#MiniReviews – the DNF edition

Some people HAVE to finish every single book they start. I’m looking at Mr Books here! I used to be like that, but that was before I started working in a bookshop. In fact, I can think of only two books I bailed on pre-bookshop.

One was Gillian Mears’ Grass Sister, which was given to me by a friend for my 34th birthday. I felt obligated to finish it, even though I didn’t enjoy the characters and found the pace too slow. I made it just past halfway before finally admitting that this book wasn’t for me.

The other DNF was Murray Bail’s Eucalyptus which I found tedious. The love affair that is, not the trees. His descriptions of the eucalypts were beautiful, but the rest felt old and tired and often sexist. I mostly skim read it in the end as it was a book club at the time.

Obviously there is another category of book where I read a page or two whilst standing in the library or in the bookshop wondering if I will borrow/buy this book. So, so, so many of these books get put straight back on the shelves as being ‘not my cup of tea’. A much smaller number get filed away in the back of my brain with the ‘one day, if I’m in the right mood’ tag. I guess you could technically call these a DNF, but I’m not sure I would call reading the first page of a book as a true sign of commitment or intent to finish. These books are more like an appetiser or a paint swatch or a first date – a sign of interest, waiting to see if that magic spark of compatibility comes through or not.

Because I take such care with the books I bring into my home, it is rare that I decide to DNF. Below are the latest two.

Captain Aubrey of the Royal Navy lived in a part of Hampshire well supplied with sea-officers, some of whom had reached flag-rank in Rodney’s day while others were still waiting for their first command.

I purchased my copy of The Mauritius Command on the 8th Jan 2004 in Orange and read it for the first time soon after. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying rereading the Master & Commander books with Nick but I have come to realise that it is just TOO MUCH right now.

I got to page 174 way back in February before stalling. What with all the other reading events I have commited to plus the new release books I need want to read for work, I simply cannot take on anything else!

I will save the pleasure of rereading this series for a much later point in my life.

Title: The Mauritius Command (book 4)
Author: Patrick O'Brian 
Imprint: Harper Collins
Published:  (originally published 1977)
Format: paperback (I couldn't find a cover image for my edition, so I've used the 2010 40th anniversary cover that features the same illustration by Geoff Hunt)
Pages: 332
Dates Read: 12th February 2022  - abandoned (for now, not forever) 24 August 2022

Master and Commander series of books:


I was approaching sixty when questions about what it means to be happy assumed a special significance in my life, setting me on a new path that led to a careful re-reading of Jane Austen’s six novels.

I had been saving Ruth Wilson’s The Jane Austen Remedy for Austen in August, but sadly we did not get on very well together.

Although we have read and loved many of the same books (The Jane Austen Remedy is an incredible list of good books to read if nothing else), I never really got on board with the idea of reading about Wilson’s experience of reading them. As a fellow Jane Austen devotee, I am happy to contemplate how JA has influenced and infiltrated every aspects of another person’s life, but something didn’t work for me here.

Perhaps I was expecting more of a literary critique and not so much personal reflection (of someone I had never heard of before this year. Who sounds like she has had an interesting life, but one I would have preferred to hear about over a coffee or a nice meal).

In the end, I realised I had too many other things I really wanted to read to continue with one that was barely working for me.

Title: The Jane Austen Society 
Author: Ruth Wilson 
ISBN: 9781761065989 
Imprint: Allen & Unwin 
Published: 2022 
Format: Hardback 
Pages: 309 
Dates Read: 16 August 2022 - abandoned (pg 172) 24 August 2022
  • This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.

20 thoughts on “#MiniReviews – the DNF edition

  1. I have no trouble putting down a book maybe for another time. If one does not enjoy reading it why not? Though every once in awhile I hear from another that the story did a big pivot and I missed it!!!

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    1. That’s certainly where I am at now, although I will sometimes persevere with a book club book I’m not enjoying so that I can discussion it properly. Very rarely does a book improve though once you’ve decided it’s not for you!

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  2. Your DNF of Eucalyptus made me laugh! When I moved to Melbourne I joined a book group and my first book was Eucalyptus. Like you, I loved the bits about trees but didn’t get on with the rest of the story, so what did I do? I read it again, because I didn’t want to go to my first book club meeting and be thought stupid for not ‘getting’ it.
    I went to the book club twice (the second book was The Chosen by Chaim Potok) but no one mentioned the book AT ALL! Instead the members whinged all night about their partners, so I didn’t go back.
    I often think about the book when I am out walking, looking at trees and wondering what species of eucalypt they might be. And of how silly I was, reading a book I didn’t like twice.

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  3. I was asked to be on a panel to discuss Ruth Wilson’s book … the teacher, the librarian, the blogger, the academic it was billed as. I declined for three reasons … I prefer writing to talking, I didn’t want to be under pressure to read this book and prepare, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to read the book because from what I’d heard her assessments of what Austen’s books were about weren’t mine. I believe she’s a lovely person and I love the Southern Highlands but I have higher priorities …. Right now I’m at the theatre waiting for The girl from the North Country to start!

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    1. I heard her talk on a couple of radio programs and thought she had a good story to tell, but I think the act of putting into a book hasn’t quite worked. For me at least.
      I had to duck, duck, go your show – it sounds like a lot of fun! Hope you enjoyed your night of Bob Dylan songs 🙂

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      1. I’ve heard very mixed opinions, which I guess it is not surprising for this sort of book.

        It was a good night. Not a lot of his well-known songs – he wrote so many – but great singing, and a moving story. Would be good to see again now I know it.

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    1. It would depnd on the narrator of course, but they should be fine. Most of the story is told in a fairly straight forward linear style. But there are occasional jump forwards or change of locations that sometimes confuse me for a moment.

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  4. I’m glad you are able to DNF. I find it hard sometimes, particularly with review copies, but I have put off a few for later reading certainly when I’m not up for a particular theme or subject.

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    1. Fortunately at work we are encouraged to only read review copies of the books we WANT to read. Certain themes/subjects do depend on mood or timing, and of course having enough time to read them all is the other problem!! I have suggested to the owners of the bookshop that a great front window display would be a cosy armchair, with a rotating roster of staff sitting there reading a book 🙂

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  5. Rereads are much easier to set aside, I think, when one feels like there are a lot of books in the wings (this time of year is especially that way, in the industry, eh?) so, like you, I probably would have felt like O’Brien could wait a bit. OTOH, rereads can also be much easier to pick up in times of stress, because at least one knows the story and can anticipate emotionally draining subplots and that kind of thing. But…when the stress IS your stack of books….heheh #niceproblemtohave

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  6. Two good reasons! I do give up on books and always have done, but I do stop to wonder when I have a few in a row (am I in a funny mood, or was I in one when I acquired the books in the first place?!).

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    1. Since finishing the Edith trilogy I have certainly been in a bit of a funny reading mood. Sticking to non-fiction has helped, but I know what you mean about questioning yourself when you get a run of them!

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