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!)


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. Mummy Mania
    23rd September 2011 / 6:20 am

    I totally agree – but that’s what’s so great about books. I set up a book club about 4 years ago, and in all that time we have only ever all (there are 6 of us) loved two books (The Kite Runner, and Bel Canto). When we read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road I thought it was incredible while my friend actually threw it against her bedroom wall, she hated it so much! Like you, I find a lot of ‘literary’ books quite disappointing (i often put it down to being tired and not able to get enough read in the evening, but sometimes they just don’t talk to me). Actually I suggested our current book based on superlative reviews (The Wilderness) and it is soooooooooooooooooooo awful I’m refusing to finish it which I never do, but I know already a couple of my book clubbers think its great! Bravo for admitting to not liking the well publicised ones – just becasue they have a grat marekting team, doesn’t make them good for everyone.

  2. Cara
    23rd September 2011 / 9:26 am

    Yay, someone else who didn’t LOVE One Day. Suffered from the dreaded ‘over-hype’ for me. It was Ok, but not worthy of all the accolades. Tempted to read that God something or other Rabbit book, just to see if I can finish it. Have you read The Slap? Lots of people (including my best mate) hated it and told me not to waste my time. I quite liked it. It wasn’t a book that you could say you loved as the characters were all so flawed, but it portrayed how we all live with a veneer of respectability to the outside world, and how for some that veneer is very thin indeed.
    The best book I’ve read this year is Alone In Berlin, written in 1947 and based on a true story – look it out, if you haven’t read it already.

  3. Nikki
    23rd September 2011 / 9:17 am

    I found Room very disappointing and that “childs voice” positively irratating. To be completely frank, I’d have locked him up in a room myself. I wasn’t afraid to share my untrendy opinion either. As for One Day, a good read but the ending was pretty predictable, after all, the entire book was about will they, won’t they, the passing of time and then summed it all up and killed her off all in the last few pages – not gut wrenching, more irritating having trudged through so much to get there. I did think, perhaps its me and tried David Nicholls “Starter for Ten” as that too had people raving about it and it was truly terrible.
    I think books are so personal that everyone interprets them differently but I for one am not going to say I love it if I didn’t and I don’t really care what everyone thinks – ha! I’m going to brave you all now and admit I LOVE chicklit too :-)) Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Carole Matthews plus slightly trendier Annie Sanders (author of the fab Goodbye Jimmy Choo) and the brilliant Paige Toon – whose book Johnny Be Good and the follow on Baby Be Mine made me cry big droplets of chick lit happiness.
    It’s whatever rocks your world – right? Love books.

  4. 23rd September 2011 / 9:18 am

    Of the books you mentioned I have only read two. I bought Love in the Time of cholera almost 30 years ago when it first came out because the blurb said: This book will change your life. I ploughed through it and hated it. Can’t remember how it ended but there was no story anyway. I didn’t get through the first page of Water For Chocolate – didn’t appeal from the offset, even after my friend pressented me with a copy saying: This is my favourite book ever. On the other hand, I thought The Poisonwood Bible was amazing and many people have told me they couldn’t be bothered with it.
    Similarly, I was once at a party telling someone how much I loved the film Blue (from that colour trilogy). The man said, and I quote: I hope you don’t think I’m being conceited, but that film is crap. (Can you see why I was momentarily dumbstruck?)

  5. CJ
    23rd September 2011 / 9:20 am

    Oh how funny – my book club hated Bel Canto, but we did all enjoy Sister! When God Was A Rabbit was a bit middling. One Day – I read it on holiday, thought it was Ok, but didn’t bother to bring it home with me!

  6. 23rd September 2011 / 10:20 am

    I always struggle to find books to read. Where do you folks find your next book? Should I admit that I downloaded an audiobook from the Booker Prize winners list and I hate it. Like really truly hate it and now I wonder if I’m just not intellectual enough to appreciate a Booker Prize winning novel. The book makes me want to throw myself off the treadmill hoping for death. I’m more of a mystery/suspense/spooky/supernatural fan. Although I’ve never read the new vampire books (forget what they’re called) and never will angsty teenie bopper romance trash by the sounds of it. Not that I’m judgmental or anything.

