On the Wrong Page


When you’re a proper grown-up, there are certain conversations you find yourself having, at dinner parties and coffee mornings, and in the quiet moments waiting for meetings to start.

You chat about property prices and school catchment areas and whether it’s morally allowable to drive a 4×4 if you don’t live in the country. You chat about X-Factor even though nobody ever admits to having watched it, of course. And you talk about books. Oh yes, there’s lots of chatter about books.

What’s funny, though, is in the same way we’re all supposed to agree that Farrow and Ball’s Elephant’s Breath is somehow better than the equivalent shade from Dulux, we’re all supposed to agree on which books qualify as ‘modern classics’.

And in this respect, I’m often on the wrong page entirely.

Take One Day. I know people who think that book is a seminal classic, an insightful tale of how the modern generation refuses to grow up, and then finds that, sometimes, they don’t have the opportunity. I also know people who were so upset by the end of the book they threw it across the room in disgust, robbed of the happy ending they expected after such emotional investment.

Me? I thought it was okay. It was fine.

It was diverting and it was fun because it was about people my age, but it didn’t move me, particularly, and I didn’t find the plot device particularly engaging. This is probably why I didn’t mind the film particularly – I didn’t think Anne Hathaway was exactly treading on hallowed ground, so the dodgy accent didn’t bother me a bit. I was far too busy wondering how it was that Jim Sturgess managed to look like every crush I’ve ever had, in one movie.

I quite enjoyed Room but thought it was interesting mostly by virtue of its plot rather than its writing. I didn’t finish Water for Elephants,  I abandoned Trainspotting after finding myself shouting at it after 20 minutes of stumbling through the text, and I have had a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera on my bookshelf for more than a decade. I just never really fancied opening it.

It’s not that I’m not a book person. I am a HUGE book person. Really. I have degrees in Literature, and I'm a professional writer. I love to read. It's just that sometimes I don’t get ‘modern’ books.

I had high hopes when the new Tesco Book Blog invited to send me a book to review. I chose When God was a Rabbit because I’d seen someone reading it on a train, and apparently it’s amazing. Not just amazing – it’s “gut-wrenching”, “unique”, “beautiful”, “funny” and “superb”.

Here’s the thing. I can’t even bring myself to finish it. It just gets on my nerves.

What other people find beautiful and sentimental, I find twee. I don’t believe this story, these scenarios. Because life’s not like that.  Everything is exaggerated. It’s like a book version of one of those home video shows where EVERYTHING possible goes wrong, usually with *hilarious* consequences. Spare me.  

Then there are logical inconsistencies. There’s not much in life I hate more than a logical inconsistency. It drives my friends mad, when we’re watching a movie and I have to turn it off because IT MAKES NO SENSE. So it is with this book. I don’t want to give away any plot points, but you can’t have a narrative voice that’s a child, explaining things a child wouldn’t understand one page, then assuming the child’s perspective again on the next page. Makes no sense.

So I gave up. On page 110. 

The problem is, though, that I’m not sure you’re allowed to admit in polite company that you don’t love books like When God Was a Rabbit. Are you? 

I know that when I find a kindred spirit who thinks One Day might conceivably have been just a teeny bit over-rated, we cling together like survivors of a shipwreck. But it’s certainly not something I’d share at the church coffee morning. No.

I shall simply pretend I’ve never read it.    

When God was a what?? 


(Turns out I'm not alone – Jax isn't a fan, either. Her review contains some spoilers, though, so don't click if you don't want to see them!)

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