November 17, 2011

Off Season

Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons
2008 Grand Central Publishing
Finished 10/24/11
Rating: 3/5 (So-So)

Publisher’s Blurb:

For as long as she can remember, they were Cam and Lilly—happily married, parents of a beautiful family, and partners in life. Then, after decades of marriage, it ended as every great love story does… in loss.

After Cam’s death, Lilly takes a solitary road trip to her and Cam’s favorite spot in Maine, the place where they fell in love, and where their ghosts still dance. There she looks hard to her past—to a first love that ended in tragedy, to meeting Cam, to a marriage filled with exuberance and safety—to try to make sense of her future. It is a journey that begins with tender memories and culminates in a revelation that will make Lilly reevaluate everything she thought was true about her husband and her marriage.

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run...

There was a time when I finished every book I started, no matter how dull or how poorly written. It felt wrong to not keep plugging away at a book that had come highly recommended or one I’d received as a gift or one by a favorite author that I’d been longing to read. Several of my favorite books have taken well over 50 pages to draw me in, so I always felt I should give each and every book I pick up a decent chance. As the years have passed, I’ve been less inclined to follow this principle and these days I have no trouble tossing aside a book that hasn’t grabbed my attention in the first 50 pages. Life is too short, blah, blah, blah.

So why do I hesitate to give up on an author who repeatedly fails to impress me? It’s one thing to continue to follow an author who runs hot and cold (Anita Shreve, for instance), but to keep reading one whose novels never live up to the one you first fell in love with? That’s just silly, don’t you think? I wrote the following over four years ago, after reading Up Island, also by Siddons:

It's been almost six years since I discovered Anne Rivers Siddons and her remarkable saga, Colony. I loved that book and felt as though I'd found another Rosamunde Pilcher in Siddons. I went on to read Islands and Sweetwater Creek, but neither impressed me nearly as much as Colony (Islands earned a 3/5 rating; Sweetwater a 2/5). The House Next Door was quite good, but more of a horror story than Siddons' typical works.

And now I've read Up Island. It wasn't a bad read, but it certainly wasn't another Colony. I enjoyed it for the most part (although toward the end, I found myself getting impatient, wanting to be finished and on to something else). Siddons is quite a descriptive writer, but I wouldn't go so far to say she's a lyrical author (Pat Conroy and Rosamunde Pilcher are two who do excel at painting a vivid picture in my mind's eye).

And now I’ve read another that fell short and left me wishing for more. As the closing chapters drew near, I found myself flipping back and forth, trying to sort out the details, which were muddled and vague. The ending was abrupt and completely unbelievable; I wish I had someone with whom I could to discuss the paranormal aspects (reminiscent of The House Next Door). And, looking back on the entire narrative, I realize that there were many unresolved plot lines and ridiculous scenes and dialogue.

It’s definitely time to call it quits on this author. I’m not reading as often as I’d like and there are far too many talented authors I’d rather read.


  1. How interesting you should say this. I, too, fell in love with Anne Rivers Siddons' Colony; so much so that I went on to read everything she'd written. (I remember us talking about The House Next Door in 06!) But, you've upped me here. I never even finished this one, but ended at Up Island. I agree, there's been a definite regression. Can it be age? Can it be that a person has written all he or she had to say? Can it be that there's a peak, and nothing can top that? I found the same thing with my beloved Robert B. Parker. He didn't write deep, philosophical stuff, but he did write mysteries which I loved to relax in. Until his last three. Now he's dead, so there won't be any more to read. That's sad, but maybe not as sad as writing clinkers.

  2. This wasn't my favorite by her either, but I did like it.

  3. I haven't read Colony, but the only book of Siddons' that I've been able to finish is The House Next Door. And she writes a lot about the Carolinas, where I'm mostly from -- and I love them -- but I can't finish her books.

  4. You're reading Time and Again?! One of my top, top, top favorite books of all time. I've got it on my list to read again next year for probably the fourth (?) time. Oh, how I love it.

