February 23, 2015

Abandon Ship! When You Just Can't Continue a Book

I recently had to abandon a book, but I gave it a good solid effort. I wouldn't normally talk about why I didn't like a book, but I don't think I have to worry about ruining Leo Tolstoy's reputation by sharing my humble opinions on why Anna Karenina didn't work for me.

First because the book is a classic, I was conditioned to think I'd like it. That I had to like it or they'd revoke my avid reader card or something. Because it's a classic, I downloaded the audiobook. I do so much better with stories from the likes of Jane Austen, William Shakespeare--heck--even the bible, if a good reader presents it to me instead of making my mind wrap around the old-fashioned use of language. Tolstoy has a bazillion Russian names in his stories, so I'm really glad I chose the audio version.

My husband and I started listening to it on a car trip. He has listened to War and Peace previously, so I'm super impressed he didn't insist I choose a different book. He's amazingly patient like that. (heart squish) Anyway, seven travel hours later, we were home and I still felt like the story had yet to begin. Up to that point it seemed we'd only been in one very long character introduction. Characters, rather. He has a lot of them in his books, doesn't he? If memory serves, we didn't even meet Anna until we were (maybe) three hours into the book.

While sitting idle in the car, I was content to give the book a chance, but back home I had to make a choice. After seven hours of nothing really exciting, interesting, or compelling happening, should I continue? Here is where the reputation of being a classic comes into play. I couldn't give up on it knowing it had entertained countless readers for more than a century and had been declared by some to be the 'best novel ever written.'

So, I continued listening while cooking, walking, running errands, eating lunch, etc. Finally Anna announces she is pregnant and I think, "Okay, now we've got a story." But more than an hour of listening later we still hadn't come back to Anna and it was getting rather irksome to listen to the drivel surrounding the spoiled, immature Kitty. I kept looking at the audiobook files, something I never do. When I'd make it through one (each being more than an hour long) I'd delete it off my phone. It was like I hoped to prove to myself that I truly was making progress in the book, since the story wasn't doing that for me. Finally, more than TEN hours into the book, and only a third of the way through it, I gave up.

Even taking into account things such as cultural differences, what writing styles were in the 1870's, the fact that no one had television to entertain themselves so books could be long winded, that the book was originally serialized, I simply couldn't get myself into a place where the lack of forward movement in the story was okay.

Interestingly, at some point in that ten listening hours, I started reading Gears of Brass, a steampunk anthology. And I have to say, the mood in both books are so similar that my mind expected steampunk aspects to pop up when listening to Anna - so good on ya, Gears of Brass authors for nailing that era on the nose! And for the record, I've never once been bored while reading Gears of Brass. That one I have not abandoned, I just read short story anthologies slowly for some reason.

A cabin I have visited in the middle of
'Nowhere,' WY. I hope to return one day
In conclusion, I imagine that one day I'll be on vacation sitting on the porch of some cabin in the middle of nowhere with all the time in the world to listen to Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. However, Tolstoy doesn't fit well into my current lifestyle of having to cobble bits and pieces of a book into my day. There is nothing to make me want to return to the book and find out what happens next. There is just more posing from the social elite. I can watch the evening news for that.

Have you read Anna? Do you disagree with my opinion? I'd love to hear what worked for you! Is there a classic you've abandoned?

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