Sunday, November 29, 2009

Second books

Lately, I've been experiencing second book-itis, and it is not a good thing. I love, love, love the first book -- recommend it to other book lovers, even. Then a funny thing happens. The author comes out with a second book, which I snatch up. Only to be bitterly disappointed. Just the opposite happens, I dislike the second book intensenly. I first noticed this with Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind (loved it) and The Angel's Game (really disliked it).

This month it has happened twice. Years ago, I read and loved Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. So when she published her second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, I looked forward to another great story. Symmetry is a gothic novel (one of my favorite genres), replete with a scary cemetery, ghost and two sets of twins. When Elspeth Noblin dies, she leaves her London apartment to her twin sister's own twin daughters, Valentina and Julia, with the stipulation that the American-raised girls live in the apartment for a year, an apartment that borders the real Highgate Cemetery. The story is one of obsessive love, in effect the opposite of the first novel, which was more of a pure love story.

The other books are The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larrson, a gripping mystery that had me up in the wee hours of the morning reading, and The Girl Who Played With Fire, which (you guessed it) I didn't like. Both books are set in Sweden and feature journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker/investigator Lisbeth Salander. The first book featured Blomkvist primarily and revolved around a closed community-type of mystery. In the second of a trilogy, Salander is front and center in a more thriller-type of novel. The problem: I didn't really ever like Salander, the plot rambled too much and there were so many characters that I had trouble keeping track of who was who. So, for me, another book in the dislike column.

Has this ever happened to you? I'd love to hear other people's experience. Do we love the first book too much to ever like anything else by the author?