One year I would love to say that I enjoyed all the books that I read, rendering writing a version of this post unnecessary. Unsurprisingly, that wasn’t the case in 2022. Although I only overall disliked one of the books that I completed and chose to read for enjoyment, I also decided not to finish other four, since I had no hope that they would still manage to grip me. This is a lower number than in the year before, however, which I’m pleased about. There were other books that I read in full that I wouldn’t recommend, but they were passable and not as disappointing as the five below.
When I decided to read Memento Mori by Muriel Spark, I thought it would be a gripping, gloomy mystery. After all, 75-year-old Dame Lettie Colston was receiving anonymous calls from a man who only said “remember you must die”. Instead, it is a book whose main focus is old age and its hardships, fear of dying and the inevitability of death. These could have been interesting subjects to read about had they been explored in a story that wasn’t fragmented, tedious and with almost no character development.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
I debated whether to read Normal People for a long time. After reading many reviews and not being captivated by the adaptation, I was unsure if it was a book for me. I was convinced, however, that it was a book I would read until the end even if I ended up not enjoying it. That was not the case, though. I only read around 100 pages.
The two main characters, Connell and Marianne, are from a small town in Ireland. Their backgrounds are totally different, however. She is from a well-off family, lives in a big house, but has no friends, while Connell is popular at school and his mother is a cleaner at Marianne’s house. Once, when he goes to pick his mother there, they chat for a while. Connell acts awkward in her presence. Not long after that day, he kisses Marianne at her house, but tells her not to tell anyone about it. They start a kind of secret relationship.
Both Marianne and Connell could have been extremely interesting characters. He is struggling to understand who he really is and what he wants from life. He is also scared that people at school will mock him if they discover that he is seeing Marianne. Despite her financial situation, her life is not perfect either. Marianne’s father, who has passed away, used to hit her mother and occasionally her as well when she was a child. Plus, her brother keeps mistreating her too.
Nevertheless, both characters feel underdeveloped. Their insecurities, fears, emotions and traumas, particularly Marianne being a victim of domestic violence, should have been far more explored. They just feel detached. Their behaviours are not explained organically. The reasons for their actions are either directly mentioned or not delved into at all. This is in part consequence of the writing style. Readers are constantly being told how we are supposed to perceive the characters and their lives without nothing being examined. At first, the dialogues are realistic and engrossing, but even they start to feel artificial and exasperating after a while. I lost all hope that the book would still have some redeeming qualities.
Os Cus de Judas (The Land at the End of the World) by António Lobo Antunes
I had been meaning to read Os Cus de Judas, The Land at the End of the World in the English translation, by António Lobo Antunes for a long time. I ended up DNFing it very early on, though. It is a monologue by a Portuguese doctor who fought in the colonial war in Angola and who seems to be struggling mentally. He is at a bar talking to a woman. My main qualm with this novella was the writing style. The sentences are exceedingly long, which wouldn’t have been a problem if they had an interesting rhythm (a quality I appreciate in books told in stream of consciousness) and the words chosen felt like they belonged together. The sentences didn’t flow well, however.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Set in a near-future society where a group of young people is extremely violent, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess introduces readers to Alex and his three friends, Pete, Georgie and Dim. They don’t have any qualms about stealing, rapping and hitting others. After reading a few pages, I had to give up on it. I was struggling to understand what was happening, because I couldn’t get my head around the weird slang used throughout. Readers who manage to figure it out may well like it, since it is a renowned book.
Lady Susan by Jane Austen
Having enjoyed in varying degrees all of Jane Austen’s main novels, it didn’t cross my mind that I would end up DNFing Lady Susan. But that was exactly what happened. This novella, which was never submitted for publication by Austen, consists only of a myriad of letters sent to and from various characters. Lady Susan, who has recently become a widow, decides to pay a visit to her brother-in-law, Mr Vernon, at Churchill, where she is not as well welcomed as she thinks she deserves. Cath Vernon believes that Lady Susan enjoys being admired by all and is not pleased with the way her brother seems to be fascinated by her.
Although it features a few details that are an indication of Jane Austen’s future style, Lady Susan is not as good as her novels. It is far less gripping and is nowhere near as witty, which is in part a consequence of the lack of dialogues. I also kept confusing all of the characters, since the epistolary nature of the book didn’t allow me to fully understand their personalities.
Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts on them? Which books disappointed you the most in 2022? Tell me in the comments!