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TSS: My First DNF of 2011

January 16, 2011

The Sunday Salon.comHappy Sunday, all!

I am, in general, a compulsive finisher. I have a hard time giving up on a book without finishing it, even when I’m not enjoying it overmuch. I have an even harder time doing this when it’s a book that I have an obligation to review – in this case, a LibraryThing Early Reviewers book that I finally decided to abandon this past week.

But the truth of the matter is, I’m not doing myself any favors by forcing myself to keep slogging away at a book I don’t want to be reading. All of those evenings when I have to force myself to sit down and try to read the book, or when I can’t bring myself to pick up my current read and retreat into watching Buffy DVDs instead… all of that time could be reclaimed with actual enjoyable reading.

And honestly, I’m not doing the book any favors by reading it when I don’t want to, either. The more I have to force myself to read it, the more crankily disposed towards it I’m going to be by the time I’m done. If I’ve given it a fair shot and I’m still not interested, better just to give it up. But, since I still have to review it:

LibraryThing Early ReviewersDNF. The Emperor’s Body by Peter Brooks (2011)

Length: 268 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Started: 08 January 2011
Finished: Nope! (Abandoned it on 11 January 2011.)

Where did it come from? LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Why do I have it? I’ve been reading more French historical fiction lately, and idea of an expedition to reclaim Napoleon’s body twenty years post-mortem sounded interesting.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 06 December 2010.

Summary: In 1840, an expedition was launched to reclaim the body of Napoleon from his island prison of St. Helena and return it to France. This expedition was headed up by the young aristocrat Philippe de Rohan-Chabot. Philippe leaves behind in Paris his love Amelia Curial, a mercurial young woman who scorns marriage and only wants adventure… adventure that she thinks she may have found in the middle-aged author Henry Beyle, better known to his readers as Stendhal.

Review: It took me four nights of reading to get to page 118 of 268 (glacially slow for me) before I decided to give this book up. At almost the halfway point of a book, I feel like I should be interested in the characters, or the story, or something, but in the case of The Emperor’s Body, I just couldn’t find anything that made me want to pick it up again after I’d set it down. The characters were dull and none of them were particularly likeable, which made caring about their “love” “triangle” difficult, and while the expedition had the potential to be interesting, it was just getting started by the time I quit. There was also some stuff with a Stendhal being trailed by spies – I think? – but it wasn’t explained very clearly and only barely affected the action of the story.

Wanting to be sure I wasn’t missing anything brilliant, I skipped ahead and skimmed the last 35 pages or so. And it turns out: I wasn’t. The characters and their relationships were just as dull, and had barely progressed in their relationships since the beginning of the story. Maybe I missed the best 100 pages of the book in the middle, there, but somehow I doubt it. The writing’s not awful or anything; in fact there were some nicely phrased musings amidst the philosophical bits of the first half of the novel. It’s just that I didn’t care to wade through any more of a book I wasn’t interested in to find them. 1.5 out of 5 stars.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Dawn had broken, a pale, cold, comfortless dawn.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 31: “His sexual experience so far was limited to actresses from the Opéra, and one witty grisette from the Bal des Artistes a year ago, who as the dawn broke following a night of gently drunken revelry suddenly went slack in his arms, and offered no resistance when he began to kiss her shoulders.” – a young french workingwoman.
    .
  • p. 62: “The body itself was clothed in the uniform of colonel of chasseurs.” – one of a body of cavalry or infantry troops equipped and trained for rapid movement.

What about you, readers? Given up on any not-so-good books lately?

© 2011 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. January 16, 2011 8:42 am

    Is it wrong that I sort of enjoy seeing bad reviews from people whose opinions I trust on books I was casually interested in? Now I don’t have to add this to my teetering TBR.

  2. January 16, 2011 9:40 am

    It’s too bad this didn’t work for you. I just read a historical fiction book that I struggled with and probably wouldn’t have finished if I wasn’t reading it for my book club. I’m thinking historical fiction isn’t my genre.

