Sunday, January 16, 2011

Abandoned: The 8:55 to Baghdad

I've decided this year that, when it comes to "abandoned" books, I want to do more than just keep track of the number of them I encounter.  After all, abandoned books are, in their own way, just as remarkable as books that I absolutely love -  they are just at the other extreme end of the rating scale.  These are books that even fail to allow me to turn their pages without almost groaning out loud from the effort.

That does not mean, of course, that they are necessarily "bad" books.  It simply means that after giving them a fair shot, I see going on with them as being a colossal waste of my time.  It reflects my personal reaction to these books.  Others may very well love them; see the next paragraph for proof of that.

This brings me to my experience this weekend with The 8:55 to Baghdad by Andrew Eames.  This is another book I discovered through Nancy Pearl's Book Lust to Go and is the first of hers to which I've reacted negatively.

The premise of The 8:55 to Baghdad is that its author will recreate Agatha Christie's 1928 train trip from London to Baghdad, the trip that spawned her famous Murder on the Orient Express.  The book's subtitle, From London to Iraq on the Trail of Agatha Christie, tells readers what to expect.  As Eames remarks early in the book, making this trip in 2002 is much more difficult, and potentially much more dangerous, than the trip that Christie took.  World War II and other recent conflicts in Europe have redrawn some borders and made them more difficult to cross, and the political unrest and actual fighting in the Middle East was, in 2002, getting worse by the month.

I have read and enjoyed several train-trip books in the past and expected that this one would be a treat, filled with interesting fellow passengers of the author's and lots of colorful stories about the stops he made along the way.  That might very well prove to be the case - eventually - but after slogging through 60 pages of some of the more tedious prose I've read in a while, I will never know.  I simply cannot take another page of lifeless characters and writing so dry that I can barely concentrate on two consecutive sentences long enough to get their meaning.

The 8:55 to Baghdad is definitely not for me and I am stamping it as officially abandoned.
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