As always happens at the end of any Summer School last Friday we were reluctant to part and go our separate ways. Consequently, we sat chatting about all things bookish over the inevitable pot of tea for far too long, given that we were meeting in someone’s home and she must really have wanted her front room back. One of the subjects to which the conversion turned was the old chestnut of books that we have never been able to finish. Of course, the usual suspects raised their heads, War and Peace, The Remembrance of Things Past, Ulysses and the like.  I have never been tempted to even start to read either Ulysses or Proust so I’m not certain whether that counts towards not having finished them or not.  However, I have read War and Peace – one winter many years ago when I had a long wait between buses on my way to work and needed something to read while I was standing at the bus stop.  It kept me going through the worst of the weather, which sometimes seemed to be trying its level best to mimic the terrifying snow storms round Moscow.

My contribution to the catalogue of DNFs raised many an eyebrow.  I have to admit that I haven’t ever managed to get to the end of Wuthering Heights.  The Brontes are far too melodramatic for me and I certainly have never been able to understand their taste in men.  I can’t see the attraction in Rochester so there is no way that Heathcliff is ever going to appeal to me.  Give me Darcy or Knightley any day of the week.  (Actually, my current literary passion is Leon Farrell from Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St Mary’s but that is, quite literally, another story.)

So, I have bared my soul and opened myself to the ridicule of the reading public; now it is your turn.  What are you going to admit to never having finished? Are you going to add to those who have failed over the usual suspects or are you, like me, going to horrify large sections of your audience with your unexpected (unacceptable) admissions.  I’m not certain some of us in the Summer School Group will ever speak to the person who admitted to giving up on The Lord of the Rings again.

25 thoughts on “DNF

  1. A Life in Books August 22, 2018 / 9:19 am

    I used to be in the doggedly stick it out to the end school but then I realised that life really is too short. No notable DNFs, just a string of contemporary novels which didn’t work for me..


    • Café Society August 22, 2018 / 10:23 am

      Yes, I have definitely got more discriminating about what I am prepared to finish as I have got older and the pile of books I have only for a limited time from the library has got bigger.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings August 22, 2018 / 11:36 am

    I used to be the same and always force myself to the end of a book. No more… And I think I’m with you on the subject of Rochester and Heathcliff – when I first read the Brontes in my youth I probably got caught up in the melodrama but at a more mature age I wouldn’t give their shenanigans the time of day!! I confess to not having finished Proust *yet* – two books in – but I would like to one day!


    • Café Society August 22, 2018 / 11:39 am

      Well, that’s two books more than me! There was one member of the group who had read them all. I am in awe.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Elle August 22, 2018 / 11:54 am

    Hah @ Leon Farrell, whom I also slightly fancy (and I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone else who’s read those Jodi Taylor books!) I’ve never finished The Tin Drum, by Gunter Grass, or Independent People, by Halldor Laxness, or Oscar and Lucinda, by Peter Carey. Although I do, at least, intend to try every one of them again. Of books that I actually refused to finish out of disgust/frustration (not many of those), a memorable one was The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, which drove me absolutely up the wall for eighty pages until I stopped tormenting myself with it.


    • Café Society August 22, 2018 / 3:40 pm

      Taylor is no great stylist but my goodness can she tell a story and just occasionally she can come out with a really interesting turn of phrase. My favourite is “rules give anarchy something to aim at”. I did finish Independent People, but only because I was reading it for a book group. Oscar and Lucinda is another matter. That is definitely worth going back to, but never, ever see the film, which distorts the ending in a way which is nigh on criminal.


      • Elle August 22, 2018 / 4:23 pm

        Yes, that’s exactly what I thought when I was reading her: not undying prose, but occasional flashes of proper hilarity. I generally recommend her to Pratchett/Jasper Fforde fans; I think it’s pretty clear where she’s working in the shadow of Pratchett, tonally, but so few authors are comparable.

        I definitely want to go back to O&L. Not sure what’s stopped me from finishing it; distraction, most likely.


  4. Helen August 22, 2018 / 8:11 pm

    I’m afraid I’ll have to confess to not having finished The Lord of the Rings either. I could never get past the first few chapters of the first book and I’m not sure why as I loved The Hobbit and read it more than once. Wuthering Heights, though, is one of my favourite books. I understand if you never speak to me again. 🙂


    • Café Society August 22, 2018 / 8:15 pm

      I would never do that, Helen 😉. If you want a way in to The Lord of the Rings a friend and I were talking over the weekend about the dramatisation that the BBC did on Radio 4 some years ago. It was excellent and I think can still be bought on CD. It was the first time I came across Bill Nighy, who played Sam.


