I saw this tag at The Orangutan Librarian and decided to post my answers to it too. I will probably end up being hated for some of my opinions below 🙂 but a confession is a confession.
I. Which book, most recently, did you not finish?
Celestial Bodies by Jokha al-Harthi (translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth). This is the recent winner of the International Booker Prize and, naturally, I wanted to read it as soon as possible. It is a tale of three sisters and their relationships in Oman. It is told through various characters’ perspectives, not only of the sisters’ but also of their children and husbands, apparently. I read first twenty or so pages, and though I liked the beginning, reading about the perspective of Mayya, one of the sisters, when other characters started telling about themselves, my attention veered off and I did not finish the book. I promised to myself to come back to this novel to finish it. The book has all the qualities of an important novel and I especially love that it is set in Oman, portraying a different culture.
II. Which book is your guilty pleasure?
I do not think I have a guilty pleasure or books that I am ashamed of reading. I like French thrillers and detective stories, for example, written in previous decades, which I think are better than most people assume.
III. Which book do you love to hate?
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi. I first hated to hate Oyeyemi’s Ginderbread and then after awhile I probably loved to hate it – because no matter how many times I tried to find merit in the book and get interested in the story I just could not. I will go as far as to say the book is “unreadable” for me. That is a very harsh commentary to pass on a popular book, but I will stand by it. Oyeyemi’s writing does not make things clear there at all, and, instead of being interestingly and thought-provokingly “confusing”, a quality I sometimes love in a book, the writing there is just – well – all over the place. Maybe the story is original, but it is so convenient nowadays for an author to take a fairy tale or a myth (with magical elements in them, of course) and re-work it to ensure the sales (after all, most of us are or once were Harry Potter readers).
IV. Which book would you throw into the sea?
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton – I am sorry, but it will float nicely in the canals of Amsterdam. The book is one literary success I will never understand as long as I live. Well, I understand the appeal of the book somewhat, but it is also too problematic for me to even merit it due attention. I probably said everything I wanted in my review. Burton just went out of her way “to tick all the boxes” of a successful historical novel and her intentions were too obvious – she has a strong-willed young female heroine, who is liberal-thinking, and also an atmospheric setting. But then, what defender of this book would not agree that the book was not about any miniaturist at all? Burton slyly enticed her readers with the promise of a mystery of someone called the miniaturist, and what we got is this story of one girl who agrees to be silently bullied by her indifferent, but otherwise “heroic” husband. One preposterous twist in this silly plot is “the cherry on the cake”.
V. Which book have you read the most?
Possibly, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.
VI. Which book could you not live without?
It maybe is the time to mention some more classics, so I will go for The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. A psychological novel set in the nineteenth century? – what can be better? There is an independent, free-spirited and compassionate heroine at the centre, while there is much hidden danger and menace going on in the background. It is a one of a kind, deep novel (P.S. the movie with Nicole Kidman does not do justice to the book – it cannot convey all the wonderful subtleties of the novel).
VII. Which book would you hate to receive as a gift?
There is no book which I would hate to receive as a gift.
VIII. Which book made you angriest?
I cannot say that If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio made me the angriest, but I was still very surprised that it took so much from Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Though I still enjoyed If We Were Villains, in my opinion, the similarities between the two books just go beyond simple inspiration and that makes me uncomfortable about the author and her goal. Besides, some did call the book “pretentious“, especially with its unrelenting emphasis on Shakespeare and his plays – there is some truth in that too. One of these days I will write a review to explain my position better.
IX. Which book made you cry the most?
I was pretty sad when I read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. I think it is the saddest book I have ever read. Unlike some who view the book as some “gratuitous emotional torture”, I applaud Hanya Yanagihara for her bravery in not cutting down on the “horror” and the extent of the pain experienced by her main character – Jude St. Francis. Yanagihara did not make her reader comfortable or rework certain concepts in the book so as to “soften” the experience for the reader. There are only a few, if any, writers nowadays who do that.
X. Which book cover do you hate the most?
Hate is a strong word. I believe certain book covers simply do not do justice to the stories inside and that applies largely to older books, whereas some newer books have such gorgeous and dreamy covers that those books simply cannot “live up” to their presented image. For example, I believe Trap for Cinderella is an “oldie” thriller that needs a book cover “upgrade”. The book currently has covers that simply do not convey how thrilling, twisty and good the story really is.