Book Review: Breaking up with Elmore Leonard – ‘Djibouti’

Page 114 of Elmore Leonard’s latest novel “Djibouti.”

I’m not highlighting this page number because it’s where the novel reached a thrilling turning point or where I earmarked the top corner, as I often do after reading an inspiring phrase I want to remember.

It’s where I quit, straining through one last sentence before hesitating, then sighing and slowly, but firmly, shutting the book, setting it down and looking away, as if the book were calling to me, “What did I do? Can’t we work this out? Don’t you leave me!” Even after 114 pages of commitment – every book deserves 100 pages — I was disinterested in finishing this tale.

Don’t get me wrong. I like this book.

I like the main characters: award winning 30-something documentary filmmaker Dara Barr and her sidekick Xavier LeBo, a tall and older African renaissance man.

I like the plot: Barr and LeBo embark on their next film that will venture into the convoluted and dangerous world of modern-day pirates high-jacking merchant ships on the high seas near Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. While searching for the story within the story for their film, they meet bad guys pretending to be good guys, danger, and al-Qaeda.

I like the dialogue heavy prose: LeBo speaks broken English, as do many other characters, which was frustrating at first but, as I found, became easier to grasp after about 10 pages.

It’s not you “Djibouti,” it’s me. Call me a moron if you will but, after going on 114 pages worth of dates, I did not become emotionally involved with this story. I do not blame the book, it’s just not for me.

Reading books is like dating … you meet someone and go on a few dates (about 100 pages worth) and you don’t find the connection – the spark — needed to continue dating and go steady. It doesn’t mean there is something  wrong with this person — they will find someone else to connect with after you awkwardly dump them — it means you and this person are not compatible.

Before breaking up with “Djibouti,” I hesitated because New York Times bestselling Elmore Leonard is a seasoned and well-known author, with more than 40 books and a highly successful writing career on his resume. With this pressure, I began the book with the mindset that I’m supposed to love it and understand why he is popular and famous.

I read that “Djibouti” becomes a good read later on but I’d already lost my patience. Reading isn’t about working to find a good story, and you shouldn’t read something only because its author is famous or its on a book club reading list. Reading is about enjoyment, finding a page-turner that you don’t want to put down and, when you have to put it down, your mind is filled with images of the characters and storyline until you have time to pick it up and continue. I did not enjoy what I read of this book and did not think about this book throughout the day.

So, if you are an Elmore Leonard fan, you’ll probably like this book. He is a New York Times bestselling author for a reason after all and I am a girl who enjoys reading for pleasure. Sorry Elmore, it’s not you, it’s me. — Kate Vendetta

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