Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mutterings of disappointment

Well, that was a not so fun weekend.

All three of us came down with some sort of food poisoning/stomach virus thingie, with fevers and all. {sigh} I was out sick yesterday, and hubby is out sick today. We are slowly recovering but now very tired. And joy, I have class until 10 PM tonight!

Anyway, enough of that. I did get to watch my DVD of the Narnia movie yesterday (I LOVE that movie!) and finished THE ILLUMINATOR.

So, SPOILER ALERT! Here it comes. (And if you haven't read it, sorry; it won't make much sense. So perhaps it's just rambling for me!!)

No, overall I did not enjoy THE ILLUMINATOR. I should have. It's smack-dab in my era, within 20 years or so of TMT. It's full of well-researched period detail, and it's well-written. But every time I put it down, I didn't really care if I picked it up again. And at the end, I could have happily thrown it against the wall. Why?

--I didn't really care about any of the main characters. They were all unlikeable, in my opinion. I appreciate that the author did not try to make Kathryn a modern woman, so we saw her prejudices as she would have had them. That was fine. But in the end, she seemed cold to me. She sacrificed Finn and never even really tried to make it right, when she easily could have. Finn was almost likeable, but I just couldn't believe that he would not want his granddaughter. Granted he'd been through a great deal, but at the end he seemed completely devoid of feeling. In fact the only one I liked all the way through was Magda the servant girl.

--As I say, I think it was very well-written. Then why didn't I want to read it more? I'm not sure, still. I think it may have been the characters and the story. I didn't like them, and for most of the time there just wasn't enough suspense to carry me through. I saw the pregnancy happening far before it did, I saw that Finn's wife was Jewish far before it was revealed, I knew that Simpson killed the priest early on. It was predictable. Except for...

--all the #@$ deaths at the end. Okay, what is UP with that? Here's the thing, here's where this author lost me (and it may be only me): unless it's Shakespeare, I do not like tragedies. I feel like when I start a book, I'm making a little contract with the author. I'll read you, please entertain me, and give me at least a somewhat happy ending for the main people. Yes, you can make them go through hell, and maybe you should. But I do not want to read a 400-page book (and TRY to like the characters) and then have boom-boom-boom main characters being slaughtered left and right. Senselessly. For no reason. First Rose--I thought, what the heck?--but I went along with that. Then all the other children too? She wiped out a whole generation. And then Kathryn has a chance to have her happiness still, and throws it away with both hands. For no reason. There was no happy ending at all. The whole thing just made me angry, and made me feel completely betrayed by the author.

So keep in mind this is only ONE reader's opinion. But my hubby told me that there would be another by this author, and I said, without hesitation, "I don't want to read it." Because I don't trust this author anymore; she's broken her contract with me. Why would I want to invest in her characters, if she's not going to hold up her end? Authors, keep this in mind with your books...don't break your reader's trust, because it's awfully hard to get it back.

Medieval Word of the Day: sourd: Of fountains, etc.: To spring up, to issue from the ground.


Cindy said...

I felt that way about THE SWALLOWS OF KABUL. Awful. Not everybody dies, but there's no redemption, and no apology. Literary with a capital L, but I don't read to be miserable. Like you said, there's a contract, and I trusted the author.

Susan Adrian said...


Yes! This is one reason I don't generally read "Literary" books, because I don't read to be miserable. {g} Of course not all literary books are like that, but many seem to be tragedies.

Anonymous said...

This brings up a good point. Do authors always have to give the reader a happy ending?


Susan Adrian said...


I might discuss this at length later (good post subject!) but I think there needs to be some modicum of happiness there. For someone. At least one of the things they were striving for should be achieved. Unless, of course, you're set on writing a tragedy, but I'd rather know that going in (so I can avoid it {g})

Andrew said...

Okay, so being home sick TRULY sucks ... but the one silver lining seems to be the opportunity to veg with favorite movies :o)

To Love, Honor and Dismay

Lorraine said...

Susan, you pretty much nailed what I hated about it. For some reason, around page 80, I got a strong sense that things were going to end badly. That's when I jumped ahead to the end, skimmed, confirmed my worst fears, and decided, uh, no. Not going to spend all this time with people only to have the die for no friggin' reason.
And as you say, Kathryn and Finn could have come together through the tragedy, but no. The author wouldn't even allow them that much happiness.

Hm. Maybe that's what made it so especially annoying. The plot didn't demand this ending. The actions of the plot weren't hurtling them along to this grim conclusion, but rather it felt like the author wanted it to end there, so that's where she took it. It never felt inevitable to me, and for a tragedy to work, it has to feel inevitable, I think. I'll have to ruminate on this some more.

Sorry about all the food poisoning!! Yuck!

Susan Adrian said...


Veging is a rarity for me, so it was nice. {s}

Susan Adrian said...


See, if I'd known it was tragedy, I would've stopped. I thought maybe you just didn't want to read about the pregnancy having trouble, or persecution of the Jewish characters...I can deal with that. Slaughter for no reason, no.

You are completely right that it didn't feel inevitable at all. In fact, the tragedies, all of them, just felt contrived, and there was NO reason for them not to be together at the end. None.

My husband says there's supposed to be a sequel...maybe that's why she did that? Either way, she's lost me now.