Five recent reads that I couldn’t finish

How often do you start a book and find that you can’t finish it? Maybe you didn’t like the writing, maybe you couldn’t connect with the characters, or maybe it was just the wrong book at the wrong time. I hate leaving books unfinished, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do. Luckily it doesn’t happen to me very often, but there have still been quite a few books that I’ve started reading recently and for one reason or another have had to abandon. If you’ve read any of these, do you think they’re worth trying again?


A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin

What’s it about?
A present day historian, Una Pryor, researches the lives of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV, and her brother Anthony, and begins to uncover the mystery of the Princes in the Tower.
What was the problem?
With my interest in the Wars of the Roses I really wanted to like this book, but I just couldn’t. There were three different threads of the story, one narrated by Una, one by Elizabeth and one by Anthony – and they were all set in different time periods, which I found very confusing. The historical sections didn’t feel very atmospheric and the modern section seemed too disconnected. I’m sure that if I’d kept reading the three storylines would probably have been brought together eventually, but I gave up after almost 100 pages.
Would I try it again?
Probably not.

The Spanish Bride by Georgette Heyer

What’s it about?
Set during the Peninsular War, this is the story of Brigade-Major Harry Smith and his Spanish wife, Juana.
What was the problem?
This wasn’t a bad book but it wasn’t really what I’ve come to expect from Georgette Heyer. I read nearly a third of the book and it was very heavy on historical detail, particularly descriptions of army life and battles, which I wasn’t in the right mood for.
Would I try it again?
Maybe, but there are plenty of other Georgette Heyer books I’d like to read first.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

What’s it about?
This is a classic historical adventure novel about seventeen-year-old David Balfour, whose uncle has him kidnapped in an attempt to steal his inheritance.
What was the problem?
I wanted to read some of the children’s classics I’d missed out on when I was younger and started reading this one on my ereader. I loved the opening chapters but when I reached a long section set at sea I started to lose interest.
Would I try it again?
Probably not.

Love and Summer by William Trevor

What’s it about?
Set during one summer in the 1950s, this is a story about the small Irish town of Rathmoye and the people who live there.
What was the problem?
I think it was probably just the wrong time for me to read this book. I had recently finished reading Brooklyn by Colm Toibin and this one seemed to have a very similar feel. I wasn’t in the mood for another quiet, gentle story so I set this book aside after a few chapters.
Would I try it again?
Yes.

The Confession of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn

What’s it about?
The story of Henry VIII’s wife, Katherine Howard, as seen through the eyes of her lady-in-waiting, Cat Tilney.
What was the problem?
I couldn’t get into this book at all and abandoned it after a couple of chapters. The dialogue was too modern and the characters didn’t feel like real people to me. Maybe if I’d kept reading I would have started to enjoy it more, but my instincts told me this wasn’t the right book for me.
Would I try it again?
No.

Have you read any of these books? Did you have better luck with them than I did?

Review: Under a Blood Red Sky by Kate Furnivall

Unfortunately I was unable to finish this book – which is not something that happens to me very often. I hadn’t heard of Under a Blood Red Sky (also published under the title The Red Scarf) until I saw it in the library and I thought I’d give it a try as I love historical fiction set in Russia.   It sounded interesting:

Anna and Sofia are two women who meet whilst imprisoned in a Soviet labour camp in the 1930s and become best friends. When Anna becomes ill, Sofia comes up with a daring plan to run away from the camp and find help. Anna has told her about a childhood friend, Vasily, who is now living under an assumed name in the town of Tivil. After successfully escaping, Sofia heads for Tivil to look for Vasily and ask him to return to the camp with her to save Anna.

However, right from the beginning of the book I felt we were being asked to accept things that weren’t plausible.  The whole plot was just too far-fetched for me.  The other (bigger) problem I had with this book was that I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. Although they were constantly putting their lives at risk and facing unimaginable horrors under Stalin’s communist regime, I found I didn’t really care what happened to them. Sofia was one of those model heroines – beautiful, brave, intelligent and perfect. Everybody seemed to be captivated by her and I couldn’t really understand why. She just didn’t feel like a real person to me. Of course, there were some situations that even Sofia couldn’t deal with – that’s where the gypsy Rafik came in, using mesmerism and mind-control to overcome obstacles.  I thought the whole magical aspect of the book seemed a bit out of place.

I tried to keep reading, thinking the book might get better but when I found I was almost halfway through and still wasn’t enjoying it, I decided not to waste any more time on it and put it down with a sigh of relief. I’m glad I had borrowed this book from the library instead of spending money on it – at least I didn’t lose anything apart from a couple of days when I could have been reading something else.

Genre: Historical Fiction/Pages: 512/Publisher: Sphere/Year: 2008/Source: Library book