Posted on 02/07/10 in Blog
(Those that passed comment said that I should continue to write, so here I am.)
Yesterday I finished my book group book. This month the book was “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry – a very worthy and beautifully written book that has received rave reviews across the board. This evening I have been trawling the Internet reading what others had to say about it and hoping against hope that someone will share my view. So far I’m out of luck.
You see, I didn’t like it. I can see that it is a masterpiece, beautifully crafted with excellently drawn characters and a clever plot. I can appreciate all its finer points but it just didn’t work for me. I felt like it was trying just that bit too hard to be earnest. Tragedy was heaped on tragedy until I felt like the author was just doing it because he could. Of course he had so much material. India with its poverty and its injustices offers huge potential for the well informed writer. The tragedy is just there to be scooped up off the pavement in bucketloads.
So why am I unmoved? Why, when so many people haven taken the time to post reviews praising the book to high heaven can I not do the same? Have I no taste? Have I no compassion? Am I too ill informed to fully appreciate the intricacies of the writing?
I don’t think any of those things are true. What makes literature so enticing is that we can all have a different opinion and yet we can all be right which is why book groups are so successful. I suspect that in relation to this book, I may be the lone voice shouting out against it at our meeting. I certainly seem to be in the minority on Amazon, where there are plenty of people crowning the book as the best that they have ever read. But my view, albeit somewhat off the beaten track of popular opinion, is just as valid as those who thought the book a triumph. What readers take from a book is so very personal to them. Whether they can relate to the characters may depend upon their own life experiences or perhaps just where they were in their life when they read it.
Sometimes I wonder whether there is an element of the Emperor’s new clothes about it. When I read a book that has been hailed as a masterpiece by the critics but which fails to appeal to me, I have to wonder whether it is them and not me that have missed the point.
In times gone by I would have felt some kind of inferiority as a result of unconventional view, assumed that it was me that was too stupid or ignorant to fully appreciate the finer points of the book. Now I am much less concerned. It’s not a competition. If I read a book and don’t like it then I don’t fail the test. My opinion is just as valid as all those who agree with the critics. Perhaps I am hard hearted or jaded or both that I am not moved to tears by the injustice of the situations befalling the characters. But does that matter? Surely what makes it a good book is that lots of people read it and all take different things from it. That will certainly be what prompts a good discussion at the next meeting of the book group.
So I’ve moved on to the next in my pile – another acclaimed prize winner by Barbara Kingsolver. I wonder what I’ll make of that one.