Let It Go



Over the years I have adopted the habit of reading the Booker prize short-list. As a consequence I often find myself immersed in a tremendous book. 

Long reservation times at the library mean that I am still waiting for some of the novels that were so accoladed this year to become available. To date, however, I can only express my disappointment, especially as the last specimen took me 3 weeks of hard graft and dedication to complete. I confess, tholokuti (is that enough to tell you which book it was?), I could easily have been persuaded to cease reading it altogether except, without skipping to the final page and despite it being an allegory and political satire where I surely knew the ending, I did want confirmation of what happened next. I was inevitably disappointed by my chore of endurance.

In fact, I almost convinced myself that I had just forgotten how to enjoy a book when my usual pattern is to become so absorbed that I complete any novel within 2 to 3 sessions and then have a break before beginning another.

I am pleased to report, however, that the lapse was momentary and clearly attributable to the subject matter or writing style because, as soon as I shut the book for the last time, I opened Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls. This time, I could not put it down (a good job I was on an aeroplane flight). I went straight from reading that to its sequel, The Women of Troy, finishing both books within 48 hours and for the 24 after feeling a little bereft as I missed my grim dose of warring Greeks with their bloodstained finger nail-beds and the captive Trojan women in their rape camps. Barker's novels although fictional reworkings of the Illiad bring history to life, so that you feel with as well as for the characters. 

Reading has to be a pleasure, not  a chore; an opportunity for escapism as well as a means to identify with and experience the pain and delight of the protagonists. I did not enjoy devoting time to a book that failed to deliver on those expectations. However, I have again learnt a valuable lesson about my time in retirement, namely that it is too precious to spend on something from which I am deriving no obvious satisfaction or purpose. A little like Marie Kondo's book on decluttering that I explored a few weeks ago: if it fails to spark joy, let it go. 



Bob Lowry said…
It has taken me a long time to be all right with not finishing a book. I keep a journal of what I read each year, and for the first time, I am adding the notation DNF for Did Not Finish. I remain disappointed I didn't give the author my full attention from beginning to end. But there are always more books waiting to truly grab me, so time is a-wasting.
Caree Risover said…
And it’s a lesson I’ve only just learnt too and am still to implement.
Treaders said…
I agree with you absolutely. My motto for some time now has been "life's too short to finish a bad book"! I remember reading one of the Booker Prize winners a few years ago about the attempted assassination of Bob Marley (sorry, can't remember the name of it). One chapter was written in regular English and the next was written in patois, and so on all the way through the book. It was such hard work I gave up, even though I'm sure the story would have been worth it in the end! Oh, and I hope you're feeling better today!
Caree Risover said…
I do wonder though if it’s something I realised awhile ago but didn’t want to accept because it involves an acknowledgment that my life is finite. Convoluted brain theory that by making a chore out of doing something, life isn’t so short after all! From now on it has to be acceptance and party like there’s no tomorrow - more fun if nothing else! And yes thanks, muscle power is more or less back to normal which probably means there’s no likelihood (or time) for turning into a perpetual bookworm anyway, at least not until the next time I’m rendered housebound.
Christie Hawkes said…
I have a hard time not finishing a book once I've started it, Caree, but I may rethink that now. You are right, why slog through something that doesn't spark joy? I am currently reading the last book in Fredrik Backman's Beartown trilogy. Very good. I'll be sad to come to the end.
Caree Risover said…
Why have we all suffered from this issue? Do you think it stems from studying literature at school where enjoyable or not, we were compelled to read set books from beginning to end? I’ve certainly endured far more books than I ought to have done but that strategy is changing from now on.
Jennyff said…
I am also of the I’ve started so I’ll finish persuasion. I am currently reading Kill the Father 500 pages of too small print and story that leaves me feeling very unnerved and edgy. It’s ridiculous because I have two books I ordered from the library waiting to be read and they’ll be due back in a couple of weeks. I wish I could dismiss a book I don’t enjoy but I seem to be a slow learner.
Caree Risover said…
We all seem to be Jennyff. Perhaps it’s a generational issue for I’m sure my children are less obstinate and more discerning when it comes to reading material.

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