I’m reading ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ by Ken Follett at the moment. It has been recommended to me by countless people, some as their ‘favourite book ever’. I have to admit, I am struggling with it. Sometimes.
None of us want to read a book where everything goes perfectly for the lead character all the time, that would be boring. Equally (as this book has taught me) we do not want to read a book where everything goes wrong all the time. This story covers a span of some 30+ years (and over 1,000 pages) and our band of ‘good guys’ constantly face struggles to overcome various adversities, then they come out victorious, only to have it all taken away from them by something unforeseen.
This has happened time and time again in the novel, to the point where every time things are going well I get frustrated because I know something out of left field is about to come and destroy it all again, usually somehow involving the ‘bad guys’.
Sometimes I find myself really enjoying the story, putting off going to bed so I can stay up to see what happens next. Sometimes I want to throw it across the room because the conspiracy of coincidences which have once again undone all of the good guy’s work just annoys me.
I will not say it is a bad book, it is well written, fantastically researched and the characterisation is good. But for someone who doesn’t get a lot of joy from the misery of others, it can be a bit exasperating at times. I can see what others love, but the constant feeling of frustration is dampening the enjoyable parts too much for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for it to be Hollywood, but even reality is not that peppered with bad fortune.
Perhaps if it was cut up into a few different books, where the victories for the good guys were the ends of the books, and the coming undone was the start of the next, perhaps then I would be more forgiving. If for no other reason than you would have longer to enjoy the victories.
It has really opened my eyes to what I do and don’t enjoy in a story, and the ongoing rollercoaster ride just gets a bit same-same after a while. The sudden plunge when you are not expecting it can pull your heart into your throat the first time, but when you have been there six or seven times before, it just starts to feel like a bumpy ride.