1. Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries. Booker prize winner, rave reviews everywhere, and I just gave up when I was about halfway. What good is a clever, intricate structure and skilfully imitated Victorian plot and Victorian style, when I just cannot bring myself to care about any of the characters or what happens to them? Despite all the detailed descriptions, none of it felt real. Too much cleverness and too many characters for my taste. Had I decided to continue, I would have needed to go through the first half again and take notes. The final straw for me were the grating introductions of each character’s character (so to say), possibly intended to be incisive, but to me they just made the narrator come across as conceited and supercilious.

2. Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests. Every part of the plot was obvious and unsurprising, and it all felt plodding and boring. I found myself thinking that maybe I could skip a few pages without really losing out on much. While I don’t need my books to have likeable characters, I do expect them to be interesting in some way. When rather boring people do rather boring things and spend a lot of time having rather boring thoughts, the result is not very captivating.

3. Maja Lunde, The History of Bees. Three intertwined stories about beekeeping – one from the mid-1800s about a wannabe scientist who invents a new kind of beehive, one from around the current time about colony collapse, and one from a future where there are no bees and fruit trees are pollinated by hand by endless ranks of manual labourer. None of the individual stories is particularly strong, and since there isn’t much to hold the stories together – other than the shared themes of bees and relationships between parents and children – they also don’t make a strong whole. There is no shared idea or insight. The English translation is kind of clunky in places – several times I found myself jarred by some clumsy phrase, thinking that I could have done better.