Please don’t let me read another book by Henry James. I have tried at least three now and just can’t get away with them. There is something about the way he writes that I find soporific. I try hard to remember the characters and understand the plot but find my mind wandering to other things. In the end I have to set myself a number of pages to get through to make it to the end.
Why then do I bother? According to Wikipedia, the American-born British author is regarded as a key transitional figure between literary realism and literary modernism, and is considered by many to be among the greatest novelists in the English language. If he is that good then the fault has to lie with me.
The latest book of his I read was ‘The Awkward Age’. I was watching some programme on the television, probably ‘Great British Railway Journeys’, where they visited the place where it was written. The presenters waxed lyrical about his work and so I thought I would give him another go. On the next visit, I borrowed a hundred year old copy from the Lit and Phil.
At first I got into it yet it wasn’t long until I fell into my usual torpor. By the end, some 450 pages later, I was left with a feeling of so what. I got the plot yet had very little empathy for any of the characters. You may ask why did i continue and not just put it down but I don’t like to give up on a book once started.
There is a saying, I think it’s Swedish, that there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. Perhaps there is no such thing as a bad book, just an inappropriate reader.
I take it as a good thing that people have different tastes. I’m prepared to accept that James was a great author but just not for me.