Historical novel about Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry the Eighth. I abandoned it after 25 pages — I think it’s well written, and I would probably have enjoyed it a lot when I was a teenager, but it simply didn’t hold my interest enough to keep reading it when I have a two year TBR mountain.
I started reading this on the way back from Eastercon, because I had it on my Cybook. I didn’t get that far before giving up on it and finding something else, because I found the characters so unappealing. It may be simply that I was tired and not very well, because I remember greatly enjoying the BBC TV adaptation (which is why I’d downloaded it from Feedbooks in the first place). A DNF for now, but perhaps I’ll try it again at some point.
77) Bernard Knight — the Witch Hunter
The eighth in a crime fiction series set in the twelfth century, following the cases of Crowner John, a knight who has been appointed as the first coroner of Devon by Richard the Lionheart. This was the first I’d read, and will be the last even though I have another in the TBR pile, because it was a Did Not Finish for me.
Even though the elements of the story should have been a draw for me, I found it hard to get into, and the lead character hard to like. Things came to a head for me with the scene where it becomes clear that Sir John ignores his wife in favour of not one but multiple mistresses. It may be historically accurate, and the author was at pains to then tell us that John’s marriage was a failure but that neither party was at fault, it having been a political marriage that both were forced into by their families — but that’s the problem for me. Having shown us a miserable marriage where John’s wife seems to be an unreasonable shrew, Knight then tells us rather than shows us what the problem in the marriage is. I don’t find infidelity an appealing characteristic in a lead character unless it’s carefully grounded, and while this may have been partly to do with my coming in several books in, it focused my attention on the real problem I had with the book — too much telling and not enough showing for my tastes, and both in the wrong places. After three chapters, I wanted to know the end of the story, but not enough to read the chapters in between. So not a complete failure, but not a series to add to my reading list.
Onward to August’s books — though starting with one I began in July.
74) Alexander McCall Smith — Corduroy Mansions
Gently funny episodic novel about the inhabitants of Cordury Mansions, a Pimlico apartment block built in the early twentieth century and currently providing a comfortable home to a variety of tenants. It’s good-natured and enjoyable, but about two-thirds of the way through I found that it simply wasn’t holding my interest any longer, in part because it didn’t feel as if there would be any resolution to any of the storylines. I put it down for a while, and find myself disinclined to pick it up and finish it. At this point I’m declaring it a DNF. I think I would probably enjoy this as an audiobook better than I would as a print book.
Astronomers discover alien space probe heading towards Earth. Fanatical environmentalists who have already killed off most of the space programme decide they have to stop any attempt to make contact with the probe, lest the people be seduced into wasting time and money on space research and high technology, when they could be fixing the problems on Earth. Wealthy space entrepreneur Henson, owner of the only private enterprise in space, sees the opportunity the probe presents, and is determined to bring the benefits to mankind.
This one was a Did Not Finish for me within the first five pages, and the next five didn’t rescue it. I was just too irritated by the apparent attitude that all environmentalists are violent fanatics who are anti-technology. I can certainly find Green Puritans annoying, but this seemed to be presenting the extreme fringe as the norm. Now it’s more than possible that I’m grossly misjudging the book and will find that it does address this further on; and I say that mindful of a “bailed after the first chapter” review I read recently that demonstrated exactly that problem. In fact, a quick glance at the last couple of pages suggests that it’s a lot less black and white by the end. But I have a TBR mountain that’s going to take me a couple of years to get through, and no particular reason to give this book another 25 pages to get my attention (unlike a couple of other books with similar annoyances which I’ve read). This one’s going in the Oxfam box, unless the next book by this author in the TBR mountain gives me a reason to retrieve it.
[Later: checking on LibraryThing, I find that I liked the author’s short story in New Writings in SF 10, and the tone of that one suggests that the annoying tone of this one is an opening gambit. The book gets a reprieve, but I’ll read it some other time when I’m feeling more receptive.]