Basically this book is just too long. I caught the end of an interview with Ian McEwan on the radio a week or so ago and he was discussing this He says that "very few really long novels earn their length", and "my fingers are always twitching for a blue pencil". I tend to agree. Yet short books are not to my taste either. I found McEwan's Booker prize nominated 'novella', 'On Chesil Beach' disappointingly brief. He says that he likes the idea of a book that you can read at one sitting, like his latest 'The Children Act'. (A man's comment - few women of my acquaintance have the luxury of reading even a 203 page book in one go.) It sounded good when I caught a bit of it Book At Bedtime but I won't be buying it. Not enough reader satisfaction for the £6.45 it costs on Kindle.
And so to answer my own question. For me a good book is usually at least 300 and no more than 500 words long. Just like my other August book which I did finish: Hardy's 'Far from the Madding Crowd' (469 pages), first read with Mrs Neill at the Rainey Endowed school in 1974/5 for my O Level English Literature. I haven't read it since and I really enjoyed it. Hardy may digress into descriptions of rural Dorset but he never forgets to keep the plot going for the reader. Like Donna Tartt, he has that skill of drawing you into his world so that you live it for a while.
I also think everyone should read this book before choosing a life partner. Listen to these wise words at the end of the novel.
They spoke very little of their mutual feeling; pretty phrases and warm expressions being probably un- necessary between such tried friends. Theirs was that substantial affection which arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are thrown together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other's character, and not the best till further on, the romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality. This good-fellowship — CAMARADERIE — usually occurring through similarity of pursuits, is unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labours, but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstance permits its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death — that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam.'
Hoping I can persuade my daughter to read it so that she's not taken in by some Troylike flashy scoundrel in a red jacket showing off his fancy sword work. Or its modern equivalent.
So in September for the Year in Books, I won't be too ambitious. I will finish 'The Goldfinch' along with a couple of non-fiction library loans pictured below. Joining again with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees.