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The times I've been most disappointed, have been when I read a book that is the second one the author has written and absolutely love it. After that, I do a little research, find out some more about the author, and realize that he or she had already written a book before the one I read. Then I go find the first book that he or she wrote thinking, 'If I loved the second one of course I'll love the first one, right?' Wrong.
This has happened to me twice now. First, it happened with Jane Hamilton. I read several of her books, my favorites being A Short History of Prince and Disobedience. (Both of these are particularly good because they are told from the point of view of teenage boys, which Jane Hamilton manages to do beautifully.) And then I decided to read her first book, The Book of Ruth. It was really well reviewed and was an Oprah book club book, which of course was high praise at the time. Sadly, not only did The Book of Ruth not get better as I read, it actually got worse. It is one of the few books I can actually say that I hated. I mean, really hated.
And now it's happened again with Nicole Krauss. I read The History of Love and loved it. Then I bought her first book, Man Walks Into a Room, when I was in Powell's bookstore in Portland, Oregon. (Which is an experience. If you haven't been, you need to go. It's amazing!) The book had been sitting on my shelf for over a year and I finally took the time to read it. I thought the whole time, 'I don't really like this character or this plot, but it's got to get better.' And I read all the way to the end and it didn't...
I guess writers do change a lot from their first book to their second book. I'm just glad I've managed to find the second books first in both of those author's cases so I can appreciate their talent for writing.