3 DNFs: Oxford, a Man Booker title and body-invaders

>> Thursday, September 20, 2018

Today a few recent DNFs.

TITLE: My Oxford Year
AUTHOR: Julia Whelan

My Oxford Year is about Ella Durran, a young American woman who moves to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship to do a postgraduate degree. She will be there only for a year, so when she meets a guy she really connects with, setting out to have a temporary relationship seems reasonable. But of course, things get complicated.

This sounded like it would be right up my alley. I got a scholarship to do a postgrad degree in the UK as well! Fulbright, rather than Rhodes, but hey, close enough. I hoped I'd connect to Ella's experiences of arriving in a different country, one that you know a lot about through pop culture, and then getting the real experience. For a little while at the start the signs were good, but no. It's weird, because I understand the author spent a year in the UK as a Rhodes scholar herself, but Ella's experience didn't feel real to me. What she describes, the way people interact and speak, it all felt like a theme park version of England. I was rolling my eyes so hard I found it hard to read. Also, Ella seems extremely impressed with herself and the extreme cleverness that allowed her to get the scholarship. Get over yourself, girl!

MY GRADE: A DNF.

TITLE: Snap
AUTHOR: Belinda Bauer

I've been looking forward to the announcement of the Man Booker prize longlist for months (yes, literally; I'm not exaggerating). When it came out most of the drama seemed to be about a graphic novel being nominated, but complaints about this genre mystery/thriller being on the list ran a close second on the drama stakes. I'm all for recognising that good genre fiction can be just as good as literary fiction, so I picked it up first of all.

It started out well. The first scene, with three little kids being left behind in a broken-down car as their mum goes for help, was great. But things just went downhill from there. Lots of characters behaving in unbelievable ways, the cops were boring and stereotypical at the same time and some developments (like the decision to reopen the case of Jack's mum's murder) were poorly justified. I couldn't muster the interest to keep going, and to be honest, this year I haven't been able to muster any interest in other books on the longlist. I will probably take a break and try again next year.

MY GRADE: A DNF.

TITLE: Touch
AUTHOR: Claire North

Our narrator, Kepler, is a being who is able to skip bodies just by touching the destination one. He used to be human, but at the moment of his death, he reached out to touch his killer and somehow went into him. Since then he has been moving around. He likes to be respectful of the bodies he inhabits, but not all beings like him are, and now members of a shadowy organisation are hunting them. When the host he's inhabiting is shot and killed, Kepler is able to move to the killer at the last minute, and the race to find out what's going on begins.

There were some interesting concepts here, and the author seemed to have put a lot of thought into the practicalities that would result from her premise, which is something I always enjoy. There was also a lot of travelling around all over the world, which should have been fun. It wasn't. The whole thing was extremely tedious. The book is merely longish (430 pages or so), but it feels so, so much longer. I felt like I wasn't advancing at all, possibly because I didn't care about the characters, and the whole plot seemed faintly ridiculous. The shadowy organisation made no sense, the 'villain' is one of those uninteresting 'he's evil because he's a psycho, period' ones, and things started to get so convoluted that I got bored.

MY GRADE: A DNF.

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