, related with nostalgic romanticism and local pride.)
The weakness is the style, with a rambling conversational tone that sounds like the presenter of a light documentary ad-libbing - an old guy of the Wainwright / One Man and His Dog ilk. There are too many rhetorical questions and besideses and althoughs. (When I think there are too many thoughs and too many commas, it must be bad.) Whilst this would be fine spoken, on the page it grates badly, the thread of some sentences can be hard to follow, and the whole thing could have done with a thorough edit. As Stuart Maconie's Pies and Prejudice and sequels show, you can write in a friendly tone about this sort of thing and make it an easy read. (Dave Haslam's Manchester, England is also well-worth reading with an excellent balance of scholarly detail and pop culture.)
I've tried to finish LWWDoL a number of times over the last few years, and another flick through the frankly irritating prose confirms that it's more than time to throw in the towel.
* Perhaps some more mischievous ones have been tinkering with the book description - the blurb said "Lancashite" before I changed it back. (less)