Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minomoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner; illustrated by Gareth Hinds (2016)

WTF is wrong with me and nonfiction lately?

Are we breaking up?

For most of my adult life, nonfiction has been my rock, my lighthouse, the place I go to forget my troubles, come on get happy.  Of course, I haven't liked every single work of nonfiction I've ever read; if you've read any of my other posts, you know I'm not a reading robot.  For me, all reading is sort of like wine tasting.  Some books I greedily slurp and beg for more, others I spit out in disgust.  A few books I savor for a while, then let the flavor overwhelm me and envelope me.  

But more than lately, for a year or so, almost all nonfiction has left me flat.
Death in Florence took me six weeks to finish; a book I used to plow through in a week, I found a tedious slog, with only a few high points, and a mass confusion of people whose names I couldn't keep straight.

The Reconnaissance by Paul Johnson, left me flat.  That could because I find Paul Johnson sort of repugnant; but still.

Fortune's Children, about the Vanderbilts, was the last nonfiction I read I even halfway enjoyed, and that was a book I'd read once before, many years ago.

Louisa May Alcott by Susan Cheever - enjoyed that one immensely.  That was back in June.

In January, I read (and gave 5 stars on Goodreads) to Jacob Weisberg's short biography of Ronald Reagan.  That was the only nonfiction in eight months I've loved.  

There may have been other forgettable works on nonfiction I didn't even bother blogging about or recording on Goodreads, because I started them but then quickly put them down.  Samurai Rising is going into the "put down" pot, although it wasn't quickly.  I gave this 10 days.  

It was a slog.  I thought the writing was quite good actually.  The audience is children (I saw the cover while walking through a children's section of a library, and thought the cover looked rad).  The illustrator, Gareth Hinds, is really well known; he did a kick ass Beowulf graphic novel, among others.

So what happened?  Like I whined above, WTF?  Why couldn't I get into this, or any other nonfiction since January?  

I thought about what it was that gradually turned me off this book.  One thing was the aspects of military history. I'm not a fan of the minutiae of battles, and this book seemed to be battle after battle. I like social history mixed with political history; I like history that's people driven as well.  This book seemed to be people driven, but for me that started to fall apart - I just couldn't latch on to any of the people in the book.

And, there were so many names. I kept mixing up who was who; I would forget and have to page backwards to figure out which samurai was which.  

In the end, I was just sort of bored.  Just like Death in Florence.  Just like Jay Winik's book about 1944.  Just like quite a few other books of nonfiction I've read in the last year or so.

My love affair with nonfiction may be over.


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