I am very stubborn when it comes to stopping a book mid-way through. I find it very difficult to admit defeat, that I simply don’t like a book, and put it down and move on to the next book. There is a part of me that feels guilty about it. Perhaps I’m feeling like I’ve not given the book a fair go. Perhaps I feel like I’m giving up, and I’m not generally a giver-upperer. I will slog through a book until the very end, to the very last word.
For some reason, with Carol Wilkinson’s Dragonkeeper, I just couldn’t.
It’s not even that bad of a book. It’s got dragons, and magic, and faraway places, but something about the writing makes my mind wander. I also feel a bit like I am being talked down to, like the author feels I am a child, which I don’t like. And I feel incredibly guilty not finishing it, and even more guilty telling you about it (because you have either read the book, and liked it, and think I’m a terrible person now, or you haven’t read it, and I’ve turned you against it forever, which is not at all my intention). However, after trying to read it for two weeks and not even reaching the halfway mark, I have found myself defeated. I have closed the book without memorising the page number, and turned to the next book in the pile.
I have a friend who won’t read past page 50 unless they feel utterly engaged. I have another friend who goes to the library, picks 20 books, takes them home, but only really reads a chapter of most of them, and the entirety of only about one of them. Another friend of mine says he loses interest after he works out the plot, and discards the book sometimes halfway, sometimes more, sometimes less, once he deduces the ending.
So really, should I feel that guilty about not finishing a book?
Someone recently (when discussing me trying to read this book) said that life is too short to read a bad book. They were no doubt quoting someone, as many people have said versions of this. But I feel, somehow, that I am not giving the book enough credit by just labelling it a ‘bad book’. What if it has an incredible ending? What if there is an ingenious twist right near the end? What if the writing picks up at the halfway point and I am gripped beyond my wildest imagination?
Two weeks of struggling with the same book, I decided, was long enough. I’m easily halfway through the next book, and it has been a matter of days, if not hours. But I think I will have to hide Dragonkeeper out of sight. The thought of it sitting on my bookshelf, miserable at not being finished, is too much for me to bare. Someday, perhaps, I’ll give it another go. But there are so many good books out there, it may take me a while to go back to it…
I still feel guilty about not finishing a book, I don’t do it very often, but I when I do it lurks in the back of my mind, taunting me. I wrap the life’s too short mantra round me like a shield when this happens.
Giving up on a book is a bit like giving up quickly on an acquaintance who isn’t the life and soul of a party, and I generally try not to do it as friends of lasting worth have often been made because I made the effort. But books which are like people who offend one’s sensibilities — they’re prejudiced, bigoted, hypercritical, dismissive or just plain offensive — now these are the ones I tend to avoid.
If however they’re just hard work it may be that I’m just not ready for them at that time and I often return to them at some future date. A S Byatt’s The Children’s Book is one such, as is Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies.
As for children’s books per se, I’m almost ready for novels by the likes of Louisa May Alcott, whom I once dismissed on the grounds that it was “just a girl’s book”. Now that I’m into Austen, I’m more able to appreciate a different view of what’s important in life.
I find it really hard to give up on a book too. Even more so when they’re a 1001 book. I’m doing the challenge right? So I have to read all the books. I’ve slogged my way through a few of them. I have been stalled half way through Robinson Crusoe for, oh, nearly two years now. I think about resuming about once a month, but always have something more interesting to go on with. Sometimes though you start a book once and it’s just not the right time, you pick it up later and you breeze through loving it. I haven’t got to Dragonkeeper yet- fantasy and dragons aren’t my thing, so I won’t be anticipating it anyway.
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