Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Year, New 30 Day Book Challenge, Day 18

Day 18: A Book That Disappointed You


Today we are choosing a book that disappointed us. I wish we could pick a person that disappointed us. [Liz.] Or continues to disappoint us. [Liz.] Or we know is just going to disappoint us no matter what they say or do! [Liz.] Wait, I lost track of what I was saying. Oh, books that disappointed us. 

In an attempt not to be mean spirited, I am going to just pick a book that I was really looking  forward to reading that ended up not being so great for me, and book that got rave reviews, or friends and colleagues were raving about, that left me wanting.

I love John Irving, and anytime there is news of a new novel in the works, I always get a bit giddy.  There is a long list of Irving novels that I absolutely love, from Hotel New Hampshire to The World According to Garp, to Widow for One Year.  I have to say though, and I think it's pretty clear it pains me to admit this….I didn’t love Last Night in Twisted River.  And you know what, I sold this book and I had to be pretty creative when asked if I liked it.  Doesn’t matter, his latest book In One Person is absolutely fantastic, it’s Prayer for Owen Meany fantastic.

I will keep this next complaint short: The Age of Miracles. I had so many colleagues rave about this book, and the reviews were crazy good, so I had no reservations diving in; I knew it would be a fantastic read.  Let's just say I was surprised to find that it was a YA book. I can actually say that I don't know anyone who didn't love this book. Except Ron Charles at the Washington Post. He made me feel less crazy.


Even the cover
was heralded.
I am a huge Zadie Smith fan from the very beginning. I actually once sold a copy of White Teeth to Sandra Bullock one day when she was shopping at BookPeople and asked for "the best book you've read recently." I didn't hesitate. I was really, really excited when her publisher announced a new novel in the fall, and the Penguin rep, knowing I'm a huge fan, sent me an advance reader copy of NW

Zadie Smith
I didn't hate it, but really, my ire rose with every best of the year list that NW made. It is not a best book of the year. As a novel it falls short and is a hot mess of fragmented characters and ideas. I don't have an issue at all with the unconventional writing styles that Smith utilizes in sections, but, well, they don't really work. They serve mostly to make the book more difficult to read, but don't add to the story or characterization in any way. What I don't understand is when Zadie Smith became one of those writers above criticism. No one feared calling her second book, The Autograph Man, a disappointment, so why did NW not receive similar criticisms? How did it end up on the New York Times Best Books list? 

I will read Zadie Smith's next book as soon as it goes on sale and won't carry (much of) a grudge. I just was really, really disappointed with NW.


  1. If I'd had to list books of the year that disappointed me, NW AND The Age of Miracles would both make the cut. I'm totally mystified by the raves those books received.

  2. I completely agree about Last Night at Twisted River