This week I am reading Atonement, the book by Ian McEwan that was the basis of the 2007 film starring Keira Knightley. An acquaintance of mine is working on the 1001 Books list and this is the book she is starting with, so I decided to read it with her. It is not going well. I'm less than 100 pages in and I've already gone into skimming mode.
My biggest problem is the length of the paragraphs. Right now I am looking at a paragraph that starts at the top of page 82 and ends on page 84! I'm reading the large-print edition and I know that affects the formatting, but that would be a seriously long paragraph even in regular print. Faced with a large unbroken blocks of type like that, my mind starts to wander and I lose interest in the story. If McEwan is imparting some profound wisdom in those passages, I am likely to miss them.
Another thing I've noticed is the shortage of dialogue or action. Perhaps that is the difference between literature and popular fiction. Since embarking on this reading adventure, I've noticed that the more literary novels have pages and pages of the characters' inner thoughts and feelings while genre novels (chick lit, mystery, sci-fi, etc) get down to business more quickly. When I was younger, I stuck my nose up in the air whenever I saw my friends reading what I considered trashy romance and throwaway fantasy novels. It is difficult for me to admit, but I think I prefer those sorts of books now.
With so many other things on my mind, I want a story that immediately grabs me and pulls me along. Atonement isn't doing that for me, but I am going to at least continue skimming through it to get the gist of the plot. Hopefully I will have better luck with my next book.