    • January 17, 2011 9:42 am

      bermudaonion – Historical fiction is SO varied a genre, I’ve got to believe that there’s something in it that you’d enjoy… just maybe not this one.

  3. January 16, 2011 10:33 am

    I just had my first DNF of 2011 this week, too. (And I’m kind of with Jen on this one, too. :)

  4. January 16, 2011 10:38 am

    I wish I was better at abandoning books I wasn’t interested in, but I’m a sort of compulsive finisher. I always think there might be something awesome in those middle pages, even if there really isn’t! So, I’m impressed with your abandoning because I’m still not good at doing it.

    • January 17, 2011 9:45 am

      Kim – I’m not out of the compulsive-finishing woods yet! I looked, and in the past 4 years that I’ve been keeping track, this is only DNF #5. :)

  5. January 16, 2011 10:53 am

    I don’t finish books I’m not enjoying anymore. There are too many books out there that I might like to spend time with one I don’t.

    • January 17, 2011 9:46 am

      cbjames – I’m trying to get better at it, but I’m like Kim – always worried that there’s something brilliant in the part that I haven’t read yet.

  6. January 16, 2011 11:41 am

    Oh wow, that sounds bad! :( Do you think it might be more interesting for someone interested in the period? I desperately wanted to read – and enjoy – this one.

    • January 17, 2011 9:51 am

      kay – I’m pretty interested in the time period, so it’s hard to say. It would probably be better for someone with a vested interest in Stendhal as a character, though.

  7. January 16, 2011 11:48 am

    I am glad you wrote this. I have been mulling over whether to write brief reviews of DNF books and you’ve helped me decide that it is a good idea, even if just to clarify my reasons for giving it up. I no longer feel I have to finish a book if I’m not enjoying it, there are just too many books in my TBR pile!

    • January 17, 2011 9:52 am

      Gavin – I think mini-reviews of DNFs are a good idea, both to keep a record for yourself and as a reader’s advisory for others!

  8. January 16, 2011 1:49 pm

    How disappointing! The premise sounds really promising, so it is unfortunate that it didn’t pan out. I had my first DNF this week too.

  9. January 16, 2011 5:00 pm

    Good for you! Life is too short etc. etc. I am not a compulsive finisher at all, and actually it’s always a huge relief when I give up on a book I haven’t been enjoying, and free up my brain to try something I will like. :)

    • January 17, 2011 9:54 am

      Jenny – Relief is a good word for it. The day after I decided to drop this one, I read more pages in my new book (The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag) in a single sitting than I had plowed through in 4 nights of this book. What a difference having a book that you’re interested in makes!

  10. January 16, 2011 9:52 pm

    So far, no DNF’s this year but I did take two weeks to slog through a 158 page book. I finally started arguing with it in the margins and that helped.

    I love reading DNF’st more than a regular book review, they’re so much more insightful. This one does sound pretty dull but I’m not its target audience anyway, I don’t “do” Napoleon normally.

    • January 17, 2011 9:55 am

      Carrie – I’ve had books that I had to read where the only way I could get through it was leaving a lot of “WTF is this?!?!” marginalia. What was yours, and what inspired you to keep slogging through?

  11. January 20, 2011 1:52 pm

    and what a great review! I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, if you skip to the end and read that last page, I say you finished it. ;)

    • January 20, 2011 2:00 pm

      Care – I’ll do you one better; I actually read (well, skimmed) the last three or four chapters. I’d say I probably read 60% of the book – that sort of counts as finishing! I’m finished with it, at any rate. :)

  12. January 29, 2011 11:30 am

    I’m a compulsive finisher, too! I’m getting a little better at throwing in the towel if I’m just not into a book. My Nook has helped immensely with that, actually, because now I download free samples of the books I’m interested in. It’s easier for me to stop reading a book I don’t like if it’s just a sample because, well, there’s no more book TO read :)

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