Two with Tough Book Choices

Gerard Reve, Childhood, two novellas (Dutch 1946-1949, Pushkin Press 2018)

The good thing about the #Unreadshelf challenge is that it forces me to answer hard questions with a deadline, instead of letting time fly without making any decision with a “maybe one day?” shrug. Is this book worth my time? Is it good enough? Do I enjoy it? And it’s not only for the one (or the two) books I selected for the monthly challenge, it’s for every single one.

I knew nothing about Gerard Reve before downloading this book from Netgalley. But I do trust Pushkin Press and I wanted to read more Dutch authors. Alas, it was not a good fit. This book presents 2 novellas of unequal size, but I couldn’t get into the story of the main one, Werther Nieland. The story is told through the eyes of a boy of 11, who is a bit weird and cruel. The view of an immature child with some degree of misunderstanding about his environment is a classic literary ploy, and it was well executed. Still, the story was dull and depressing, and it seemed to go nowhere fast. The boy was decisively unlikeable, it didn’t help. I was hesitating if I should try the second novella, but at 40% into the book, I decided to stop and move on.

A week ago I also started another book that was on my Goodreads To-read list for a while and that I’d bought last year: The Borrowed by Hong Kong writer Chan Ho-kei. I had just finished The Man in the Wooden Hat and I was craving more Hong Kong. A prize-winning thriller / mystery set there from the 1960s to the 2000s is rare enough, I simply had to read it.

Yet I had mixed feelings after reading the first chapter. The mystery was a sort of clumsy plot à la Hercule Poirot with all the suspects gathered in a hospital room around a dying old inspector, in a coma, though he manages to lead the questioning and uncover the truth by communicating through a computer. Can you hear my eyes rolling?

I was rather underwhelmed, but I found that I wanted to learn more about this old inspector’s background and early cases and that I cared enough to keep on reading. It helped that the book has glowing reviews on Goodreads too! I’ll review the two other books from the Unreadshelf challenge in due course but so far it’s a success!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

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One thought on “Two with Tough Book Choices

  1. I’m glad the Unreadshelf challenge is working for you! It’s also forcing me to look at my shelves with a more critical eye. I read one book, started one I didn’t like, and decided that I didn’t want to read two others. So it’s a success so far for me too.

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