Saturday, December 10, 2016

Unfinished Tales - NOVA this Week

Observations from my weekly wanderings, usually in Northern Virginia (NOVA).

No – not DNF – not books I didn’t finish, but rather, books the author didn’t finish writing.

Do you ever read these?

I ask because I am contemplating my TBR AFTER my 100 Greatest Novels Quest is complete, and there are a couple books I’m considering that are unfinished, but I’m not sure I want to make the investment.

I’ve wanted to read all of Charles Dickens’ novels, but I am wondering if should I read the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood. Ironically, Dickens was writing this, his last novel, and only mystery, when he passed away – leaving it a true mystery.

I would think reading an unfinished novel would be rather disappointing. I think reading an unfinished mystery would be maddening.

The other book I’m considering is Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities.

I’m leaning toward passing on unfinished books. I think they might be worthy endeavors for scholarly study, but for the pleasure of reading – not so much. But before I make a hasty decision, I thought I’d poll my readers.

Anyone have any experience with either of these? Or other unfinished works? What did you think? Was it worth it?


  1. I have Edwin Drood on my Classics Club list. It's kinda cheating, but the BBC did an adaptation of it a few years ago, complete with made-up ending, so if I feel I "need" an ending after reading the book, then I'm planning to turn to it...

    1. Thats a good idea. I knew there were some written endings, but they don't seem to be considered very good. It hadn't occurred that there might be a film ending. It would at least give some closure. Thanks!

  2. Lisa S - Sorry, I accidentally deleted your comment, when I mean to click "approve". Lisa S wrote: I avoid unfinished books as well. That's why I've never read Edwin Drood. However, I did read Gaskell's Wives and Daughters not realizing it was unfinished. Luckily it was almost done and she had left notes on the ending. The edition I read did not use a ghost writer, but just added a chapter tying up all the loose ends according to her notes and I appreciated that. I was glad I didn't know in advance since I probably wouldn't have read it, and it was very good.
    ---Thanks for the feedback

  3. I would read an unfinished book, if it was considered a classic. What makes a well-written book is not just the ending; the skillful development of the story and characters are just as important. However, I would adjust my expectations.

    The Mystery of Edwin Drood was the first Dickens I read. I'm kind of glad because if I'd read it after some of his others, I probably would have be more disappointed. But I took it for what it was and enjoyed it on a different level! All the best in whatever you decide to do!t

  4. While it might be interesting to delve into a book with thoughts of why the author might have not finished it, I can't for the life of me imagine myself reading a book that wasn't complete.

  5. All I can say is don't skip Elizabeth Gaskell's marvelous Wives & Daughters because it is unfinished--Gaskell died after completing 95% of the book, but lleft notes about it with her publisher. It is an altogether satisfying book, even with the final chapters not written.

    While Austen's Persuasion is not really considered unfinished, I am certain that had she lived she would have edited it and polished it--again it should not be left unread because Austen didn't have the time or strength to work on it to the same degree that she did with P&P, S&S, MP, and Emma.

    I don't know how far along Edwin Drood was was Dickens died, but reading incomplete works doesn't both me. I really enjoy reading to get insights into the writing process and reading a raw, unfinished work, and comparing it to a polished, completed work by the same author can be very interesting.

    1. Good to know. I'll keep Gaskell in mind. Thanks Jane.

  6. I haven't read either of those, but I've read Hemingway's unfinished novel The Garden of Eden (kinda pretty much hated it) and Raymond Chandler's unfinished last novel that someone else finished off pretty nicely, Poodle Springs (diverting). Oh, and I read Jane Austen's unfinished novel, Sanditon, too. I think an unfinished mystery would be awful, though.


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