I feel bad about abandoning any book before I finish reading it, but sometimes it’s necessary. Here are two books that I abandoned recently.

Quest for the Faradawn by Richard Ford
Grade: not graded

A note on the author of this book: the author is neither the American novelist Richard Ford who wrote The Sportswriter nor the British travel writer Richard Ford who wrote A Handbook for Travellers in Spain, but rather the British fantasy author who is also a folk singer-songwriter (known as “Rick” when he’s wearing his musician pants).

I borrowed Quest for the Faradawn from the library when I was in my late teens or early twenties. Because I had this crazy need to own a copy of every book I had ever read, I bought a copy of it later. Recently, as part of the ongoing GLP, I decided to reread the book and see if it really deserved a space on my bookshelf.

Quest of the Faradawn is the story of a baby who is left in the woods by his parents. He is found and raised by animals. The animals believe he is the child spoken of in an ancient prophecy. When he gets older circumstances will send him on a world-saving quest for the three Faradawn, which are described on the book jacket as “the essences of life itself.”

I stopped reading somewhere around page 75. It was not that the book was horrible but that I felt like I was being bludgeoned over the head with the author’s message. The message was that people are cruel to animals, destructive, and even downright evil.

I agree that some people are cruel to animals. That’s wrong and they should stop. But people gotta eat. Once upon a time, there were no supermarkets, and the hungry people of the world would go out into the woods and hunt. Some still do. Maybe it’s not nice or pretty or ideal, but it’s Nature. We’re not the only animals who hunt. One of the main characters in this book is an owl, and owls are not, last I heard, vegetarians.

I am against badger-baiting, fox hunting, and any kind of animal torture or cruelty, but I am not against people hunting to feed themselves, so it’s hard to get riled up during the hunting scenes as, I imagine, I’m supposed to.

The animals feared autumn; not because of its natural sadness or because it heralded the beginning of winter but because it was the season in which, after a period of delicious peace during the summer, the [Men] amply compensated for the rest with a time of killing and slaughter which was the most terrible of the year. . . . As [the boy] watched with mounting horror and shame the activities of members of his own race as they spread terror and pain throughout the wood, his confusion gave way to seething anger. With every crack of a shot which echoed through the wood his whole body ached as he imagined the pain that was being inflicted, and [the badger] was always having to restrain him from rushing out of the bush to attack the [Men.]

Unless you can feel outraged on behalf of the animal characters in this novel, it’s hard to appreciate the story, and that’s why I have decided not to read any more of it. I know from the Amazon reviews that some people enjoy the book. I am going to throw it back into the wild and hope there’s a hungry reader out there hunting for a story just like this one.

A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé
Grade: F

In A Novel Bookstore, a rich woman who loves reading meets up with a guy who has experience running a bookstore, and together they decide to open up a new bookstore that sells only good novels (i.e., books they think are worth reading). They are not going to worry about profitability, and they won’t carry anything popular unless it is also good. They pick eight authors to choose the books for them. The authors names are to be kept secret. When some of those authors’ lives are threatened, their connection with the bookstore seems to be the most likely reason.

But why?

Alas, I don’t know. I didn’t finish reading, because I wasn’t enjoying the book. The problems I encountered were many and varied, from confusion caused by the author’s sometimes circuitous writing, to a feeling of being completely out of the loop because I hadn’t read most of the novels/writers mentioned, to the nagging impression of hearing the cogs of the author’s brain working out the details of the premise, to not liking some of the characters or their supposed romance, etc.

But the thing that made me finally stop reading was the lists. Lists, lists, lists. Not that I hate lists. I like them. But I do not like them in the middle of a novel. Here is an example.

The list was one hundred and seventeen pages long. Two hundred and ninety-six titles had been mentioned eight times, three hundred and fifty-nine seven times, four hundred six times, four hundred and fifty-one five times, three hundred and seventy-eight four times, four hundred and fifty-two three times, four hundred and sixty-nine twice, and five hundred and four just once.

And then,

There were some astonishing omissions. Only one Victor Hugo, only one Heinrich Boll. Nothing by Jules Valles or Joseph Delteil, or Evelyn Waugh, or Anna Maria Ortese. Two books by John Berger, but not Pig Earth—and Pig Earth is a marvel…

And it just kept going. This whole section of book was basically a set of lists, one after another. Yawn.

And the irony, the beautiful irony, is that the main character had no patience for things like that. If a book didn’t please him immediately, he’d just dump it. If I had followed his rule, I would have tossed the book within 20 pages.

The only thing that kept me going in A Novel Bookstore was my wish to keep going. Eventually that wore out. That’s why I gave the book an F grade. It could not hold my interest, and as sorry as I am to say it, that means it failed.

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