Finishing the unfinished
I’ve long given up the habit of forcing myself to finish a book even though I wasn’t enjoying the experience. But it seems I haven’t given up a different habit – putting a book on pause half way, fulling intending to return to it when maybe I was more in the mood for the style/ theme/ genre etc. I found three in this category this weekend and having given myself a bit of a talking to, they are all destined for a new home via the charity shop next week.
They’re all books which have been praised by other readers. But I struggled to be enthused.
Orhan Parmuk’s Snow has been stuck on the nightstand for three years. (I know that to be a fact because helpfully there is a date on the train ticket I used as a book mark). I bought it in a library sale because I’d never read anything by a Turkish author and since Pamuk he had won the Nobel Literature Prize I thought it would be a good place to begin. But what a disappointment. In it poet, who has spent 12 years in political exile in Germany, travels back to Turkey to report on an epidemic of suicides among young girls who were forbidden to wear their head scarves. His undeclared purpose however is to try and meet a woman he used to know. Unfortunately his trip coincides with a snowstorm that cuts off the town for three days and then there is the further minor of a military coup. The premise sounded good but I got tired of the meandering story line and the obfuscations…
Just as old is a novel that was chosen by our book club maybe three or even four years ago. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Chronicling the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento (a political movement for unification in Italy), it’s considered one of the most important novels in modern Italian literature. I ran out of time so didn’t finish it before the club meeting but had enjoyed some of the sections so fully intended to read it to the end when I had more time. That time never came. Consequently I’ve forgotten most of what it was about and don’t have the desire to start it all over again.
The final member of this trio is Delirium by the Colombian author Laura Restrepo. It’s a story about a severe episode of derangement: returning from a trip, a middle-aged laid-off academic named Aguilar receives a phone call summoning him to a posh hotel, where he finds his young wife, Agustina, staring vacantly out a window, “lost inside her own head.” Aguilar attempts to trace the cause of his wife’s mysterious ailment, discovering it has deep seated origins in an emotionally disturbed childhood. Perhaps I was tired when I tried to read this because all I can remember is how confusing it all felt.
Now this is the point at which one or more of you are going to tell me that I’m missing out on a novel that is rather wonderful and I should give the said novel a second chance. Maybe if they hadn’t been growing beards by now I might have taken your advice but its time to call a halt.