Quick Reads: – a quick look

three Quick Reads titles - Ruthless Readings Down in my local library, I discovered a whole section devoted to ‘Quick Reads’.

These are thin books, with large writing – novellas rather than novels.

Wonderful, I thought! An ideal length for train journeys. Good print size and I can read without putting my glasses on. And what a great way to sample new authors – without committing to a full length novel.

So I borrowed four books. And found myself, despite my enthusiasm, somewhat disappointed.

  • Star Sullivan, by Maeve Binchy: a tale of a young girl who tries to keep everybody happy and ends up pleasing nobody. An interesting concept but a strangely disengaging character – maybe because she is just too passive – and the story is told in a semi-detached way.
  • The Cave, by Kate Mosse: a ghost story, but – after a brilliant little prologue – the main story had a slow build up that lacked suspense, a ghost scene that lacked any real sense of mystery, and an ending that lacked punch. The mysterious young woman was not mysterious at all and there were no twists and turns – no surprises. We could see the end coming.
  • The Cleverness of Ladies, by Alexander McCall Smith – one of my favourite authors: a collection of short stories told at a pedestrian pace and with a gentle style, more suited to novels than to the short form. The endings were safe, predictable and without surprise.
  • The Little One, by Lynda La Plante: a ghost story. This novella was the best of the bunch, telling a story with a real sense of mystery and suspense, albeit after if finally got going. The set-up at the beginning – establishing the main character and her motivation – seemed contrived and didn’t engage me. The main part of the story built suspense and mystery. But the ending was predictable.

Perhaps I am being unkind. I have just had the privilege of reading some excellent collections of short stories for my Birkbeck Course (BA in Creative Writing). After the brilliance of Alice Munro and V.S Pritchett, perhaps I am expecting too much. Quick Reads are meant for people who don’t normally read books. So, maybe complex characters and surprising plot line aren’t necessary? Hmmm.

Sorry, I just don’t think these stories are exciting enough, or interesting enough, to hook people into a reading habit.

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