Thursday 14 November 2019

Is new book a page turner or major turn-off?

John Boland

As reviewing raves go, "unputdownable" is up there with the most weary of cliches, along with "hugely compelling" and "an unmissable page-turner". What happens, though, when a book is all-too-putdownable but the reader doesn't like to say so?

That's the experience of many who take up a much-praised book, find it very hard going but yet feel guilt at admitting this, even to themselves. And so they plough on, thinking they must be wrong and feeling a sense of duty towards something in which they've already invested a good deal of their time.

However, according to a survey conducted by the Goodreads website, almost 30pc of readers abandon books before reaching page 100, while 15pc chuck them away before getting past page 50.

The survey also revealed that over the past year the book which has caused most readers to give up was JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, whose 500 pages I certainly found something of a slog – indeed, I might well have caved in if I hadn't been reviewing it.

Will a similar fate befall Rowling's new, pseudonymously-written thriller?

Other much-hyped books that have been abandoned during the same period include EL James's Fifty Shades trilogy, Stieg Larsson's Girl with . . . series and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love – a heartening indication that many readers get impatient with ill-written erotica, clunky thrillers and therapy twaddle.

Yet 40pc of those surveyed insist they always finish a book once they've started, an attitude that wouldn't have pleased Schopenauer, who declared that life was "too short for bad books". And sometimes for good ones, too, or am I the only person who's never made it to the end of Don Quixote, Middlemarch or The Golden Bowl?


If you think your latest poems are masterpieces, why not send a few of them to the Manchester Poetry Prize, which is offering £10,000 to the winning entrant?

Bernard O'Donoghue and Fiona Sampson are among the judges, and the web address to contact before August 30 is:

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