Beware the Ides of March! Fortunately I’ve never been stabbed to death by a book (although some of the character deaths and other traumatic fictional events over the years have certainly felt like it!), but I have definitely felt betrayed by books in the past. Oddly enough I found it hard to think of any instances of book characters betraying me, although I could come up with several instances of this in television (Bellamy, one of my favourite characters otherwise, in The 100 siding with Pike in season three, Eleanor Guthrie making poor decision after poor decision in Black Sails, and Rory Gilmore’s callousness in the Gilmore Girls revival all spring to mind).
The books I felt betrayed by are generally here because they are titles I had high hopes for and was really looking forward to reading, but that left me feeling upset and disappointed. Here are my top five:
1. Restoration by Carol Berg
Perhaps the only thing worse than a disappointing book is a disappointing final book in a series. I really liked Carol Berg’s first book in the Rai-Kirah fantasy trilogy especially, in which Seyonne, a slave, is sold to Prince Aleksander, the heir to the Derzhi Empire and they slowly form a friendship out of necessity and then genuine trust and affection (I swear it’s better than it sounds), but the second book had its flaws and then the final book fell flat for me. Seyonne was an intelligent character I loved throughout the series, but I wanted to bang my head repeatedly against a wall rather than read about this character making increasingly poor decisions over the course of this book. Restoration also suffers from the author removing much of the interaction between Aleksander and Seyonne that had made the series what it was, in favour of romantic relationships with less well developed female characters (I liked Lydia a lot, I just wish we had seen more of her), possibly in an attempt to move away from potential slashing of the characters? The actual result was a less engaging third volume and not nearly enough of the sparkling bromance I so enjoyed from the first two books.
2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
I was so frustrated by this book because it’s a classic, was highly rated by trusted friends, and I thought I was going to love it. Ultimately, I thought the prose was outstanding and I liked the way the book ended, but I found the plot of the mystery either predictable or inaccessible to the reader until a character infodumped elements of the mystery in a way that felt like lazy writing. The amount of misogyny and the treatment of female characters also left a bad taste in my mouth and was a real let down.
3. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 is a classic satire and at least two people told me it was their favourite book when I mentioned reading it for a book club. How disappointing then that I could barely finish the book and required pep talks from a fellow book clubber to make it to the end! I never really connected with the material and didn’t find the satire particularly funny. I also thought it would be more effective as a novella with 200 pages chopped off because the repetition wore on me.
4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I’m generally a fan of Neil Gaiman’s work. Neverwhere is a favourite novel of mine and I’ve also read some of his Sandman series of graphic novels (I really must finish those), Good Omens (of course), and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and enjoyed them all. I finally picked up American Gods, wanting to read the book before the adaptation comes out, and honestly? I was disappointed. This is more a case of having high expectations based on the author. I didn’t hate the book, I gave it three stars on Goodreads and I still plan to watch the series, I just expected more from this title and it left me disappointed.
5. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
This was a title that came highly recommended by a few friends, with a close friend even loaning me her copy to read. I rarely DNF books. I am one of those people who stubbornly reads on and finishes it anyway, especially when it’s something I’m reading for book club, but I gave up on this one after 180 pages. Ultimately it just wasn’t my kind of book. Personally I thought the humour was irreverent and even juvenile at times, rather than actually funny, and I didn’t care about any of the characters. It’s something I might have enjoyed more if I had the religious background to fully appreciate and understand all of the references and jokes.
What are some of the books and characters that you’ve felt betrayed by?