Monday, October 02, 2006

The Unfinished Book

I started reading The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart (first published 1909) at least three weeks ago, and today I officially gave up. It only has 192 pages, but in three weeks I'd only made it up to page 109. Generally I start a book one day and finish it the day after, but this one was a struggle from the first chapter.

Previously I'd read two other Roberts Rinehart novels and they both kept me interested and reading (The Haunted Lady, 1942 and The Great Mistake, 1940). If The Man in Lower Ten is anything to go by, her earlier work lacks the skilful build up of suspense that she is renowned for. I also found the central characters in The Man in Lower Ten quite boring and flat. I really didn't care if Blakely was arrested for a murder he didn't commit, or if he got the girl in the end (though I do know that he does win the girl - big surprise - because I peeked at the last chapter).

I remember reading in Stephen King's On Writing that if a book doesn't grab his attention, he feels no shame in not finishing it. Life's too short (and there are way too many good books out there!) to keep reading a book that you're getting nothing out of. So I have put The Man in Lower Ten back in my bookcase, and I'm about to start the next book in my To Read pile: Ladies' Bane by Patricia Wentworth.

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