Booking Through Thursday: Hard

By oldenglishrose - Last updated: Thursday, October 27, 2011 - Save & Share - 9 Comments

What’s the hardest/most challenging book you’ve ever read? Was it worth the effort? Did you read it by choice or was it an assignment/obligation?

The hardest book that I’ve ever read is without a doubt Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.  This wasn’t because the book itself was particularly challenging (it’s actually incredibly straightforward, if a bit wordy in the way of most 18th century novels) but because of the time that I read it.  I read Robinson Crusoe as the first set text on my first year ‘Inventing the Novel’ course at university.  It was hard because there were a hundred and one things that I would rather be doing; because I had just discovered medieval literature and wanted to spend all my time buried in that; because the Shakespeare lecturer was opening my eyes to so many new interpretations of plays that I thought I knew well; because the library was filled with more interesting books.  Most of all, it was difficult because it was just boring.

There, I’ve said it.  I thought Robinson Crusoe was dull as ditch water.  There’s nothing wrong with the story in itself, but the level of detail necessitated by the 18th century desire for realism is just mind-numbing.  Robinson Crusoe doesn’t merely grow grapes, oh no; he discovers vines, digs some up, transports them to his garden, replants them, waters them, cultivates them, watches the grapes grow, harvests the grapes, weaves baskets to put them in, eats some grapes and dries some for storage as raisins.  Being cast away on a desert island is exciting: the minutiae of daily life and survival is not.  There’s also the bizarre section at the end of the novel which everyone always forgets in which Crusoe and Friday travel to Europe and hunt bears and wolves.  Getting through that lot was hard.

I finished it because it was a set text, I knew I was going to have to write several essays and answer an exam about it and I don’t believe in doing that without reading the book properly.  Had it not been for that stick I would happily have ignored it.

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9 Responses to “Booking Through Thursday: Hard”

Comment from Vicky @ Books, Biscuits & Tea
Time October 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I had to read Robinson Crusoe for one of my exams last year and I agree, it was hard at the beginning but by the time he arrived on the island, I started to enjoy it :) And I ended up loving the story. It’s ‘a bit’ detailed but I liked it.

Here’s my BTT post :)
Vicky @ Books, Biscuits & Tea

Comment from oldenglishrose
Time October 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Unfortunately I found myself unable to care about any of it. Strange, as we also had to read Samuel Richardson’s ‘Pamela’ shortly afterwards (the book most people on my course loathed) and I rather enjoyed that.

Comment from mary Ann Langan
Time October 27, 2011 at 5:06 pm

here’s mine:

Comment from DawnTreader
Time October 27, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I think I was around 11 or 12 when I first read Robinson Crusoe (in Swedish) (i.e. about 44-45 years ago!) I still have that book and just checked to see if perhaps it was a short version or something. But there is nothing to indicate that. I do remember it to be full of details but I don’t think I really considered it hard to read.

Comment from Valentina
Time October 27, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Haven’t read this one, but I’ve heard it can be a bit on the dull side.

Here’s mine:

Comment from Anya
Time October 27, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Thought it was dull but managed it ok. Not one I’d reread though! and I am an avid rereader, lol.

Here’s my BTT – House Millar series


Comment from oldenglishrose
Time October 28, 2011 at 10:58 am

I remember reading an abridged version as a child and quite enjoying it, so I think it was just the sheer tedium of the details which made it such a slog! Part of me is tempted to try Defoe again to see if any of his other books are more palatable, but most of me thinks I’m better off not subjecting myself to it just in case.

Comment from oldenglishrose
Time October 28, 2011 at 10:59 am

I certainly thought so. I don’t think you’re missing out on much by not having read it.

Comment from oldenglishrose
Time October 28, 2011 at 11:05 am

Exactly. I’m glad I’ve read it because of its important place in the literary canon, but it’s not one I’d ever choose to revisit.

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