Not very good at reading

Ever since I learned to read, probably when I was about four or five years old, I have read and read and read. I used to have a little note-book and I would write down the title and author of every book, and the date I read it, and I would be reading about four or five books a week. I borrowed my mum’s library card so I could have books from the adult section of the library as I had read and reread most of the ones in the children’s. I read everything I could lay my hands on, and every book I started I finished, and I’m surprised now, looking back the great tomes I read as a child – unfortunately I no longer have my notebooks with my lists, that would be so interesting now! The only book I can remember not finishing was ‘Rob Roy’ by Walter Scott… or was it ‘Ivanhoe’?

I don’t read as much now, but I read every day, and always read before I go to sleep… However… I find I struggle with some books now… books I don’t like or am not enjoying I struggle to finish… Which is ok, I can give up reading something if I want to but when it is a book for my book club,either of my two book clubs, I feel bound to do my best to finish it… but sometimes it’s like torture!

Recently we read ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Dostoevsky… I didn’t struggle reading that; grim though the story is, I was fascinated, gripped and read it way past my bedtime! Last year we read novels by Wilkie Collins – gosh, I galloped through them, utterly hooked! So it is not the length of the book,  but it is something else, which I can’t quite pin down. I’m really hooked on complicated Scandinavian and Icelandic literature with unfamiliar names, I read complex history books, especially about Tudor espionage, and I read about prehistoric societies and archaeology. So I can actually still read, I can persevere with complex ideas and arguments…

Our latest book for one of my book clubs is ‘The Seven Sisters’ by Margaret Drabble, and I have to confess I just have not been able to finish it… I couldn’t engage with the character who narrated the first part of the story, I had no interest in her, I didn’t find her believable, I was just irritated by her… and the writing seemed contrived, corny, artificial, and in places just twee… I know Drabble is a well-respected and much published writer, broadcaster and journalist, but really I did have to wonder, if her name had not been attached to it whether it would have been published…

Now if I can read through some of the long and daunting chapters of Dostoevsky, and really get to grips with the work, why did I just fail with Drabble? I cast her aside, and even though I feel I’ve let my book club down by not finishing it, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend another minute in her tedious company… not her personally, but her main character.

This is not the first time it has happened… if I look through the choices of novels, I have to say, there have been more I have struggled with than those I’ve enjoyed… I love the book club, love my friends, and always have a great evening together, but I’m beginning to wonder if I’m actually not very good at reading.



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