sunday salon: on giving authors second chances

The Sunday Salon

I’m not always a forgiving reader.

By this I mean that if I don’t like the first book I read by a certain author – or even if I think it’s just okay – the chances are very slim that I’ll read anything else by that same person. I don’t always consciously not choose to read their other work – it’s just that, when given a choice of an author who has given me a lukewarm reading experience versus trying someone new, I’ll usually go for the new.

I realize that this is a somewhat judgmental, unfair and rather high standard, not to mention coming across as being kind of hypocritical. I mean, I think my short story “Extractions” is pretty decent and I happen also to think that I’ve written better stuff and hopefully, I’ll continue to do so.

I’m thinking about all this because both the book I’m reading and my audiobook are by two authors whose previous books I read and wasn’t all that enthusiastic about.

And I’m really enjoying these two.

The Paying GuestsUnder Magnolia

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters is for a getting out of the house and doing something fun book club discussion/get-together with local writerly-type friends this Wednesday. That is, assuming I finish this in time, which is looking quite doubtful because I’m only on page 70 and my understanding is that one really should have this finished in order to talk about it.

Regardless, I probably wouldn’t have picked this up at all because I was in the minority of book bloggers for not liking The Little Stranger (you can read my review here) but at 70 pages into The Paying Guests,  I cannot put this down. What bugged me about The Little Stranger (I really didn’t like the characters) is quite the opposite here, not to mention the writing itself. The innuendo, the subtleties in the sentences, the foreboding, the symbolism … it’s absolutely fantastic. I am riveted. Love this one and I have a whole new appreciation for Sarah Waters now.

As emotionally-intense as The Paying Guests is, I needed something a little lighter and on the nonfiction side as an audiobook. I’m not sure if Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir fits the “light” qualification, but I’m enjoying this much more than Under the Tuscan Sun, which, as you can tell from my review, I found pretentious and patronizing in places.

There are some choppy and sometimes hard-to-follow sections of Under Magnolia, but I’m appreciating Frances Mayes’ reflections about memory, family and place. For whatever reason, I can relate to this one a little more than Under the Tuscan Sun.

Or, maybe it’s just the fact that a book set in the South is making me feel warmer – although I know that some Southern states have been getting some snow and colder than usual temperatures, too.  We are in the midst of yet ANOTHER snowstorm here in Pittsburgh – expecting a total of 4″-7″ by tomorrow morning, oh joy – so there will be some reading time this afternoon.

What are YOUR thoughts on giving an author a second chance?
If you find a book to be just meh, how likely are you to try another book by that author?
And tell me some examples!




Thanks for sharing this post!

7 thoughts on “sunday salon: on giving authors second chances

  1. Jill

    Good to know. I have a sample of The Paying Guests on my Nook and every time I try it, I think it’s good, but then I’m afraid to go to far for fear of not liking it. I tried once to read The Little Stranger and never finished.

  2. susan

    I know what you mean Melissa. I also often don’t read the author again if the book didn’t wow me. I read Sarah Waters’s book “The Night Watch” years ago and while it was fine, I wasn’t overly effusive about it. So when her other books have come out, I haven’t jumped. But The Paying Guests does sound like it’s getting great comments from bloggers like you. Your words about it, make me want to get it. I guess I should rethink giving authors second chances too.

  3. Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

    I haven’t read anything by Waters except The Paying Guests and that was for my book club, too! I enjoyed it. There was a bit of a lag at some point, but I really enjoyed Waters’ language and sentence structure very much. She also developed the characters very well so that all of their actions were believable.

  4. Barbara

    I’m so glad you like The Paying Guests as I just downloaded on my Kindle last evening. I needed something a little quicker than the very wonderful, but very slow The Book of Ebenezer LePage that I have almost finished. As I recall, I liked The Little Stranger — and liked it even more for writing about it — which often happens for me. I am embarrassed to admit to writers I’m likely not willing to give a second chance to. They don’t fall into the mediocre category for me — those I might try again. They fall into the everybody-else -loves-this book, I’m going to shut up about it because I don’t trust it or like it — at all. OK I will name one: The Art of Fielding. I would have a very hard time trusting another book by Harbach. Over-hyped makes me cautious.

  5. Laurie C

    I do give authors second chances sometimes. Because I wasn’t captivated by The Secret History the way so many readers were, I never read The Little Friend, but I thought The Goldfinch was fantastic. I happened to have just finished The Paying Guests, but it wasn’t a second-chance read for me. The Little Stranger (on audio) took me completely by surprise, as I really didn’t know anything about it, and the tone of it hit me just right, perhaps because I was half expecting a different kind of story. The Paying Guests (also on audio) is amazing, I think, both the writing and the narration.

  6. Becca

    My Sunday Salon today is on a similar subject 🙂 It’s particularly interesting that you talk about The Paying Guests, because, like you, I couldn’t put it down. However, it was the first book I’d read by Sarah Waters, so I got hold of The Little Stranger and didn’t like it at all.

    I read and enjoyed Under Magnolia too (but I also liked Under the Tuscan Sun 😉

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