  5. Laila@BigReadingLife August 22, 2018 / 8:59 pm

    I reread Wuthering Heights a couple of years ago and wanted to fling the book across the room. In high school I was a ROMANTIC and melancholy and all that so I liked it better. But you’re not missing much by not finishing it. Now I do have fond memories of Jane Eyre and intend to reread it soon, so we shall see…

    Memorable DNFs? Love in the Time of Cholera by Garcia Marquez. I loved One Hundred Years of Solitude so I was disappointed that I couldn’t get into his other big one. Oh well, I may try again someday.


    • Café Society August 22, 2018 / 9:06 pm

      Be warned Laila, I reread Jame Eyre a couple of years ago and couldn’t believe how bad I thought it was. I’m afraid it didn’t stand the test of time.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Teresa August 22, 2018 / 9:58 pm

    I’m pretty quick to give up on books that aren’t pleasing me these days, but I can be dogged when it comes to something perceived as a classic. The big, beloved book I’ve given up on multiple times was A Tale of Two Cities. Something about the first few chapters puts me to sleep every time. I would have given up on The Sound and the Fury if I hadn’t been reading it for class. I’ve managed to enjoy one short Faulkner (As I Lay Dying) since then, but I still don’t relish the idea of reading more.

    I do, however, love the Brontes. I think I just enjoy all the BIG PASSIONATE EMOTIONS in their books, although it took two readings for me to like Wuthering Heights. On the second read, I knew it was a story about cruelty and meanness, and I calibrated my expectations accordingly and ended up loving it (but loathing Heathcliff).


    • Café Society August 23, 2018 / 3:30 pm

      What you say about Faulkner is interesting, Teresa because one of the things we were discussing during our recent Summer School was why The Secret of Lost Things seemed to assume that everyone would have read Moby Dick when so few of us had. I suspect this is because Hay is writing from an American perspective and that Melville, like Faulkner, is likely to crop up on everyone’s syllabus at some point in their academic life. In the U.K. that would be very unlikely to happen. We would almost certainly, however, have been expected to read A Tale of Two Cities somewhere along the way.


  7. BookerTalk August 22, 2018 / 10:24 pm

    Well I am going to be sitting in the naughty girl’s corner in that case because I could not get very far with The Lord of the Rings… I can’t think of any other notable DNFs though i came close several times with Midnight’s Children


    • Café Society August 23, 2018 / 3:32 pm

      As I said the Helen, Karen, there are some friends I can forgive anything, although I would recommend the BBC dramatisation to you as well. It’s an excellent way in. As for Midnight’s Children, I’ve had two failed attempts so far and don’t think that I will be trying for a third time.


      • BookerTalk August 23, 2018 / 5:23 pm

        Ok you persuaded me to go and look for that dramatisation. But I warn you – if I end up throwing something at the wall in frustration with it, that there will be no marmalade for the Bears for a very long time


  8. Jeanne August 23, 2018 / 6:33 pm

    I’ve never finished reading Moby Dick. Still might, someday, though!


    • Café Society August 25, 2018 / 11:51 am

      We discussed Moby Dick during the Summer School last week, Jeanne, because it crops up in The Secret of Lost Things. None of us had even attempted to read it. I suspect knowledge of it is more of an American expectation than a British one.


  9. Kat August 23, 2018 / 9:13 pm

    I cannot finish Ulysses. And thank God for that! I have read the first 250 pages twice, and it is simply not for me. Yes, some of the language is beautiful, but life is too short to read a book I find myself intensely disliking. I do not like Joyce’s voice!


    • Café Society August 25, 2018 / 11:52 am

      Well that’s 249 more than I’ve ever managed Kat, so I take my hat off to you.


  10. Jennifer August 25, 2018 / 4:45 am

    I loved ‘Wuthering Heights’ , but I was a child when I first read it. 😉 I’ve only recently given myself permission not to finish books that don’t work for me.


    • Café Society August 25, 2018 / 11:54 am

      Were you allowed to not finish books when you were at school, Jennifer? As a teacher I had long debates with my colleagues about this issue. A lot of them forced children through books that they clearly hated, destroying their love of reading in the process. If a child could tell me why they weren’t enjoying a book then we searched together for something they could enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer August 27, 2018 / 3:32 am

        I don’t remember my teachers being strict, but my parents were. There was a scarcity of books, too, until I was given the privilege of joining the adult library while aged 9 or 10. My teachers were great and encouraged me to read, and I read whatever I could lay my hands on. But I remember my mother: ‘You must finish whatever you start’.


  11. mlegan August 25, 2018 / 2:46 pm

    As an American, I can tell you that everyone is expected to have read Moby Dick but almost no one has read it. I finally did a combination read/audio a few summers ago and was quite taken with it. I would never have finished it in my youth. We did have to read Tale of Two Cities, which was far more romantic to me than the Brontes.


    • Café Society August 26, 2018 / 4:47 pm

      Well that makes me feel better about my own Melville inadequacy, Mary Lou and I’m glad you preferred Dickens to the Brontes. A woman of good taste!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s