Today’s Top Ten Tuesday by The Broke and the Bookish is on the subject of “books that were hard to read” (for whatever reason). I am getting better at abandoning books that I’m simply not enjoying, but below are a handful that were difficult for a whole variety of reasons.

10. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

This was hard for two reasons–firstly, it kept switching back and forth between “amazing prose” and “more than a bit self-righteous”, but also, it made me have an acute attack of emotions.

9. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

One of my favourite books, in fact, but very difficult to finish. There are so many subplots, detours, potted histories of France, and rants about Napoleon that it’s quite hard to follow. Also, the love story is particularly vomit-making. I keep intending to reread this, with a notebook on hand, because I’m sure I only got half the story last time–but it’s such an undertaking. Well worth it, though.

8. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

This is both a fluffy little love story, and an upsetting glamorisation of domestic violence and racism. It was very hard to read, simply because I would just settle into enjoying it, and then someone would say something like (paraphrased) the reason I want to marry her is because I want to be the only one who beats her up. This would be accepted by all the characters as right and proper, or even dashing and romantic. Domestic violence is basically the thing most likely to get me to “ick”, except maybe child abuse. There was no indication at any point that it was either tongue-in-cheek or satirical. The only reason I finished it is because I borrowed it from a friend who really loves it, and I thought that I should give it a fair shot.

7. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Difficult to read primarily because I hated it (the writing is terrible, the gender stereotypes are plentiful, and the historical inaccuracies are glaring), and all my peers were reading it and loving it. I read it at an age where not fitting in was a much bigger source of insecurity to me than it is now. Because I hated this so much and everyone else loved it, I felt like I’d somehow failed as a woman or a Christian or a Christian woman.

Note: I no longer feel like this. “Failing as a woman or a Christian or a Christian woman” is not a concept endorsed anywhere in Scripture!

6. Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie

I’ve literally just reviewed this, so I’ll spare you a rehash of exactly the same thoughts. However, I think that part of the reason this was so difficult was that I was very aware of reading to a deadline. I am currently rethinking whether I really want to read review copies: I felt terribly guilty for disliking the book so much, because I knew that I had to review it and that it was a debut novel, and the whole experience was just unpleasant. Hmm.

5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I had to read this for school, and the memory has stuck with me, but not in a good way. I think it’s really obvious, in some of Dickens’ books, that he was writing for magazines where he was paid for length! The prose in this is pretty impenetrable.

4. Eragon by Christopher Paolini

I loved the later books in the Inheritance Cycle, but this one was just tedious, with much objectification of women (he pervs all over Arya when she is in a coma) and unapologetic ripping-off of Tolkein. Far better than anything I wrote when I was fifteen, though.

3. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

On my reading spreadsheet, this is the only book where the genre I have had to list is “??”. This is easily the weirdest book I’ve ever read, but it’s also one of the most hauntingly sad and beautiful. This was difficult to read simply because it is so devastating. (A Classics Club review of this is still forthcoming).

2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

I mean. I mean. Emma Bovary just needs to go somewhere far away from me and everyone I love. The thing is, it’s incredibly well-written and I couldn’t put it down, but everyone in it is terrible and should not be allowed near other humans. By the end I felt physically ill.

1. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

There is already too much misery in the world without Thomas Hardy heaping it on in bucketloads. By the time I finished this, I was genuinely struggling for motivation to get up in the mornings. Not recommended for anyone, ever.

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