Do you ever read a book so slowly, over so many breaks, that you sort of lose any sense of what you thought about it?
Well, I do. (And maybe you did say ‘yes’ too.) This is a side effect of reading so many books at once – some will, inevitably, be lost along the way – and picked up later – and finally finished, some months after they were started. Dozens of books will have been read in between, and even a short narrative will have had hundreds of other characters tangled into it.
It’s a fascinating idea, actually – the narrative, which should ideally go from page to brain in a more or less straightforward matter of read-interpret-remember, actually encompasses many other characters and stories along the way (and is clever enough to separate them) – and that’s not even thinking about the millions of other stimuli along the way.
This is a roundabout way of saying that I enjoyed The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright, very kindly given to me by Nichola (an internet book friend, whom I have met a couple of times, but who seems to have disappeared – Nichola, are you out there?), but I didn’t read it in ideal circumstances.
Which is to say that I didn’t simply lose the book in my mind… I literally lost it. For about 18 months, it disappeared – and turned up when I moved house, as things tend to. I was about two thirds of the way through when it disappeared, so… I just finished it, without going back to the beginning.
The Saturdays is a children’s book about a family of siblings who form a club, to pool their pocket money and do something exciting together with the proceeds each week, taking it in turns to decide. It’s good fun, very charming, and with all the over-the-top events and mixture of morals and cynicism which characterise the best children’s books. It’s probably better read as a child, or to a child, but I certainly enjoyed it a lot. I think I finished it off during one of my headachey periods, and it’s the perfect sort of light book for that.
But I’m not equipped to write a proper review, so this is instead mostly a pondering on how the reading (and losing) process affects the way we take in a book. And how each novel comes with the illusory promise of a narrative we can ingest – but that no reader is ever the ideal reader in that sense; stories and characters must weave their way around all the other narratives (real and fictional) in our lives, and cope with all the broken moments of reading, and distractions and forgetting. And, out the other side, we usually still think of the book as a whole, entire and separate from our haphazard methods of reading.
All a ramble, and not put together with any forethought (I have broken up my blogging as well as my reading; I have been answering people on Facebook and writing a murder mystery party) but perhaps something interesting to think about and to discuss…?