When I was a child I read so many books, and so many different books. I had exhausted the children’s section of our local library by the ago of about nine and would borrow my mum Monica’s tickets and take books from the adult section. I kept a log of all the books I read, and one year it was over three hundred. I read quickly and hungrily and I didn’t skip read. Once I had started a book I tried as hard as I could to finish it, even if I didn’t like it and I think it was only Walter Scott who defeated me.
Monica was a member of a book club and every month or so a new book would arrive for her which I also awaited eagerly… Nevil Shute, Agatha Christie, Paul Brickhill, Eric Williams… true stories, fiction, historical… Occasionally I have tried to reread a childhood favourite and wondered how I could have stormed by my way through it, what a very voracious reader I was. ‘Catch-22’ was my favourite book from my early teens and I read and reread it and could quote chunks of it… I tried to reread it recently and I just couldn’t!
Now I seem to struggle with some books and I confess I do sometimes give up reading them… ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ I can’t remember how many people have told me how wonderful it is and how much they enjoyed it…. I have tried three times to get past the first chapter. I managed ‘Midnight’s Children’, ‘War and Peace’, ‘Crime and Punishment’ but I was defeated by a mandolin. J.K. Rowling leaves me cold… I must admit I only made one attempt at reading her…
How have I lost my reading stamina? Why has my reading grit and determination to finish at all costs left me?
I belong to two book clubs, both of which I enjoy very much, with lovely, warm, funny members who like me are passionate about reading, however, the number of books which we have chosen to read and which I struggle to read, or absolutely hate .. and I confess, don’t finish… ‘The Thread’ by Victoria Coren – tripe, utter tripe – and yet the book club loved it. ‘A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’ – baffling nonsense, but my friends thought it one of the most moving books they’d ever read, and now we’re on ‘The Snow Child’… I just cannot engage with the characters, I’m left unmoved by the story, I have to steel myself to drag my eyes through the next dreary chapter… and today at book club I know everyone else will have adored it, been moved to tears by it, will be already re-reading it…
Tricky books I have read (Just to prove I can and do)
- Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
- The name of The Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco
- 2666 – Roberto Bolarño
- most of Dumas
- all of Dickens except ‘Drood’ and ‘Dombey and Son’
- all of the Brontë work
- most of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
- The Tin Drum – Gunter Grass
- The Alexandria Quartet – Lawrence Durrell
… and what I’ve just realised is that none of these books were written in this century, and some of them weren’t written in the last century either…. so perhaps that explains my problem with reading, I’m not a modern reader!