I have all of her novels save one — a couple of hardcovers purchased new — but I have a habit of leaving them unfinished.
Nonetheless, the themes she pursues in her fiction are just the sort that sound irresistible to me.
Characters of a solitary bent who are looking for meaningful connection. (Sometimes this goes along with a kind of artsy-ness or a sort of bookishness.)
An old-fashioned sense of Romance.
A strong sense of place and the peculiar power of the natural world.
The ways in which history shapes us as individuals — in families and communities — and as civilizations. (Often the ways in which women are shaped differently by these forces, also the ways in which that shaping is lost to the historical record.)
And so I continue to gather her works. It’s a habit.
My first attempt was as a teenager, with the first edition of The Whirlpool. See, even then I felt an immediate and inherent connection with the works. (Niagara Falls, woman in the wild, Robert Browning, a romantic entanglement, a striking cover image: what’s not to love?)
But I got stuck in the first segment of the novel. I’d borrowed it over a summer and it went back to the library in September, unfinished.
I’ve tried to read Away several times as well, not only because so many other readers have raved about it, but because it’s all right there: the Irish Sea, the fairy-tale feel of a woman who has ‘gone away’, the story of generations of women in a family haunted by romance. It should be the book for me.
And, most recently, Sanctuary Line. Butterflies, southern Ontario, a woman reflecting on loss and identity: a winning combination for me, surely. So why has my bookmark gotten stuck in the middle again.
I can see that the books are well-written. I warm to their themes. I want things to end well for the characters that inhabit them.
But I don’t love them. I’m afraid I’m not the right reader for them after all.
Perhaps it’s my reader’s expectations getting in the way once more.
Some years ago, I did finish Storm Glass; earlier this year I did finish The Whirlpool; and last week I finished Away. (More about the novels in detail tomorrow.)
But still I feel this desire to connect, suspended.
Has anyone else found themselves unable to connect with an author’s works, when the works really do seem as though they should be a perfect fit for you as a reader?