I’ve already spoken about my favourite books of 2018, so let’s get bitter and talk about the most disappointing! These are not necessarily books I hated (that would be a much longer list). They’re just books I had high expectations for. Instead of living up to those, they fell incredibly short. There’s two classics in the mix, and the rest are beloved novels in the book community.
Let’s get into it…
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I really wanted to enjoy this. It’s so loved in the book community. I felt like I was missing out on something great. It had been sitting on my shelf for years, no exaggeration. But I just didn’t like it at all. Here the synopsis:
The Night Circus arrives without warning. One day its there, and the next it’s gone. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose. They unexpectedly tumble headfirst in love, but only one can survive the game.
I hated the fragmented narrative. I found it hard to piece together the information, and I eventually gave up trying to understand. I lost interest very quickly. Tying in with this, I also had no idea what the competition was about and it was the main narrative! I didn’t enjoy any of the characters. I didn’t care for how their stories ended, but I persevered because I felt like I owed it to myself to finally tick this off my TBR list. I’m annoyed I didn’t like it because it seems exactly like my type of story, but I just couldn’t enjoy it.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden:
This was another book that screamed me. I love whimsical and enchanting storylines (which is why I expected to love The Night Circus). It is set in medieval Russia where a family is gathered around the oven telling stories of the Winer King. To Vasya, however, these are more than just stories. Only she can see the demonic spirits guarding her house from the growing force in the forest; it’s only she who can potentially save them.
I managed to narrow my dislike down to two reasons: A) my expectations were far too high and, therefore, it was inevitable that I would be disappointed, or B) I’m growing out of YA fiction and, therefore, it was inevitable that I would be disappointed. It’s strange because I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the plot and Arden’s writing style, but something didn’t connect with me. I think it was a case of “it’s me, not you”.
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton:
I don’t know why I expected to love this when I know full well that I rarely enjoy American classics. Maybe it’s because it’s focused on marriage, which is a topic I really love reading about in classics? Published in 1905, it’s a shocking tale of Lily Bart’s desperate attempt to marry. Set in New York City, the novel explores how marriage was the sole purpose of a woman’s life, whilst capturing the snobbery of the wealthy aristocrats.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked how Wharton explored marriage in a completely different culture and time to what I usually read, buuuuttt I just didn’t like it. Lily’s attempt to find a rich man, who could pay off her debts and spoil her with gifts, was very tedious to read about. At times, I found myself rooting for her not to find a husband. This may have been the point of the story, but it also meant that I didn’t like Wharton’s characterisation.
I find myself running out of things to say about this, so let’s move on…
Westwood by Stella Gibbons:
Yet another book I bought expecting to love, but ended up actually kinda hating it. Well, maybe not hate. But a passionately dislike for it. Westwood is a tale of lust and longing. Set in wartime London, it follows Margaret’s daily life. One day she finds a ration book on Hampstead Heath, and thus enters the pompous playwright Gerard Challis. Margaret slavishly adores him, but he idolises her best friend Hilda. However, Hilda finds him a nuisance.
I liked the array of characters and beautiful language that Gibbons used, but, my gosh, I hated the plot. It was so pointless. There was literally nothing to it. I felt like I was following the most plain and boring character around, fawning after an older, married man and being loaded with his children. Margaret was so bloody passive that I wanted to throw the book across the room. There was zero development both with plot and characters. It was, quite simply, a 450 page novel full of observations. Such high expectations, but sooooo disappointing.
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry:
After recently becoming widowed, Cora Seaborne retreats to the countryside with her son. She soon hears tales of the Essex Serpent, a creature of folklore said to have returned to roam the marshes. She is intrigued. Here she encounters the local minster, William Ransome, who thinks the cure for hysteria lies in faith. They embark on this journey together, changing each other’s lives in the most unexpected way.
Gahh, I was so disappointed by this one. It’s another highly praised novel in the book community, and I expected to love it because I love neo-Victorian stories, but I just didn’t. I really didn’t. It was written beautifully, and the characters were drawn up to their full potential, but it didn’t live up to the expectations. It didn’t feel Victorian at all. Perry didn’t rely on any of the literary conventions that Victorian writers did, which is something I feel is vital for neo-Victorian novels. It lacked detail – massively.
…and those, unfortunately, where my most disappointing books of 2018. There were quite a few disappointing books this year, but these were the top 5 (
which is weird to say). I just didn’t get those books or the hype surrounding some of them.
Interestingly, there were less books I hated this year, and more that disappointed me, which is a huge improvement from 2017! If you want to see all the books I’ve read this year, then have a look through my Goodreads page (I tend to give small reviews for each book I read)!
What was your most disappointing book of the year? I’ll know to avoid it!
Thanks for reading, Lauren X