So Emily’s TBR challenge, where we’re supposed to read 20 books from our TBR piles and post on them? I’m doing awesomely well (as long as I ignore the part of the challenge that says we aren’t supposed to buy any more books, which I’ve ignored from the very beginning, practically). I have now read or attempted to read 17 of the books on my list and am in the middle of the 18th. Oh, I haven’t quite posted on every book, but I’ve posted on almost every book, which is pretty good. You can see my progress in the sidebar on the right.
The one book on the list that I started but didn’t finish is Rosalind Belbin’s Our Horses in Egypt. I was sorry about setting that one aside. I knew it would be a bit of a challenge, and I was fine with that, but it turned out not to be the kind of challenge I wanted. I made it maybe 100 pages into the book before I quit. I like the idea behind the book, which is that it switches back and forth between stories, moving from a woman who travels to Egypt in the years after World War I to find her horse who had been requisitioned for use in the army, and the story of what happened to that horse, Philomena, during the war. The sections telling Philomena’s story are interesting because Belbin captures a sensibility that seems somehow just right. The perspective is a close third person, and even though we don’t really know what a horse experiences, the attempt to capture it here felt genuine.
But the style wasn’t working for me, unfortunately. Belbin throws a lot of information at the reader without much explanation, details of the war scenes especially, and it’s hard to piece all the details together. There’s a disjointed feeling to it all. The paragraphs tended to be short and often not clearly connected to each other. Although I liked much about the Philomena sections, the confusing details were particularly a problem in these sections. I can appreciate that perhaps Belbin was trying to capture Philomena’s experience for the reader — the confusion and uncertainty she was experiencing as she had little idea what was going on — but still, that appreciation wasn’t enough to justify continuing to read.
It’s not that I don’t want to work a little when I read. Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room was similarly disconnected in style and required work on the part of the reader to piece everything together. But I was interested in the ideas in that book in a way I wasn’t in Belbin’s. There was something about the mood and atmosphere of each book that kept me interested in one but not in the other.
Several other readers of this book really loved it, though, so if you have thought about reading this one, don’t discount it because of me. I just never clicked with it in the way I wanted to, and I’m trying to be better about setting books aside when they aren’t working for me.