I stopped reading a book. Before I’d finished it.
The book in question was Atomised by Michel Houellebecq, and I was reading it for my book club. I got about half way through it before deciding, for the sake of my sanity and my blood pressure, that I should give it up and read something better.
It’s not just that the book entirely revolves around two sex-obsessed middle-aged men, going on endlessly about masturbation and how their slutty mother and the heartless bitches who wouldn’t fuck them when they were teenagers warped their lives forever. It’s not just that the women in the book are entirely there as sex objects and nothing else, constantly described as “bitches” and “dumb sluts” – with the exception of the two grandmother characters, who are equally two-dimensional but are motherly and saintly rather than slutty. It’s not even the contemptuous, dismissive attitude towards an entire gender (early on in the book, the author describes a group of primary school-age girls, “their faces already betraying a hint of the dumb resignation of women”).
It’s that this book is covered in quotes from various respected publications and literary critics, all with some wordy variation on “OMG you guys this is the best book eva!!!”. I was really expecting a good, solid, thought-provoking novel. What I got was pages of interminable, sexist drivel. If this book had been written by a woman, and featured two female protagonists in the same mould, it would have been published in a sparkly pink cover and dismissed as chick lit. But because it’s written by a Very Clever Man, it’s lauded as “a brave and rather magnificent book” (Daily Telegraph).
Having looked at the plot synopsis on Wikipedia, I’m led to believe that the ending of the book redeems it somewhat (spoilers). And the description of the ending of the book actually sounds like something I’d quite enjoy reading. I just can’t be bothered to plough through the first 300 pages of bad sex to get to that point.
I’ve happily tossed this book aside, and started re-reading Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin instead. Much better