This is one of two books i wrote a squirt on recently, the essential information being the guilt that they were generating in me because of mine inability to make myself work all the way through to the end. I am now glad to point out that, obviously, i have finished The Collegians and, while it probably will never become one of my favourite books, it is not, in totality, as bad as i was finding it in the actual reading. Faint praise, i know, but not intended to be damning. There were, i think, two things about the book which made it difficult for me to fully enjoy reading it: I tend to dislike reading works which try to show accent or dialect through the text, and in particular i dislike the production of the Irish dialect here (and common elsewhere) which when pronounced in my mind does not seem to sound like any Irish i have ever heard; and secondly i had difficulties because the expectations raised in me by the book and its circumstances were different from those it was intended to fulfil.
For the first, perhaps mine exposure simply is not great enough, but i find an accent (dialect) written such that “-st-” is shown as “-sth-” and “-ea-” sometimes as “-a-” and sometimes as “-ai-” unconvincing. While i admit that presenting “-th-” as “-d-”consistently is acceptable, to represent what i hear i would use “-t-” myself. There are other questions i found based on the orthographic conventions Griffin used, but these are enough to give a flavour of mine objection. There is also a sprinkling, fairly heavy at times, to be honest, of Gaelic words thrown in, sometimes with translation, sometimes not, which also helped in the process of slowing me down. That, i think, is the heart of this difficulty for me: I read fast, over five hundred words a minute when last i was timed, and i dislike having to slow down, be confused, having to think about the actual words being used rather than the meaning, concepts, or action they present. Thus, i was not altogether happy with The Collegians because it slowed me down rather dramatically ~ at a guess, no more than two hundred words a minute on average as i read it.
The second point i mentioned which made it difficult for me to read this novel i have identified as mine own expectations. I purchased the book as part of a set of “classic mysteries”, or some such phrase the use of which raised certain images in my mind as to what i was going to read. This book does not fit those images. I was expecting a novel along the lines of, say, A Study in Scarlet, or The Mysterious Affair of Styles, rather than what i got. The fault here is certainly not Griffin's; he wrote as he chose, and wrote well, too. If there is any fault other than mine, it would go to whoever chose to market the novel in this fashion, setting up parallels in a reader's mind which are not going to be fulfilled. Though there is a murder, there is scarce any mystery ~ other than, for a short time, of whether the murder has been committed. There is no detective; hardly any detecting, to be honest, simply an investigation by the coroner which comes to no conclusion. These points are irrelevant, though, to be truthful, as the book ~ any book ~ should stand or fall on its own merits, and i believe that this one does stand fairly. I suspect, having read it now, and able to get my preconceptions in line, i may read it again at some point in the future, giving it another chance, so to speak, to present itself to me properly. Should that happen, i anticipate enjoying it (other than the dialect!) more.