Monday, 31 August 2009

Marmite books - love them or hate them?

I happen to love damaged men abusing each other, not to mention hopeless passion, sobbing lovers, floggings and lashings of revenge. Fictionally speaking anyway. So I was curled up on my sofa  wallowing in ITV’s adaptation of Wuthering Heights last night - and it was very well done, except that Heathcliff and Cathy grew up too quickly, and I'd  prefer a 20 part serial not two.  Looking forward to

 more tonight.
I read Wuthering Heights when I was 13 and instantly fell for it. But I know other people who can’t stand it. It’s definitely a Marmite book – like the breakfast spread, you either love it or hate it.
I love Marmite - yum - and I love Wuthering Heights. But I hate Lord of the Rings, Wind in the Willows and - most of all –Watership Down. It’s not the talking animals because The Horse and His Boy is one of my favourite books. There’s just something about these books which repels me – and strongly attracts others.
Twilight - which inspires total passion in its fans, and contempt among others - might be a recent example, except there is a middle group which celebrates Twilight for reasons not dissimilar to a junk food binge.

I don’t know if I’d want to write a Marmite book (maybe I’ve written one, who knows?) Could I take the hate alongside the passion? Would the sales figures be high enough to blot out the viciousness?
Any other ideas for Marmite books? And where do you stand on the ones I’ve mentioned?
Update: About a week after I wrote this, Marmite announced a new advertisement campaign -  using Francesca Simon's Horrid Henry characters and offering audio books as an incitement to buyers. Spooky...but what a fabulous campaign, because if ever there was a series that inspires strong feelings for and against it's young Henry. The Marmite book personified! But what if you love Marmite and hate Henry?

Update 2 - Sad to hear reports of the death of JD Salinger today. I loved Catcher in the Rye, but it's a true Marmite book, loads of people loathe it.


  1. I loved Wuthering Heights but not Heathcliff. Do people forget he hanged Isabella's little dog? I could not abide a man who was cruel to animals and vengeful and spiteful like that.

    I adored LOTR, not WiW, and sort of liked WD but am not a Narnia fan. As for Twilight, I read the first one and found it quite accomplished but have no desire to read any more.

    I think Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a bit of a Marmite book. I loved it - and Marmite!

  2. Hah! What a great title for these books! I recently blogged about this too (trying to be positive about Northern Lights by Philip Pullman).

    I am not fan of Wuthering Heights or Lord of the Rings (though I adore the LOTR movies). But I do love Watership Down. I think some classics become Marmite books because they were loved in a certain time period and even though our tastes and cultures have changed with time, we're still expected to love them. Wind in the Willows falls into that category for me.

    For me, I've discovered that action doesn't really do it for me, in books or movies. So I really didn't care for the Hunger Games, even though everyone has raved about it. Maybe that also explains Northern Lights.

    I do love Moby Dick though, which is frequently a Marmite book. Thanks for letting me babble!

  3. I don't love Heathcliff, but I love how Emily Bronte made me feel sorry for him, all prepared to root for him and then hate him. Hareton's my favourite though.
    Funnily enough I was just thinking about The Hunegr Games and wondering if it fell into this category. I found it compelling but it made me feel sick. Same for The Time Traveller's Wife which was overtaken by paedophilic grooming undertones.

  4. Well, I am with you on Lord of The Rings and Watership Down and for me the latter may have a lot to do with the talking animals. I have never actually read Wind in The Willows. I enjoyed Wuthering Heights, but don't know if I would go so far as to say I loved it. Twilight annoyed me to no end.

    For those of us across the pond, what exactly is Marmite?

  5. Wuthering Heights – love
    LOTR – hate
    WITW – loved, still have affection for, haven't re-read though.
    Watership Down – never did read! Think I tried. So I guess that's a 'hate'.
    Twilight – boring. 'Hate' too hostile, though; great concept.

    And like Mary, I fall into the 'love' category for Jonathan Strange. Trying to think of another Marmite book: I know Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time divided people quite a bit. Again, I thought it was great. And anything that employs alternate language that we have to decipher, so A Clockwork Orange, Riddley Walker and Will Self's The Book Of Dave are bound to be Marmite; again, I'm in the 'pro' camp, but can understand why some would lose patience!

    Oh dear...I've got a September 1 deadline. Stop being so distracting, Keren!

  6. Alissa, Marmite is a yeast-based salty brown spread that Brits have been eating since time began. It splits the nation into those that love or hate it - and is cleverly marketed as much.
    I've never read Jonathan Strange, must give it a try..
    Fiona - that's a terrible deadline. Just before the end of the school holidays - how cruel is that?

  7. "yeast-based salty brown spread" sounds like something I would avoid at all costs.

  8. What a great name for them! I loved Wurthering Heights and Twilight!I would add any book by Danielle Steele to that list. I used to love her-now can't stand her stuff.

  9. Alissa - you don't know what you're missing!

  10. Ohhh, I love Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but you're right, definitely a marmite book, waaay too long and ponderous for some.

  11. The only one I've read that you mentioned is Twilight, and I think everyone knows where I stand on that! :D

    A recent one I can think of is 'Cracked Up to Be' by Courtney Summers. People either seem to love it or hate it -- I'm the latter.

  12. I think you'd love Wuthering Heights Jenny, give it a go. All the passion of Twilight with knobs on. Not heard of the Courtney Summers book, going to look it up.

  13. Great post, Keren! I never got into WH, but must definitely give it another go.
    Love the Narnian Chronicles, ditto WD. Loved LOTR on film, although haven't tried the books. WIW was so-so (hmm, doesn't fit Marmite theory).

    I must be the only person on the planet to dislike the Harry Potter books, but there you go. I hate Marmite too.

  14. Harry Potter - definitely Marmite material. Why do you dislike them?

  15. I was about to add Harry Potter as a Marmite book - I loved the first three and really struggled with the rest - and I know people who thoroughly hate the books.
    As for WH - Loved, definitely!

  16. Nothing to do with what's Marmite or not on the book front. But I'm seeing you're the success story of the writing course in Islington and wondered if you could tell me a little more about it and if you loved it/found it helpful/met some top people/laughed a lot/etc...
    Thing is I've never written before but thought I'd like to give it a go as I've been bursting with children's book ideas for about 10yrs n as I'm out of work thought I'd give it a whirl at last. Thanks, Sarah in N.London

  17. Hi Sarah

    In short - yes it was great, I'd never written fiction before and I doubt I'd have got on with it without the course. I did write another post about it which you'll find by looking through the archive, or googling my name and life-changing Mondays. It's not a course where you learn theories about story arcs, or get introduced to literary agents, but you definitely laugh a lot, Amanda Swift the tutor is brilliant and you get introduced to all sorts of types of writing for children, so you get a chance to focus on what yu want to do. Lovely people on the course too. I also did the follow up workshop course, and that's when I wrote most of When I Was Joe - I'm sure that without it I would still be faffing around thinking about it.
    If you've got any more questions let me know..I've been thinking of writing a post about how I wrote the book, and how the class helped, would that be useful?
    Oh and let me know how it goes!


  18. Can't resist telling you - I've just had a Marmite book published! Well, to be more precise, it's a book about Marmite. Check it out. It's The Mish-Mash Dictionary of Marmite: an anecdotal A-Z of 'Tar-in-a-Jar'. Dip into it, spread the word...thanks, Maggie Hall.

  19. Wuthering Heights - not for me.
    Catcher in the rye - ditto.
    Watership Down - liked it.
    LOTR - liked it, but it felt like homework.
    Cracked Up To Be - loved it.

    Isn't it great that books are so subjective?!