  7. 23rd September 2011 / 11:17 am

    It’s not a matter of intellect – just differing opinions. Some Bookers youare going to love and some you are going to hate, just like all of us.

  8. 23rd September 2011 / 5:02 pm

    I haven’t even attempted One Day. How terrible. Although it was strange, I absolutely loved Bel Canto and always highly recommend it. One book I gave up on this summer (which I rarely do) was Eat, Pray, Love. I honestly couldn’t have cared less what she did in Indonesia, and was fed up with reading about yoga so I closed it and gave it to my mother. I still don’t feel bad!

  9. 23rd September 2011 / 5:16 pm

    I love books, but I haven’t read any of the ones you mention. I tend to stick to scifi, fantasy, and horror – only branching out if there’s a book that consistently gets recommended to me with a reason more specific than ‘it is awesome’. I think fiction is a personal thing. I don’t judge people for saying that they do or don’t like a particular book. I do judge people that don’t read at all, though.

  10. Cara
    23rd September 2011 / 6:41 pm

    Lindy, was it The Finkler Question?

  11. 23rd September 2011 / 5:42 pm

    I read Eat, Love – I missed out the Pray bit as it was boring me to tears.

  12. 23rd September 2011 / 9:25 pm

    What’s funny is that One Day and Room and the rabbit thing aren’t literary, particularly – they’re contemporary popular fiction. It’s just that some books each year seem to get SO much hype, as though they’re real classics and I’m not sure they are. Well, either that, or I just miss the point 🙂

  13. 23rd September 2011 / 9:26 pm

    I’ve read all the Twilight books.
    More than once.

  14. 23rd September 2011 / 9:26 pm

    I think I love you a little bit. Did I cry at One Day? Cried with joy it was over …

  15. 23rd September 2011 / 9:27 pm

    Ha! That’s very funny – I love the sense of superiority in the word ‘conceited’.

  16. 23rd September 2011 / 9:28 pm

    Hurrah, welcome to another One Day doubter!
    I did read The Slap and I had a very funny experience of reading it on the train and the ticket inspector actually stopping to sit at my table and tell me NOT to read the book because it is obscene and he thought it should be banned. So I read it, of course. I thought it was okay, but I probably read it out of stubbornness at that point 🙂

  17. 23rd September 2011 / 9:28 pm

    Twilight. Go on. It’s like catnip for ladies in their 30s.

  18. 23rd September 2011 / 9:30 pm

    Twilight. Go on. It’s like catnip for ladies in their 30s.

  19. 23rd September 2011 / 9:31 pm

    You’re right, of course, it’s entirely personal – but I do think people can sometimes get terribly snooty about the whole business.

  20. 23rd September 2011 / 9:31 pm

    No. The Sea by John Banville

  21. 23rd September 2011 / 9:33 pm

    I read Eat, Pr… and that was about it. Loved Eat. Forced myself through half of Pray and never got back to it.

  22. David
    24th September 2011 / 9:11 am

    totally know what you mean. I read The Road and Room and just didn’t fall for them the way “everyone else” seemed to have done.
    Whereas I read The Book Thief and thought it was the most amazing book ever. Lots of people disagreed.
    I also have no shame in stopping reading a book if I’m not enjoying it or don’t like the writing style. It should be fun, not a chore.

  23. Cara
    24th September 2011 / 11:13 am

    David, I too loved The Book Thief, I’ve read it twice, and I (hardly ever) never read a book twice. I did love The Road too, in a scary – reading from behind my fingers – kind of way.

  24. Nikki
    27th September 2011 / 11:28 am

    Awwww you’re 13 really right? !!!

  25. Kim
    5th October 2011 / 2:07 pm

    I will avoid any book that has a fey title. For this reason I will never read “When God was a rabbit” or “Water for Elephants” or anything with “club” or “handbook” in the title. Furthermore, anything that is “inspirational” or about groups of women bonding together (especially books about inspirational women bonding together) is an absolute no-no.
    Also, I thought The Book Thief was bloody awful. I only read it because it was a book club choice.
    I quite enjoyed One Day, though.