Being a reader can sometimes be challenging, especially when you can’t find a book that keeps you engrossed for hours on end. Lately, I’ve read a few proofs that aren’t available until next year and I’ve also been reading ebooks given freely in exchange for an honest review. Receiving book post is a fantastic feeling and more generally I’ve been embedding myself in a community of book bloggers and publishers.
By becoming more open to different genres, from writers who have published via different routes and interacting with literature accounts on Twitter, I’ve encountered some fantastic literature – the most outstanding being Shtum by Jem Lester. However, I’ve also left myself open to a lot of literature that has left me feeling unsatisfied.
I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to read Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans and I just can’t get into it at all. I’ve persevered for this duration as a result of stubbornness. Having received it from the publishers and reading so many 5* reviews, I’ve been left to feel largely disappointed.
I used to force myself to finish books that I didn’t enjoy – speed reading until the last page, just so I could say I had finished. The sense of accomplishment is always lacking on those occasions. Now that I work full time, spend a lot of time commuting and have boring adult things to do, I sometimes find myself time poor. The books I now enjoy and give my time up for define who I am as a reader. The books I mark as unfinished on Goodreads are the books that I just can’t commit any more of myself to.
It’s time to give up when reading a book makes you feel frustrated – not because the author intended it, not because of a character’s demeanour or because the plot drives such a feeling – but frustrated because that story world is not a universe you want to enter, the characters are not your friends and quite frankly, the words on the pages don’t make you feel like you’re home.
For me, characters are the most important part of any narrative. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the story’s protagonist or a major character, but the interactions I have with literary figures needs to feel real. There are characters I truly miss: Michelle Magorian’s Mister Tom, Cassandra Clare’s Jace Wayland, Aldous Huxley’s John the Savage. When I feel disconnected from the literary world, these are my comforts, my familiars who make me fall back in love with reading.
Often, as is currently the case with Mattie in Crooked Heart, it is the passive – sometimes inconsequential – characters that I fall in love with the most. Where these characters do exist, they are often found behind complex layering, whether that’s through the plot, its themes or even the tone of the story. In Crooked Heart, there are too many characters – too many individuals with plots that don’t tie themselves together neatly, or interestingly.
When a book offers a large quantity of characters but gives them no real quality, when it leaves me feeling disconnected and on the outside, it’s time to consider whether there is any value in committing myself to the story. I refuse to spread myself so thinly across lack lustre pages. When reading becomes about proving a point to myself, to add to my ‘read’ list on Goodreads or it simply becomes a mean to the ‘I am so relieved that I can put this away’ end, it’s time to give up.
Literature, like music and good people, should evoke passion, if not at the very least – enthusiasm. I’ve learned to invest my free time only in things that give back. The stories that make me a better reader, a more confident writer, the stories that give me a few hours of calm in a week that has been chaos. I hope I fall in love with a story sometime soon, I never quite know what to do with myself without one.