Can’t Read, Won’t Read; The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien

Not finishing a book can feel tantamount to failure. The sensation creeps up on you, a bubbling of disappointment as you realise the story in front of you is unreadable, a lost cause. A few years ago I had a rule; always finish a book. This was never too much of a problem as a light reader but as my reading habits intensified I hit a wall; The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño. This search for a Mexican poet was so removed from me that I barely understood what was going on and needless to say I gave up – and the sense of defeat is still ever present. Now, since The Savage Detectives, there have been a few books I just couldn’t bear to finish however, rather than struggling through I put them aside. At least the local Charity shop can benefit from my disappointments.

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien is one such charity donation. I tried my best to finish it, but good god what a boring book! I was fairly excited when I first picked it up, wanting to prepare for film adaptation’s 2012 release however, if the film is anything like the book I will probably end up sleeping through it.

Set in a time “Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men”, The Hobbit follows the quest of home-loving Hobbit Bilbo Baggins to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug.
– Source, Wiki

I found Tolken’s writing style monotonous, an adventure story is meant to keep you gripped but other than Bilbo’s meeting with Gollum I felt no sense of excitement or danger. For the most part I wanted to reach in and smack Gandalf, who from now on I shall think of as Gandalf the Grumpy or Gandalf the Arrogant rather than his given Gandalf the Grey.

Alongside it being a lacklustre read The Hobbit’s utter deficiency of any female protagonist vexed me. I am not saying that a female character would have improved the book, I have already stated that I am at odds with Tolkien’s writing style; I just would have enjoyed an interesting female character alongside Bilbo and his companions. While I realise this lack of female presence is a product of the time in which it was written, I am huffy all the same.

I would never like to tell anyone not to read a book, we all read differently, so I will make the following recommendation: If you enjoy a slow paced boys adventure I would thoroughly recommend The Hobbit.

Image from To The Cleod

4 thoughts on “Can’t Read, Won’t Read; The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien

  1. I had a good chuckle at your “recommendation” for this book. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Series trilogy were always those sorts of books that I meant to read eventually. Eventually being the operative word. Mostly, I just loved the LOTR movies so gosh darn much, and hearing repeatedly that the books dragged miserably,… I couldn’t bring myself to tarnish my love. That seems totally backwards, but by the sounds of it, Tolkien on film seems to trump Tolkien on page.


  2. I think I started The Hobbit three times in the span of 5-6 years before I actually managed to finish it. My fantasy-geek cousin gave it to me for my 12th birthday and fantasy wasn’t something I was really interested in back then. In the end I did read it but I found it just ok. I’m happy I didn’t hate it, because had that been the case, I probably wouldn’t have read Lord of the Rings, which I did like.
    I’m pretty sure the movie version will not be as slow paced as the book, though. I, for one, I’m looking forward to it 🙂


  3. Finishing books DOES feel like failure to me, too. But it’s a necessary part of my life, because I currently have a stack of unfinisheds. My friends in college all loved the books… and the Hobbit is my brother’s favorite. But as soon as anyone says “Elfin language,” my head rolls back to snooze.


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