I still don’t like it when I give up on a book, but it’s finally getting home to me that even though I have taken hundreds of books to charity shops this summer, I’ll never get through the remaining books I have, let alone all the new ones I keep acquiring. I’m starting to be able to let go on books that aren’t engaging me for whatever reason.
One such recently was The Tower by Alessandro Gallenzi.
It’s a dual narrative tale: the contemporary strand is a thriller about a manuscript theft from a high tech organisation based in Jordan that aims to scan everything of note ever written; the historical part is about the author of said manuscripts – Giordano Bruno, a philosopher of the late Renaissance who has a photographic memory and is on the run from the inquisition.
The Latin and history experts drafted in by the mysterious Biblia organisation to work out what was so special about the missing papers (which were stolen by a Jesuit priest who was subsequently murdered) are the stereotypical laid-back Brit, Peter Simms and an intense Italian, Giulia. This pair, thrust together are chalk and cheese, and I couldn’t see any chemistry between them. The moment I gave up was when I read this paragraph on page 115:
‘Giulia, I’ve got the message. But how did his system work? – I mean, if it’s not too complicated and it’s not going to take you until tomorrow to explain.’
The blurb championed the novel’s meticulous research, but it was oh so visible. This was a shame as I had liked the idea of the parallels between Bruno and Biblia both scanning all they read. What I read of the historic strand was much more interesting though than the cliché-ridden present day one. DNF
* * * * *
Source: Publisher – Thank you.
The Tower by Alessandro Gallenzi, pub 15 Sept by Alma Books. Trade paperback, 300 pages.
11 thoughts on “Very telling – a DNF”
Annabel, I thought the name was familiar and when I checked it out, I realised that I gave up on his previous novel. I hate giving up on books too, and, like you, don’t do it very often but am beginning to realise I need to bite the bullet more often! Having so much to read for a deadline does focus the mind….
I feel like I want to like his novels, because I like his publishing companies – he founded Hesperus and Alma… but….
I’m the same – I have so many *good* books to read I’m not going to waste time any more. I used to never give up on a book but nowadays I think it’s got to be quality not quantity!
Good call Karen.
I think there are so many pitfalls that the historical novel can come across. 1) As you mention, the lovingly executed research being shoehorned into and distracting from the plot 2) The opposite – plot veering into such unlikely territory that it prompts you to go and Google the period and find that it didn’t happen like that at all 3) If it’s dual strand, as you point out, the modern strand often sounds a bit whingy and trivial in comparison with the life threatening historical part 4) The author is jarringly inauthentic with language 5) The author wants so much to be authentic with language that it becomes annoying.
One of my favourite historical novels has stayed with me a long time, The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble. Very effective, although yes it does suffer from 3)
I’ve read samples of historical novels and the worst deal breaker for me is 2) It would be interesting for me to explore why I feel like this, because it doesn’t seem to bother most people as much as me, as some of these books are very popular.
I can see you’ve thought about this Denise! This book had masses of your points 1) and 3) in particular as far as I read. I’ve not read the Red Queen – one to keep an eye out for methinks.
I got into totally ranty mode about it a few weeks ago and had no-one to rant to!
I hope you’re enjoying your liberation, Annabel. Life really is too short (and the TBR too huge) to continue with books you don’t like. It took me many years to come to this conclusion and I’m much happier for it!
Yes Susan – it’s my second DNF this year! (excluding those books I couldn’t get past the first chapters of). I’m on a roll now 🙂
The longer one lives the smaller the amount of books it is reasonable to have in the to-be-read mountain!
I used to get guilty if I didn’t finish a book, thinking I was being unfair to the author who had slaved for months/years to write it so surely I could give it a few hours of my time to read. But I’ve gradually weaned myself off this and do give up sometimes if it’s really not interesting me. The plot of your DNF sounds too similar to many other books that have come out in the last few years about secret or missing manuscripts.