Week 16 of the Reading Challenge was to read a book by a favourite author that you haven't read yet. It just so happened that I'd managed to pick up a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's Unfinished Tales in a charity shop just a few days before the week started. It was perfect.
Unfinished Tales is kind of like those special features you get on a DVD or blu-ray; the deleted scenes or the little featurettes that give you a glimpse at what might have been in your favourite film or TV series. It's exactly what it says it is, a collection of unfinished stories, or bits of chapters which never made it into his finished books. Sort of like a look into what might have been in Middle-earth.
I found this really interesting. It's a book I'd wanted to read for ages but just never got around to picking up a copy of. I did find it a little bit repetitive in places, owing to it including a couple of different versions of the same story. Stories like that of Turin, which are included in other books as well, like The Silmarillion. The simple fact is that Tolkien just wrote several different versions of many of his stories and rarely decided on a definitive version of any of them. But reading the different versions kind of gives you a glimpse into what he had in mind for his characters and events.
My favourite story in the book was the story of Aldarion and Erendis because that was brand new to me. For me that was like that little gem that you find in the library or bookshop; the book by the author you love that you didn't even know existed.
My other favourite was a chapter from The Lord of the Rings that was never included. It basically featured Gandalf talking about how the events of The Hobbit came to happen. It was perfect because Gandalf sounded just like he was supposed to, but he was saying things I've never heard him saying before.
This is definitely going to be a book that I revisit again and again in the future. I suspect that I'll pick out more new things on a future reread.
The following week's Reading Challenge was a book which was recommended by a friend. I did the simple thing and put out a request for book recommendations. I got a good few suggestions and in the end I decided to go with Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, mainly because the movie had come out and I wanted to make sure I'd read the book before I saw the film.
Warning! Here be spoilers!
Gone Girl is a story of two halves. A husband tells the story of his wife's sudden disappearance, interspersed with extracts from the missing woman's diary. It quickly becomes evident that not all was good in their relationship. As might be expected, the husband soon comes under suspicion and it's thought that he might have murdered his wife. Except things are definitely not as they first appeared and neither party is innocent.
Even now, nearly a year after reading it, I can't help but flip-flop about how I feel about this book. I would definitely like to read it again, though I think due to the twist in the tale, it might lose some of its impact on a second reading. I'm curious about watching the film to see how it plays out the story, compared to the way the book is written. On the one hand, I think the story was pretty clever, but on the other hand, I feel a little bit 'meh'. I'm not sure if a reread or film viewing will help me decide one way or another.
The book is divided into different 'parts' and my opinion seemed to change depending on which part I was up to. In the beginning I didn't find either character particularly likeable, then I got to Part Two and I thought that was kind of the point. But then by Part Three I was just angry with the both of them. It's a strange way to feel about a book that you sort of don't want to put down while you're reading it. It's definitely compelling.
I have to admit as well, I'm not so satisfied with the ending. There was all this build up and then it got to the end and they were just going to carry on together and have a baby. It just felt a little disappointing. Again, I guess that was kind of the point, that they both knew that they had this big secret that only they were in on, but it didn't give me the closure I needed from the story.
As I said, I really need to see the film of this one, and possibly read it again. I'm curious to see if my feelings towards the book change at all.