Sunday, August 27, 2006

First DNF of the Year

Haweswater by Sarah Hall
Harper Perennial, 2002
267 pgs.
Historical Fiction
DNF (Did Not Finish)

First Sentence: The sound of water slipping through the wooden spokes of the cartwheels was like a slow, soft-washing hum.

Reaon For Reading: I was selected by the publishing company, Harper Collins to preview the novel for their First Look Program.

From Publishers Weekly: Mardale, the remote British hamlet where Hall's remarkable debut novel is set, is a close-knit community of tenant farmers "where grand events and theatrical schemes rarely take place." So when a handsome stranger arrives in 1936, suspicions run high among the hardworking villagers. Jack Liggett is up-front about his plans for Mardale: he has come to inform the villagers that their homes would soon be at the bottom of a massive reservoir. According to Liggett, the dam associated with the project will be a "wonderful piece of architecture and engineering." But the villagers, who view the project as "so strange and vast that at first it was not taken seriously," resist, setting off a losing struggle between the insular community and the modern world. Caught in the middle is Janet Lightburn, the daughter of a local farmer, who begins a tempestuous and tragic romance with Jack. A Booker Prize finalist for her second novel, The Electric Michelangelo, (published in the U.S. in 2005), Hall is a talented writer, and though U.S. readers may have trouble with the phonetically rendered dialogue ("Twa Pund. Eh? Yan more ootstanding' "), the story, with its undertones of loss and grief, tugs at the heart. (Oct.)

Comments: After three unsuccessful tries, I finally made the decision to set aside Sarah Hall's Haweswater. I was selected to preview the novel for Harper Collins First Look Program (although I honestly cannot remember putting my name in for this one), and so feel a slight sense of guilt that I wasn't even able to reach page 47 before calling it quits.

From the very first, I knew that reading the book would require more of my attention because of the heavy descriptive writing style the author used. I actually enjoyed the prologue of the book, as a farmer comes to the conclusion that this will be his very last visit to the valley that once was his home but which is now flooded with water. There was a feeling of loss and sadness that came off the pages in that first section. I was hopeful then that I would be able to enjoy the novel, however, I quickly found myself bored, the story dragged down by the description, and my attention waned considerably.

I do not easily give up on books. I have found some real treasures among books that take a while to get off the ground so to speak. And yet, there comes a time when I realize that going on is not worth the effort. I read for pleasure, and if I force myself to read a book I am not enjoying, it takes the fun out of it. With the plethora of books available right at my finger tips, there is little point in wasting time on a book that doesn't catch my fancy after all.

I see promise in Haweswater, and I do hope to return to it in the future. So many factors play a part in making a good match between a reader and a book, including where a person is in his or her life at any given moment. There are some books I know from the very start that I probably won't like at any time in my life, but this is one that I may make a connection with at another time.

Miscellaneous: It's been a day and a half since I last cracked open a book to read after deciding to give up on Sarah Hall's novel. My husband and I have been watching the second season of Veronica Mars on DVD, which has kept me from making the final decision on what to read next: Jim Butcher or P.J. Tracy. Choices, choices . . .

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