Thursday, October 10, 2013

Little Fingers | Huge disappointment

This is one of those cases where if I'd read Little Fingers first of Filip Florian's books (both translated by Alistair Ian Blyth), I would not have bothered to read anything else. Then I would have missed The Days of the King, which is actually quite a wonderful little book. So it's a good thing I started with The Days of the King, because Little Fingers? Terrible.

I don't often dislike books as much as Little Fingers. That's because there's usually at least something worth appreciating in a novel (also because usually I'd give up on a book this bad, only that Little Fingers was so short I figured I might as well finish it off). I suppose that's also true of Little Fingers, but I just. Couldn't. Find it. Little Fingers is a great example of a debut that has the individual pieces that will later fit to make a competent novel, but here in the original they absolutely fail to mesh. The vague writing isn't alluding to anything, the non-existent characterization is baffling at best, the plot is so hidden behind layers of intrigue and subplots and minor references that it ultimately disappears, and the pacing is... slow.

I suppose the greatest disappointment in Little Fingers stems from its inability to deliver on its promise. The novel is trying so hard to be a complex sort of literary, it forgets what it actually is. With all sorts of strange and surrealistic stories padding the main plot, there ultimately remains no plot. The back blurb promises all sorts of intrigue, but then the setup for this intrigue is only really revealed at the end and there's no actual outcome to it.

Florian is the sort of author who goes for this looping, very roundabout style of writing. In The Days of the King, this worked nicely - the minimal dialogue may have been jarring for many other readers, but the historical setting and the way the story grew paid off for any stumbles this somewhat awkward (yet beautiful) approach may have caused. Not so with Little Fingers. Dialogue here is more prevalent, but it's stickier and clumsier as well. It seems trite, old-fashioned and out of place. It doesn't move the story along and it doesn't flow properly.

Add to all this a series of characters I neither cared about nor understood and the recipe is for an extraordinarily frustrating, disappointing book. Little Fingers is a very short book which I read it one sitting, but it was a forced read - gritted teeth and the hope for a pay-off that never arrived. A few clever turns of phrase here and there made the reading more interesting for momentary flashes, but the moment I finished the book, I tossed it aside and felt relieved. I'll likely give Filip Florian another chance should his later books be translated, but this will only be based on the merits of The Days of the King. Little Fingers is, in my mind, a wasted book and a waste of time.

1 comment:

  1. I'm amazed you're willing to give the author another chance when you hated this book SO MUCH. But well done you pushing through all the way to the end -- you are a better reader than I!

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