  5. I just laughed at Bellezza's comment about Parker. It's always better when a writer dies before the writing does.

    As to your larger point, I've been pondering other things in life I've simply given up because (regardless of their pub) I find them inane, boring, time-wasters. Going to the shopping mall to "look around" falls in this category. Likewise television.
    And of course, Facebook.

    Now, I don't suggest that someone else couldn't do these things, and do them with joy and pleasure. They're just not for me.

    Surely the same applies to books. There is no moral imperative that declares we MUST finish a book, any more than we MUST finish every bite on our plate when we're uncomfortably full. If a story bores me, I'll put it down. Life's too short to do otherwise!

  6. I read a lot of her books about 15 years ago and haven't picked one up since. Guess it's okay for me to continue on in the same manner huh?

  7. I think the answer to "why do I persist" is the hope the author will redeem themselves. It is human nature to live in hope and book lovers are always looking for a good book. I don't know that we ever become sceptical in that regard, otherwise why would we read at all?

  8. I've had the same experience with her, and yet I keep picking up the next one at the library, bring it home, and then returning it unopened. For me, the winner is Heartbreak Hotel.

  9. Bellezza - Yes, I remember our discussion about The House Next Door. Gosh, that was 5 years ago?! Really?!

    I'm not sure if it's age. I think Colony was simply remarkable. Too many other readers have raved about this particular novel, so I'm sure it's not a case of the falling for the first thing read by a specific author. I'm not sure what it is, though. There's a repetition to her stories and none just ever seem to hit their mark.

    I've only read one of Parker's series (Sunny Randall) and I'm a bit hesitant to try his others. I'm sure the earlier Spenser books are dated, but I can't imagine reading a series and skipping the first dozen! :) Might be fun to spend an entire year reading one or two each month. Have you read his westerns? Any good?

    Kathy - I liked it enough to finish, but it wasn't one I'd recommend or read again.

    Katya - After all these years, I'm afraid I've put Colony up on a very high pedestal. I wonder if I'd enjoy it as much now as I did the first time around.

    Wasn't The House Next Door creepy?! Did you read my review? I had a scary experience that reminded me a bit of the book... Let me know if you can't find the review using the search field. I'll send it to you.

    Nan - YES! I started it a week or so ago after seeing a comment you'd written (somewhere!!). I've had it on my shelf forever and decided to give it a try based on your enthusiasm. Interesting, I got an email from a friend who says she's read it several times, too. Must be pretty good! I've just finished the part where Si and Kate (?) have made their first "trip". Can't wait to get back to it!

    Linda - I, too, laughed at Bellezza's comment. Poor Robert...

    Ah, yes. I fail to see the pleasure in "window shopping" and we don't watch tv (although we enjoy watching a well-written series on Netflix) anymore. Except for the occasional college football game (Go Big Red!). I must confess to being somewhat addicted to Facebook. I blame it on my nephews, who convinced me of its merits for keeping in touch with my favorite relatives. I try to limit myself. No, really. ;)

    But I have no qualms at all about setting a book aside. I rarely, if ever, return to those books. I know some do, ever hopeful that it's merely a timing issue. But I know in my gut when a book just isn't working for me. And, yes. Life is far too short.

    So nice to see you here. Thanks for stopping by.

    Staci - I would think so, although my mom said Burnt Mountain was quite good. I've got it in my stacks, so we'll see. I think I'll wait until next year to give it a try, though.

    Susan - Yes! I'm forever hopeful that I'll come across another wonderful book. But after several disappointments, it becomes a bit obvious that the author no longer entertains me. Until the next time...when she must might. ;)

    Lisa - Why do you suppose we persist with this particular author?? I have not tried Heartbreak Hotel, but now I've added it to my list as a possibility. Fingers crossed.

  10. Oh man, Les! I found your review of The House Next Door -- what a creepy experience to have! I think this book is why I keep trying other books by her -- it was such a perfect little haunted house tale.

  11. Katya - Wasn't that creepy?! And I kept my copy of The House Next Door to reread some day. It was really one of her better books. Stephen King thought so, too.


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