Friday, July 4, 2008

Anatomy of DNF

There are many reasons why a reader might pick up one book and not another.

How about the reasons why a reader might disengage from a book part way through?

AFTER THE RICE, Wendy French (Women's Fiction)
Originally picked up because: Enjoyed the author's debut novel, "sMothering", and was fascinated with the premise - a young, healthy, happily-in-love married couple choose to remain childless but find themselves accidentally pregnant. There are many people who remain childless due to fertility problems, financial imperative, not finding the right partner, focus on career, etc., but a couple in the protagonists' situation has not been explored in any books Apprentice Writer has ever read. Sounded promising.
Why put down: Did not want to spend more time with the characters. Following a first chapter in which it seems that the heroine continually observes things about her new husband which irritate her, there is a scene about how the husband wishes there were some way to avoid the obligation of dinner with the wife's family. Initially, this reader thought this was supposed to be a sign of potential ill fit between the spouses. After encountering the family at said dinner, Apprentice Writer cannot blame him. The members 'snap' at each other rather than speaking, they disapprove of the way one sister is 'spoiling' her daughter whom they've dubbed (apparently without affection) 'Pink Tyrant', the mother has to use undisguised coercion for everyone to respond to the invitation of an elderly relative, and the father employs an apparently oft-needed tactic of starting a tableside game to deflect bickering among siblings who are one and all adults. No thanks.
Ultimate test: Based on the strength of the first novel read, AW would look to another novel by this author despite DNF status of this one.

Originally picked up because: It's Julia Quinn!
Why put down: Could not tolerate the hero. He had been harddone by in the backstory, yes, but that just didn't stretch far enough to excuse his being at strategic moments dismissive towards his mother, bullying towards his sister, and petulant, immature, and selfishly evasive towards the heroine. This reader kept hoping someone better would pop up for the heroine, and when it became clear that wouldn't happen it was game over.
Ultimate test: It's Julia Quinn. Or course AW will read this author again!

ME AND MR. DARCY, Alexandra Potter (Paranormal Chicklit)
Originally picked up because: Intrigued by premise of a contemporary heroine going on an Austen-oriented coach tour and somehow being transported back to several encounters with the 'Pride & Prejudice' hero.
Why put down: Could not stand the thought that the relentlessly bland heroine might end up with the perfection that is Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy!
Ultimate test: Though the premise was good and might be so again for another novel, the writing style did nothing to draw AW in, so another book would need to arrive with mega buzz and have a spectactular first page to make this reader try again.

MUMS @ HOME, Sophie King (Women's Fiction)
Originally picked up because: Enjoyed a previous novel by the author, "The School Run", and was attracted to the premise - an ensemble piece about the people who join a parenting website and how it changes their lives.
Why put down: The group of people described in the opening chapters are so utterly angst-ridden that this reader developed a tension headache before the story got properly going. Not what she generally aims for when reading.
Ultimate test: If she came upon another book by this author, AW would give the first ten pages a whirl.

Gentle Reader - what say you? Did you finish any of these stories and think Apprentice Writer should have kept going? What makes you put a book down incomplete?


Wylie Kinson said...

There was a time (before kids) I would NEVER have put a book down. No matter how bad, boring or obtuse, this reader would persevere.
How times have changed!
Life's too short (and the TBR pile too high) to commit time to something not enjoyable.
Although small, my DNF consists of a few Ellora's Cave books, the last Kathleen Woodiwiss (an embarrassment, to be sure, but it just didn't grab me), Moby Dick (I gave it 3 chapters, honest!!!) and that John Grisham book that opens with the rape of a young black girl (there are some topics I just can't get thru).

Interesting topic, as always, m.!!

Ana said...

I could not agree more with regards to the Secret Diaries Julia Quinn. I am a huge fan but I could not stomach that book.

M. said...

wylie - you've proven the point that there are many reasons why a book becomes a DNF, even for a single reader.

ana - i wonder what happened? but somehow i don't think the author will suffer too badly given the amount of faith her many fans have in her

Amy Ruttan said...

It doesn't take long for me to put a book down.

Like Wylie I would persevere.

Now ... blah. I can't, I just don't have the time to waste on a book that does not capture my utmost attention.

Ana said...

I think I know what happened, The Secret Diaries was an old unfinished book which she decided to work on again.

Thea said...

M., our freaky twilight zone blogging twin, great post! I know, I'm late to the party. Like Wylie, I really try to finish every book I pick up--I feel like I'm "giving up" if I don't read through a full book. But, that being said, I've had a few DNFs--I think the biggest 'shocker' for me recently was Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I really loved the first book, The Talisman, and I am a huge fan of both authors. I just couldn't get into BH at all. Sigh.

Oh and I've always been curious about Me and Mr. Darcy...I think I'll stay away now though. Thanks for the heads up :)

M. said...

amy - any recent examples?

ana - oh. that would make sense of the feeling that it just wasn't quite quinnish. it also kind of, maybe, lends support to the swell of feeling that pressure on authors to produce quantity may possible affect quality in some cases?

thea - ref: the 'me and mr darcy' book - there is such a wave of Austen-related entertainment currently out there (which is all well and good if it makes people interested in her own original work again), and this book may be part of that, coming as it did at the beginning of the wave. me, i always have to be contrary, and am reading (and enjoying) a novel based on charlotte bronte, instead. review to follow.

Thea said...

You know, I've noticed a lot of these books lately, i.e. 'Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife' or 'The Jane Austen Book Club' type of books (and movies) lately--they are everywhere, from stores like Target to the behemouth sellers B&N/Borders. I've been kinda curious, but never enough to pick one of these up. (Although I really do love the Austen classics, P&P, S&S, Emma, etc).

Charlotte Bronte, you say? Oooh, I eagerly await your review, you contrarian you!

(Wow that rhymed. Totally unintentional, rest assured)