Books I Couldn’t Finish: For Whom the Bell Tolls, Tender is the Night & More

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway:
a book I couldn’t finish!

I love to read, as shown by my blog. However, occasionally there’s the odd book that never obtains my complete interest and remains unfinished. Often these aren’t particularly celebrated books, but other times they are texts which I held high expectations of. I hope that many of those who read this dispute my opinions on the following texts:

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway – Perhaps if I didn’t study examples of bad translations at university, I would like the way this book was written. Whilst reading it, I was constantly preoccupied by better ways to express passages. That didn’t make for an enjoyable reading experience at all. 
  • Dissolution – Matthew Shardlake – I was given this book by a friend of my Dad’s. Whilst I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t really my type of novel. 
  • The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov – I really wanted to love this book, and I’m still determined to give it another go. I was drawn in by the opening, but lost interest about halfway through the novel. I think this was partly due to how I didn’t give complete attention to the novel, and read with distractions around me. Therefore I got confused at crucial passages, and couldn’t follow the plot fully. 
  • Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald – It was unusual for me not to like this novel, as I usually enjoy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing so much. Perhaps I was too young when I read the book to appreciate it. I would like to try reading it again one day. 
  • Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe – This seemed interesting, and I liked the setting. Nonetheless, I wasn’t completely absorbed by the plot. 
  • The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories – Angela Carter – I found these stories very brutal, although that’s exactly the point of the text. Perhaps I’m just too delicate to read Carter’s writing. 
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer – For some reason that I cannot remember, I gave up on this book in the opening pages. 
  • Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro – I didn’t think too highly of the plot. I’ve heard good things about his other novels, such as The Remains of the Day, so perhaps I’ll enjoy those more. 
  • Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell – I’ve had so much trouble with this novel. Some parts I enjoyed, but others I found painfully long (and dare I say it, slightly boring). In the end I skimmed through the remaining one hundred pages and decided to call it a day. 
I’m afraid this list was quite negative, but it’s given me the opportunity to consider which of the aforementioned books I should forgive and start over. Also, part of the excitement of reading is the difference of opinion between one person and the next. Whilst I’m sure that I’ll read many more incredible books, there will inevitably be those that get neglected on my bookshelf.

It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at

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