Spoiler alert! If you have not read “Memory of Light”, the last book in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and partly by Brandon Sanderson) or “Story of O” by Pauline Réage, but plan to read one or both, I would suggest that you do not read this post.
Yesterday I finished “Memory of Light”, the last book in a very long fantasy series. The book is a brick, bigger than a brick actually, and it took me about a week to finish it. I read every free moment that I had, and a bit more. One could presume that it was a good book, since I made a point out of reading it as fast as I possibly could. You would presume wrong. That’s my opinion, at least. The whole freaking book is a battle scene, or maybe a hundred pages pre battle and fifty post battle, but that’s still 750 pages with battle. That’s a lot of battle.
The language is good, more than good, the characters and dialogues are satisfactory and the descriptions are worth reading, sometimes twice. The problem is, when I notice things like this, the story has not gotten to me. The story has not been able to draw me in and make me forget all the details that make or break a good book. Because all I saw when I read the book was the ending of a great saga, it was a battle and it was where all the loose treads met. Again and again problems or persons from the past showed up, said their part and was put to rest, one way or another. Not until the last hundred pages of the battle did one of the main characters die, and there are a lot of main characters. Not that I wanted anyone to die, but what is the chance of them not dying in a battle like this? Slim, very slim. The few who did die also lost their lover; they died in pairs. Seriously?!
So while I gobbled up the book in big chunks, it was because I wanted to know what would happen, how it all would end, not because the story fascinated me to no end. All respect to Jordan and Sanderson for creating a saga that has given me and so many others many an hour with excitement and fun, but I think it ended quite strangely. I like happy endings very much, but in this case, it was too happy.
After I finished with “Memory of Light” I picked up “Story of O”, again. This will be the third or fourth time I try to get through the darn book. Originally I thought that I should read it just to have read it, because it is a classic, even if a bit peculiar sort of classic. I think the words are pornographic classic and I have read about it on a lot of the BDSM sites I have been through. It seems like it is one of the must read books. Now, I don’t mind classics, but I don’t read them on an everyday basis, or even monthly basis, either. The classics are, naturally, old books with strange and old-fashioned language and dialogue. They can be a bit hard to get through, for me at least.
“Story of O” is the worst of the classics I have tried to read so far. I don’t know how much of it stems from the fact that it is translated and how much of it stems from the fact that it really isn’t a good book. There is so many spelling mistakes that I want to pull my hair in frustration. How could anyone publish a book with that many mistakes! This is the only thing I know is related to the translation, but it’s just the beginning. Next is the language. Okay, the book isn’t new anymore, it was first published in 1954, but the language is slow and twisting and the sentences can be very, very long. None of this is good.
The story … isn’t actually there. There is very little, no intro what so ever. It starts with O going to the chateau, and it’s two beginnings, in some strange way. First one scene is described, then the same scene is described again, almost as if the author don’t think she did well enough the first time. You get no introduction to O or her lover, no real explanation to what is happening and why. Not even if O really wants this or not. That last point is what gives me most problems later in the book.
Some would say that O gets more than enough chances to walk away from it all and that she wants to be there, and to some point, I agree. On the other hand I get the feeling that she did not know what it would entail to be with her lover and that when she knew, she was so much in love with him that she could not walk away. Is it still voluntary when she was not informed from the beginning? I get that O is far from some scared virgin, she really isn’t, but when I’m wondering if she really have given her consent or not, then something is missing. Because of this missing bit a lot of the rest cease to be interesting, at least for me. I don’t want to read about a woman who is beaten, prostituted and used, if she has not chosen so herself, willingly and fully informed.
I feel that there is very little story and what there is, is far too slow and badly written. I took a peek at the end page (something I have done a handful of times in my whole life) just to see what it would say. The last page tells of an alternative ending. An alternative ending! As if the author could not decide which ending she wanted. I think I rest my case. This is a daydreaming project put to paper, but not a book, not an actual story with a beginning, middle and end. The only thing that is really there is the middle.
Now I know what a pornographic classic is: the difficult language of the real classics paired with the bad storytelling of pornographic stories.
If anyone have read the book and liked it: I’m happy for you. It’s always nice to find good books. That I more or less slaughtered the book does not mean that I don’t know that others have liked it, and will like to read it in the future. This was simply not my kind of book, that’s all. After writing this I think I just might put “Story of O” on the shelf again, permanently this time. There are so many other books I would rather read.